Humans are unique and interesting creatures. We can feel an emotion, then identify and even regulate that emotion. Then, we react based on the combination of our thoughts and feelings. All this means humans possess emotional intelligence, some at a higher level than others. Another concept that is unique to the human experience is introspection, the examination of one's own conscious thoughts and feelings. This ability is key to understanding why people think, feel, and behave a certain way.
Researchers Peter Salovey and John Mayer coined the term emotional intelligence in the early 1990's. The framework of the concept is the idea that people have a wide range of emotional skills that significantly affect their thinking and actions. The term was later popularized by psychologist and writer Daniel Goleman.
Dr. Steve Bressert states that researchers currently recognize five components of emotional intelligence:
A romantic partner who, in an argument, doesn't lash out and doesn't hold a grudge during or after the argument is an example of someone with high emotional intelligence. Instead, they talk about the issue calmly and try to understand how their partner feels so they can resolve the issue. The person is self-aware of how they feel and able to regulate their emotions so they can empathize with their partner.
Achieving emotional intelligence is thought to require three skills: the ability to identify one's emotions, harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem-solving, and manage the emotions in themselves and other people when necessary. These skills can be learned and honed over time.
The idea of introspection was taken from philosophy and applied to psychology by Wilhelm Wundt, a German psychologist and pioneer in the field of experimental psychology. He used introspection as the primary method to examine the experiences of consciousness, which he listed as sensations, feelings, volitions, and ideas. Because the results of introspection couldn't be studied and measured like more traditional psychological research, the idea was mostly abandoned in the 1920s.
Although introspection as a method of research fell out of favor in the early twentieth century, it gained popularity again with more modern advances in psychology, specifically renewed interest in social and personality psychology. Researchers use introspective self-reports to conduct research in the areas of constructs like attitude.
At first glance introspection and rumination can seem like the same thing. Both involve looking into ourselves, but that's where the similarities end. Introspection is the healthy observation and contemplation of one's thoughts, feelings, and sensations, leading to insights. Rumination, on the other hand, is the unhealthy repetitive examination of information that is usually negative or self-critical and doesn't lead to insight.
Introspection and emotional intelligence can also seem similar. Both require an inner examination of self and emotions. Introspection is actually the tool that precedes emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence requires self-awareness, which can only happen as a result of introspection. A person must develop skills of introspection to achieve and hone emotional intelligence.
Introspection is not just important as it relates to emotional intelligence but also in its own right as a way to help people get to know and understand themselves. Introspection is a vital tool to help humans change unhealthy coping mechanisms and problematic behaviors. Healing from psychological trauma requires some level of introspection. All models of mental health counseling are based on the client's ability to introspect and gain insight from that introspection.
Emotional intelligence is important to every area of human life that requires relating to other humans. Having a high level of emotional intelligence is thought to make people better workers, managers, and leaders. Many employers have added an assessment of emotional intelligence as part of the interview process. Emotional intelligence also makes people better friends, parents, and romantic partners.
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