Discovering Emotional Intelligence

“Emotional intelligence” (or EI) is an idea that has been around since 1964 but it has been on the radar of psychologists and book writers since 1995. This was the date that Daniel Goleman released his best seller by the same name.

EI has become a tool for helping businesses and other organizations to identify effective leaders. EI may be defined as the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle emotions. You might think these abilities are self-evident, but check out the news about fights breaking out on airplanes and school board meetings, and you will soon conclude that EI is a rare and needed thing.

People with high emotional intelligence can recognize their own emotions and others’, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, and adjust emotions to adapt to environments.

EI is typically associated with empathy because it involves an individual connecting their personal experiences with those of others. People with EI do not flee negative emotions but search for constructive and healthy ways to deal with them. They do not “speak their minds” without due consideration of what the impact will be on others.

The Bible does not use the word “emotional intelligence” but it does say a great deal about mature, godly behaviors. The fruit of the Spirit, for example, is a list of qualities that are all social in nature and require maturity to use, Galatians 5:22-23.

The writer of Hebrews tells his congregation to “be angry but do not sin,” Hebrews 5:14. In other words, he is calling for them to use restraint and discipline in their communication.

Proverbs is a huge collection of sayings about wise use of communications. Here are some examples:

…the prudent are restrained in speech, Proverbs 10:19.

…a harsh word stirs up anger, 15:1.

…the mouth of the wicked pours out evil, 15:28.

…stop before a quarrel breaks out, 17:14.

…A fool gives full vent to anger, but the wise quietly holds it back, 29:11.

The Bible and Emotional Intelligence assume that healthy people don’t run from communication and engagement; they are rather, prudent, considerate, and wise in their use of words. They value their relationships and do not seek to do harm to them by snarkiness, anger, or “venting the spleen.” They strive for wisdom in all their relationships.