Is there any scientific evidence of emotional intelligence


Storytelling and emotional intelligence - how are the two related? I spoke to the psychological psychotherapist Dr. Maike Engel. Like me, Maike teaches at the Berlin School of Life. Their program is called Ways to Greater Emotional Intelligence.

Stories relate to charts in the same way that emotions relate to cool rationality. Ideally, they complement each other, right? Which of the two will take the lead?

Many understand rationality and emotionality as opposites. This is incorrect because the opposite of rational is irrational and the opposite of emotional is unemotional. Indeed, mind and emotions are not mutually exclusive, but ideally should complement each other.

One of the great strengths of emotionality is that emotions motivate us and enable us to act quickly. Rationality or the mind are much more cumbersome. When making decisions, for example, it is popular to first make an emotional decision and then to justify the decision rationally. But it seems more sensible to me to first exhaust all the possibilities of the mind and then to decide quickly and intuitively.

Harnessing the power of emotions using the mind

Perhaps you could say that rationality forms a kind of framework and provides concrete and feasible steps, but emotionality is the driving force. It is the emotions that initiate actions and motivate us. In this way, positive emotions (e.g. anticipation) signal to us what we want to achieve and motivate us on the way there.

Using the power of emotions with the use of reason is, for me, emotionally intelligent.

An example of this, preferably from your practice?

Gladly. The patient (43, married, mother of a 7-year-old daughter) came into therapy after she left her husband for another woman. She was desperate and stressed how much she still loved him. She didn't even know what to do without him and said “I can't stand that. Without him everything is pointless. It's all so horrible ”.

The patient showed herself to be depressed, to remain passive and to quarrel with herself and her fate. In the therapy we first found that her despair and depression are understandable and okay, but in the long run they represent rather paralyzing feelings. We worked out a slightly different assessment of the situation, namely that she still loves her husband, that she will miss him and that it is actually not certain whether she will find such a partner again. Furthermore, that all of this will not be easy and that the loss is a great shame and grave for them.

Towards emotions that enable us to act

These thoughts also triggered a strong negative feeling in her, namely sadness. In contrast to despair and dejection, which let us see situations beyond our control, we remain capable of acting in the case of sadness, i.e. we leave the opportunity to openly examine whether we can change something in the situation. During the course of the therapy, the patient was able to free herself from the paralyzing feelings in small steps and used the energy gained to develop a perspective for a life without her husband.

This is an example of an emotionally intelligent way of dealing with a difficult life situation that revolves around loss.

What is the story of emotional intelligence? Like storytelling, it is quite new and yet has deep roots, right?

Right. In 1990 the psychologists John Mayer from the University of New Hampshire and Peter Salovey from Yale University introduced the term "emotional intelligence" into the scientific discussion. The term emotional intelligence only became really popular with the book of the same name by the American psychologist and business journalist David Goleman from 1995, who saw it as an important prerequisite for professional success. The concept of emotional intelligence is based on the theory of multiple intelligences by Howard Gardner, who wanted to expand the classic notion of intelligence that only depicts cognitive and academic skills.

In science, the concept and concept of emotional intelligence are still controversial today. Some researchers accuse Goleman that emotional intelligence is a kind of reservoir for everything that has anything to do with emotion, motivation and good character. In addition, there is too little empirical evidence for the concept and the term “intelligence” should be reserved for cognitive abilities.

If you want to be successful, you also have to be able to handle emotions wisely

Despite this criticism, emotional intelligence has established itself as a concept in the free economy. In the sense of "If you want to be successful, you have to be able to deal wisely with emotions", many applicants and especially managers are selected on the basis of their emotional intelligence. With good self-regulation skills and empathy, they should create a better working atmosphere in companies and increase productivity.

The relevance of the content of emotional intelligence goes beyond the professional context. There is ample evidence that people who have the ability to perceive and regulate their own feelings and those of others are less likely to suffer from mental disorders, have more positive personal relationships and are less prone to unfavorable habits such as smoking or an unhealthy diet.

And what's your story? How did you get into teaching emotional intelligence?

In psychotherapy, emotions such as fears, grief or chronic anger usually play a central role, regardless of the clinical picture. My patients often express the wish themselves to be able to better understand and regulate their own feelings. You feel too much, too little or experience painful, stressful emotions over and over again.

Handling emotions intelligently is not an innate talent

In therapy, I first try to initiate precise and critical observation so that the patients develop a better understanding of themselves and an idea of ​​the origin of their own feelings. Then it becomes a little more uncomfortable and it is necessary to change the emotional difficulties or to develop good emotion regulation strategies. As a psychological psychotherapist, I train emotional intelligence.

An intelligent or competent handling of one's own feelings and the feelings of others is not an innate talent. We are born with a certain temperament and our emotional development is strongly influenced by our caregivers - mostly our parents - but this emotional legacy is not an unchangeable fate.

I am convinced that we have a certain amount of freedom in dealing with our own feelings and those of others. We do not have to repeat what we have observed in our parents (e.g. tabooing of grief, pain or anger).

Good emotional intelligence is a huge resource in life. We all know or have already experienced that crises and conflicts are part of human life. Those who can fall back on good emotional abilities generally recover better from stress and blows, find their way back to inner stability more easily or gain orientation more quickly. In addition, emotionally intelligent people usually have a good social network, which is an important support system in crises.

Making people more resilient for life

In view of my experience with the emotional difficulties of my patients or their chronic mental illnesses, I consider preventive work in the area of ​​emotions to be extremely important. It is my desire to make people more resilient for life that motivates me to work as a lecturer in emotional intelligence.

I want to show people how important it is to work on their own emotional skills and to help them stay mentally and socially healthy in the long term. To teach them methods and techniques to improve their emotional intelligence, which they can integrate into their everyday life, I think that is very useful and makes me really happy.

