Emotional Intelligence

In recent years, ELT has been borrowing and adapting from a variety of models and methodologies originating in psychology and neurology in order to better understand and cater for individual learners. Emotional Intelligence or EQ (Emotional Quotient) theory was originally developed in the1970s and 80s but was popularised by Daniel Goleman in the mid-90s. In the business world, EQ has become a tool in human resource planning, recruitment, management and customer relations.

Why EQ?

Supporters of EQ argue that conventional concepts of intelligence are too narrow and that success requires more than IQ, which ignores behaviour and character. Academic success is not necessarily accompanied by equivalent social skills. EQ acts as a complement to Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory, both recognising that individuals possess a range of capabilities and that everybody has a value. EQ argues that success requires awareness, control and management of one’s own emotions, and those of other people. Goleman identifies the five ‘domains’ of EQ as:

  • Self-awareness. This relates to recognising and being able to name our feelings. Having emotional intelligence enables a person to link the thinking part of their brain with the feeling part.
  • Motivation. This relates to being able to keep yourself going despite failures such as a poor exam result. It is much easier to lose motivation if we constantly aim for perfection.
  • Self-regulation. This relates to the way we handle our emotions. We are not only able to name our feelings but also do something about them before they negatively affect our lives and the lives of others.
  • Empathy. This relates to being able to read the emotions of other people. People with empathy tend to be more successful with their relationships, which has a subsequent positive effect at home and at work or study.
  • Adeptness in relationships. Being able to sense other people’s feelings, you are then able to handle them appropriately.

EQ also involves becoming skilled at handling your own emotions and impulses, motivating yourself and improving your empathy and social skills.

EQ and ELT

EQ is said to provide ways of understanding and assessing behaviour patterns and is therefore relevant to both organisational and personal development. In education, it is a concept which applies to the institution, teachers and students. The benefits can be summarised as:

  • Avoiding anxiety and depression.
  • Promoting academic success.
  • Establishing patterns for future life.
  • Making the whole experience more rewarding and enjoyable for all.
  • Developing skills that are in demand by employers.

In the language classroom, attention to EQ faces the additional consideration of emotional literacy or the ability to express emotions in L2. Thus, the teacher needs not only to focus on appropriate classroom techniques, but also on specific areas of language.

Classroom management and teaching techniques

  • Ice breakers and warmers help students get to know each other and promote interest in lessons if they are related to the topic area.
  • Variety of activities to maintain interest and allow for different approaches to learning and individual learning styles.
  • Role-plays and simulations should be carefully set up and related to the real world. Students need to be guided and given time to adopt roles. Guided fantasy and drama techniques are useful tools in this process.
  • Group work encourages cooperation. Group composition should be changed often since there is a tendency for high EQ students to work together, but EQ can be also learned by example. Tasks should be designed so that all members have to contribute and have the same outcome.
  • Project work. Students are often competitive. Group completion of assessed and unassessed projects also encourages cooperation.
  • Giving feedback on performance and making clear what is expected. Feedback should be specific, objective and focused on an aspect of performance that the student is able to change.
  • Getting feedback on tasks and how students felt during the task.
  • Brainstorming and discussion encourages the sharing of knowledge and opinions on a topic.

The language of emotions

The teacher’s job here is to draw attention to language that enables the expression of emotions and feelings. This language consists mainly of a few main verbs, a wide variety of adjectives, and the use of modals, but is best seen in terms of functions:

  • Labelling feelings (I feel impatient/hurt/bitter) rather than labelling people (you are insensitive)
  • Distinguishing between thoughts (I feel like/ I feel as if / I feel that) and feelings.
  • Taking responsibility for feelings (I feel jealous vs You’re making me jealous)
  • Respecting feelings (How will you feel if I…./ How will you feel if I don’t….)
  • Showing empathy (I understand / accept / realise)
  • Being positive (What would help me feel better?)
  • Suggesting (I/you could) rather than advising (I/you should)
  • Stating wants and needs (I/you should/could/need/want to) rather than obligations (I/you must)

EQ also involves the avoidance of language to do with strong advice, commands, control, criticism and judgement.

The institution

EQ has been adopted as a management-training tool, and as such is useful in educational management and administration. The institution plays a major role in creating an environment conducive to EQ. Much of this is to do with creating a sense of identity, safety and value:

  • Attachment – a sense of belonging to the school or university.
  • Reassurance – that others find the experience difficult.
  • Bonding – enabling the formation of friendships.
  • Induction – informing students of what is available and what they can do.
  • Training – in study skills, time management and stress reduction.
  • Holistic approach – mind and body – sports, relaxation, cultural activities, clubs and societies.

EQ and other models and theories

There are clear links between EQ and other theories, models and methodologies to do with personal development. EQ is seen as a complement rather than an alternative to these:

  • Transactional Analysis (Eric Berne) is a theory of psychology which initially identifies three different states (Parent – Adult – Child) that can be used in interactions with students.
  • Multiple Intelligences Theory (Howard Gardner) is a psychological and educational theory which recognises different types of intelligence and draws attention to the needs of individual students. Howard Gardner was involved in much of the early research into EQ.
  • NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) (Richard Bandler and John Grinder) is a set of models and principles that try to describe the relationship between mind, language and perception. Behaviour and learning can be changed using a variety of techniques to achieve success. There is a very strong link between EQ and the NLP concept of metaprograms, and many techniques are common to the teaching of both EQ and NLP.
  • Johari Window (Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham) is a metaphorical tool used to help people better understand their interpersonal communication and relationships.
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy (Abraham Maslow) is a motivational model identifying layers of human needs. The provision of lower level need encourages EQ, while ‘self-actualisers’ have usually developed a high EQ.


Changes in society are affecting EQ development. EQ is initially developed in childhood and youth, and research suggests that successive generations are becoming less emotionally aware. Factors contributing to this may include changes in family structure, a reduced family role in education, mobility and the influence of technology. Whatever the reasons, the teaching and development of Emotional Intelligence is becoming important across the curriculum, from elementary to university level.

Reading and Websites

Albert Ellis, How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable aboutAnything, Lyle Stuart 1998
Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Bantam 1997
Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Bantam 2000
Adele Lynn, The Emotional Intelligence Activity Book, AMACOM 2001
Diane Schilling, 50 Activities for Teaching Emotional Intelligence, Innerchoice 1999
http://www.antidote.org.uk/ – an organisation devoted to emotional literacy.
http://www.eiconsortium.org/ – The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organisations.

Turkish version

first published 04 February 2007                                                             http://www.developingteachers.com/articles_tchtraining/intelligence1_steve.htm

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