In general terms, Emotional Intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions – your own and those of other people.
Emotional Intelligence is a relatively new area of study. Its earliest roots can be traced back to Darwin’s work on the importance of emotional expression for survival. In the 1900s, the issue of intelligence was discussed mainly in terms of cognitive aspects such as memory and problem-solving, although several influential researchers had begun to recognize the importance of non-cognitive aspects.
In 1920, E. L. Thorndike used the term “social intelligence” to describe the skill of understanding and managing other people.
The term “Emotional Intelligence” is usually attributed to Wayne Payne’s 1985 doctoral thesis, A Study of Emotion: Developing Emotional Intelligence, but mainstream media interest was really only piqued in 1995 after a Time magazine article on Daniel Goleman’s bestseller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer have been the leading researchers on emotional intelligence since those days, and they define emotional intelligence as “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions”.
Currently there are several different models proposed for the definition of EI, and researchers still disagree how the term should be used. Some think emotional intelligence can be learned and then strengthened, while others claim it is something you are born with. This field of study is growing so fast that researchers are constantly amending even their own definitions.