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Emotional Intelligence - What is it and Why Does it Matter?

The Basics - What is Emotional Intelligence?

Academics and practitioners debate with each other and write whole doctorate theses about the 'right' definition of Emotional Intelligence. But here's the basic idea for you:

Emotional Intelligence is the ability

  • to identify your own and other people's emotions
  • to understand the source of those emotions,
  • to manage them in a way that achieves the best possible results for relationships with other people and for your own emotional wellbeing, and
  • to manage those emotions in a way that is consistent with your goals and values

Children Learning Emotional Intelligence

When children are being taught Emotional Intelligence skills, this process is usually called Social and Emotional Learning or 'SEL'. There are many wonderful school curricula and parenting books that lead educators and parents through the fundamental skills that are part of SEL.

You've probably observed for yourself that some children seem to naturally excel in certain social situations and others struggle. It appears that a large part of our temperament is genetic and that some of our kids have had a genetic head start in developing the skills of Emotional Intelligence. But there is plenty of evidence that parents and teachers can make a huge difference to children through modeling behaviour and direct teaching.

One of the richest resources on the internet for educators interested in SEL is the CASEL website. You will also find information for parents there. CASEL defines Social and Emotional Learning as children learning:

  • self-awareness
  • self management
  • social awareness
  • relationship skills, and
  • responsible decision-making.

Why is it Important to Develop Emotional Intelligence?

Research has indicated that employees and leaders with higher levels of Emotional Intelligence skills produce vastly better outcomes in the workplace. Higher level Emotional Intelligence skills have been linked to longer workplace retention rates, less sick leave, improved teamwork outcomes, higher levels of profitability, higher rates of second interviews in job applications and even better health. Most major businesses in Australia, New Zealand and internationally have incorporated Emotional Intelligence into their professional development programs using coaching and workshops.

A growing body of research has indicated that social and emotional learning for children reaps rewards at home and at school. Here's a sample of outcomes for students following the implementation of evaluated and quality programs in schools. The benefits are significant and important:

  • greater motivation and commitment to learning
  • lower level of dropout rates in senior levels at school
  • significant improvement in academic performance (11-17%)
  • lower incidence of behaviour-related problems
  • lower rates of alcohol abuse among older students
  • reduction in aggression and personal violence

...and that's only a sample of the outcomes.

Of course, parenting is at the heart of helping children develop skills that will maximise their chances of a lifetime of great relationships, fulfilling careers and a sense of happiness and wellbeing.

Does your children's school use social and emotional learning in its curriculum? If so, wed love to hear from you about that experience. Please post a comment below or let us know via the Contact form.