Five components of Emotional Intelligence (EI) - Veterinary Practice
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Five components of Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Chris Whipp takes a look at the concept of ‘Emotional Intelligence’, what it means, its various components and its relevance to some example areas in life in veterinary practice

EMOTIONAL Intelligence (EI),
as a psychological theory, was
developed in the late 1980s by Peter
Salovay and John Mayer. The
concept exploded into global
awareness with the publication of
the book of the same title in 1995
and subsequent similar titles by
science journalist and author
Daniel Goleman.

Salovay and Mayer originally
described it as: “The
ability to
emotions, to
access and
emotions so
as to assist
thought, to
understand emotions and emotional
knowledge, and to reflectively regulate
emotions so as to promote emotional
and intellectual growth.”

This was subsequently amended
and simplified to: “The ability to
perceive emotion, integrate emotion
to facilitate thought, understand
emotions and to regulate emotions to
promote personal growth.”

Reuven Bar-On presented his
description of emotional-social
intelligence (ESI) in 1988. His model
is a cross-section of interrelated
emotional and social competencies,
skills, and facilitators that determine
how effectively we understand and
express ourselves, understand others
and relate with them, and cope with
daily demands.

There is considerable debate about
what, exactly, Emotional Intelligence
is with Salovay and Mayer, and Bar-
On; Salovay and Mayer originally
describing it as meeting the criteria for
a new intelligence though they have
also described it as an ability model. It
has also been described as a trait model and as a combined model.
There are psychometric measures for each of these but it is generally
accepted that they each measure
different things.

There is also considerable debate
about the pros and cons of each
model with Salovay and Mayer’s ability
model attracting the greatest academic
recognition but being criticised for
lack of face and predictive validity in the workplace. Goleman’s mixed
model is dismissed by some as “Pop
Psychology” and Bar-On’s model has
been criticised as being too broad and
overlapping with both personality and
competency models.

The popularity of the Goleman’s
model arises in part from its
accessibility and in part from its
description of a range of component
skills and conscious abilities that are
available to be worked on and
improved in the real world. Goleman describes five main
components to Emotional


This is the ability to recognise and
understand personal moods, emotions
and drives and the effect of them on
both self and others. Self-awareness
depends on one’s ability to monitor
one’s own emotional state and to
correctly identify and name the
emotions being felt.

Developing this ability is essential
for realistic self-assessment and builds
self-confidence and the ability to take
oneself less seriously.


This is the ability to control or re-
direct disruptive emotional impulses
and moods. It involves the ability to
suspend judgement and delay action
to allow time for thought. From a
neuroscientific perspective, you can
frequently observe this skill, or lack of
it, by watching response times.

If an angry client is in rapid-fire
mode responding to what you say in
less than about half a second then it
is very likely that they are not giving
conscious thought to what is being said to them. Those with
this ability will frequently
trustworthiness, integrity,
comfort, with ambiguity
and openness to change.

Internal motivation

Frequently seen within
veterinary professionals,
internal motivation is
about working with and for an inner
vision of what is important, a
curiosity and desire for learning and
development, a drive that goes beyond
external rewards such as money or

There is often a strong drive to
achieve, optimism even in the face of
failure and organisational
commitment. There are also risks,
particularly in the presence of an
undue sense of perfectionism.


This relates to the ability to
understand the emotional make-up of
others and the skill to treat people
according to their emotional reactions.
It includes skills in building and
maintaining relationships with those
we come into contact with on a daily

Though central to a service
profession, empathy can tend to be
somewhat less well developed in those
with an isolated background and an
intensive/competitive scientific training. Empathy often does, but
does not necessarily, imply
compassion; it can be used for both
good and bad.

Social skills

This involves the ability to manage
relationships, build networks, find
common ground and build rapport. It
will often help when leading change,
being persuasive, building expertise
and getting great performance from

Whilst complex and somewhat
uncertain, Emotional Intelligence
reflects a central set of competences
within what it is to be a veterinary

Education in this area remains
basic within the profession but in the
increasingly more challenging
environment ahead it may make the
difference between success and failure.

If you would like to learn more
about Emotional Intelligence, e-mail

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