Emotions are also the core of stories. Heroes go through emotional fever curves. Failures are not swept under the table. On the contrary: There is 80 percent trouble in a feature film. Without conflicts a hero tries to resolve, there is no story. Because here are the emotions. Do stories help develop emotional intelligence?

Even in kindergarten, social-emotional skills are discussed and trained with the help of picture books or stories. Pictures give even the smallest children a clear and differentiated access to the world of feelings, and the text promotes the ability to talk about these feelings. This early recognition and naming of feelings is an important influencing factor for the later emotional intelligence.

Stories can help develop emotional intelligence

But I think stories can also develop emotional skills in adulthood. By identifying with the heroes of the story, you can gain access to your own emotional experience. This promotes self-awareness. Perceiving and understanding the perspective of the heroes, empathizing with them and empathizing with them, these are emotional skills such as empathy, which are also encouraged when dealing with stories. Immersing yourself in a story, i.e. experiencing how the heroes master difficult things or enjoy beautiful things, is like a kind of mental test for dealing with one's own emotions in the real world.

So yes, stories can help in developing Emotional Intelligence.

Which emotional intelligence skills should a good storyteller have?

For me, a good storyteller is someone who manages to create a real connection between him and the audience. Connection is created through emotions. He should not cling to mere facts and details, but rather describe feelings about the events, which activates the imagination and, in the best case, the emotional experience of the listener.

A good storyteller shouldn't be afraid of his own emotions. To share emerging sadness, confusion and excitement with the audience instead of suppressing it, that is emotionally intelligent for me. So he should reveal something about himself, and that may also be his own vulnerability, because the audience can identify with it.

A good storyteller shouldn't be afraid of their own emotions

In addition, a good storyteller should be empathetic, i.e. have a feeling for and interest in the emotional needs of the audience, because the story can only be carried away if he takes them into account.

How important is a positive life story in Emotional Intelligence? Is it something like proof that I am emotionally intelligent?

I don't think Emotional Intelligence gives you a positive life story. Good emotional skills are essential prerequisites for trying to achieve your own positive goals in life, but by no means proof that it will work. For me, being emotionally mature also means recognizing that life is not all positive.

So I would rather put it this way: Proof that I am emotionally intelligent is a life story with good and bad times, i.e. many emotional challenges that I faced with intense self-reflection and never stopped trying to develop myself personally.

Storytelling is becoming increasingly popular in business because classic communication no longer works. Context and meaning count and truthfulness. And just emotions. All of this can best be conveyed with the means of storytelling. You have already indicated that emotional intelligence plays a role in business. Can we go deeper into that?

Emotional intelligence is increasingly in demand in business and offers considerable advantages for both employers and employees. Companies have a great interest in their employees working for them well and happily. Accordingly, managers should be able to recognize and respond to the emotional needs of their employees while being able to understand and control their own emotions.

Emotionally intelligent people can cope better with stress and unplanned situations

This requires a high degree of self-reflection and empathy, i.e. emotional intelligence. It doesn't fall from the sky, it has to be trained. But the promotion of emotional intelligence at employee level also has many advantages. Emotionally intelligent people can cope better with stress and unplanned situations. You don't lose control of your own feelings and impulses so quickly, but try to understand the background to fear, disappointment and anger and to react appropriately.

They also listen better, are more critical, and more compassionate. This enables them to master interpersonal challenges in the workplace and can count on the help of their team in stressful or problematic situations.

Through a good self-perception, emotionally intelligent people also recognize their own needs and limits in good time, what is important for their mental health or can even save them from burnout syndrome.

Strengthen trust and solidarity with emotional intelligence

A corporate culture that promotes emotional intelligence can therefore strengthen trust and solidarity in the team and maintain employee health. Employees' skills can develop more positively, which can contribute to innovation and productivity in the company.

What future do you predict soft skills such as emotional intelligence in an increasingly digitized world?

The question of whether it will at some point be possible to implant a certain amount of emotional intelligence into machines is widely discussed. Intelligent machines have long been an integral part of our everyday life. I am skeptical about this, because emotions are not only biochemical processes that may be technically reproduced at some point, but are always also influenced by our individual evaluation system, i.e. our thoughts. Man thinks and feels and he has a body through which this feeling becomes visible. These are very complex processes.

It is possible that the advancing digitization will also bring people more into focus. If machines take on more and more rational or repetitive tasks for us, human potentials such as emotional intelligence may become even more important. Because what remains are complex situations and problems to which there are no rational answers. Then people are needed who work out complex solutions in interdisciplinary teams. This requires emotional skills such as good self-control, motivation and social skills.

Social media is not just a means of connection

Nevertheless, at some points in the increasing digitalization, I find dealing with emotions problematic. For example the use of emoticons. Here an emotional state is summarized and communicated in a single symbol. There is nothing wrong with winking if a sentence is supposed to reach the recipient with a certain irony and the desired intention. But for sad or angry I shouldn't choose a picture, but words, because that means that I perceive the emotion in myself, recognize it and communicate it to someone in such a way that he understands me. That is emotionally intelligent.

I also consider it critical that social affiliation is increasingly expressed through communication and networking via social media and for the search for “Who am I?‘ ‘Apps like Instagram offer a space to present yourself and try out yourself. These relationship and identity-creating technologies are definitely justified and create a lot of freedom, but we shouldn't forget to deal with our emotions and social interaction in “real life”.

Unfortunately, social media is not just a means of connection, but also a means of comparison, and many are increasingly using it passively. We can get infected by the emotions of others, but personal interactions and connections challenge us emotionally much more and are better training for our emotional intelligence.