This material enables you to

  • learn about emotional intelligence, although it is presumed that you are already familiar with this theory
  • reflect the principles of emotional intelligence when working with families

The concept of EI has become an important topic of human research in recent years, especially in regards to how it affects the daily life of people. In fact, many researchers now argue that a person’s EI may be more important than their IQ and can be a better predictor of success and overall happiness as well as the quality of relationships, which is essential in a family. To live in a family there is a need to build relationships, and relate to others in social situations, to negotiate conflicts and work as part of a team, and so on.

One established definition of EI is the ability to recognize one's own and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior (Coleman, 2008).

The concept of EI has evolved over the years, from its inception as something called “social intelligence” in the 1930’s, to “emotional strength” in the mid-20th century, to its current terminology, “emotional intelligence.” Three models of EI are currently used:

  1. The ability model
  2. The trait model
  3. The mixed model (a combination of both ability and trait EI).

1.The ability model (Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Salovey, Mayer & Caruso, 2004) focuses on the individual's ability to process emotional information and use it to navigate the social environment. They include the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions as a way to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.

2.The trait model (Petrides & Furnham 2001) includes behavioral dispositions and self-perceived abilities and is measured through self-report. Trait EI should be investigated within a personality framework. An alternative label for the same construct is trait emotional self-efficacy.

3.The mixed model is a combination of both ability EI and trait EI. The model, introduced by Goleman (1998) focuses on EI as a wide array of competencies and skills that drive leadership performance. Goleman includes a set of emotional competencies within each construct of EI and outlines Boyatzis et al's (2000) five main EI constructs, which are:

  • Self-awareness – the ability to know one's emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognize their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
  • Self-regulation – involves controlling or redirecting one's disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
  • Social skill – managing relationships to move people in the desired direction.
  • Empathy - considering other people's feelings especially when making decisions.
  • Motivation - being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement.

According to Goleman, EI competencies are learned capabilities that must be worked on and can be developed to achieve outstanding performance. Goleman states that people are born with a general EI that determines their potential for learning emotional competencies.

More recently the published literature has focused on EI in nursing as a way to meet the demands of professional practice and thus proposes that EI should be promoted in nurse education (Akerjordet & Severinsson, 2008; Freshwater and Stickley, 2004; McQueen, 2004).

For instance, Freshwater and Stickley (2004) argued that nurse education has become too close to positivist outcomes. They argue that education should be transformatory in essence and based upon reflective practice. This can be done by, for example, encouraging nurses to be more engaged in the arts and humanities, as well as integrating the voices of those who use the health services in nurse education, which will increase emotional engagement and learning amongst students.

Also, Akerjordet and Severinsson (2008) emphasized that a high EI in nursing practice would support nurses to better use their own resources and thus utilize better coping strategies.

  • When working with a family, settings such as the family’s home, park, playground, or child care center may come to mind. But what does home really mean, and what happens when we discover that their idea of “home” is not the same as yours?
  • We meet families living in so many different versions of “home”, how do you use your EI if you find out that a family is homeless? How would you prepare to talk about it with the family for the first time?
  • Please, watch the video using the following link to Youtube Emotional Intelligence. After watching the video reflect on your thoughts about the concept of EI in relation to families and how events such as homelessness impact on the family.

It is not hard to see the relevance of EI within the context of a family who are affected by mental health problems. The ability to recognize and understand our emotions and reactions has an impact on the way that family members manage and control reactions and responses. This can be defined as self-management. Our emotions motivate us to take appropriate action and follow-through in order to reach our goals. Also, in a family it is important to understand different kinds of emotions, and utilize that understanding to relate to others in an empathic way.

If you want to know more about EI, please explore the references below.

Akerjordet, K. & Severinsson, E. 2008. Emotionally intelligent nurse leadership: a literature review study Journal of Nursing Management, 16, 5, 565-77. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2834.2008.00893.x.

Boyatzis, R., Goleman, D., & Rhee, K. 2000. Clustering competence in emotional intelligence: insights from the emotional competence inventory (ECI). In R. Bar-On & J.D.A. Parker (eds.): Handbook of emotional intelligence (pp. 343-362). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Coleman, A. 2008. A Dictionary of Psychology (4 ed.). Oxford University Press. DOI:10.1093/acref/9780199534067.001.0001

Freshwater,D. & Stickley, T. 2004. The heart of the art: emotional intelligence in nurse education .Nursing Inquire,11,2, 91-8.

Goleman, D. 1998. Working With Emotional Intelligence. New York, NY. Bantum Books.

McQueen, A. 2004. Emotional intelligence in nursing work .Journal of Advanced Nursing, 47, 1, 101–108.

Mayer, J.D., & Salovey, P. 1997. What is emotional intelligence? In P. Salovey & D. Sluyter (Eds.), Emotional development and emotional intelligence: Implications for educators (pp. 3-31). New York: Basic Books.

Petrides, K & Furnham, A. 2001. Trait Emotional Intelligence: Psychometric Investigation with Reference to Established Trait Taxonomies. European Journal of Personality, 425–448

Salovey, P. Mayer, J. & Caruso, D. 2004. Emotional Intelligence: Theory, Findings, and Implications. Psychological Inquiry, 197–215.

The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.