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Emotional Intelligence

Summary: Emotional Intelligence is the ability to own one's feelings, but also to understand and correctly judge the feelings of somebody else. When selecting executives emotional intelligence plays a major role. However, for youth work it is important to take a closer look at the value of aspects of emotional intelligence. Any successful youth worker needs a great deal of emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to appreciate your own just,
as much as somebody else’s, feelings.
©: alephnull - Fotolia

In times long gone it was believed that human intelligence is based solely on the knowledge of any given person. At the beginning of the 20th century, roughly at 1920, the psychologist Edward Thorndike described another form of intelligence for the first time. An intelligence, which all people have, however, not everyone has it in equal quantity. Back then he called this form of intelligence "Social Intelligence". His description of this form of intelligence, however, did not make its way into science. For example, intelligence tests were still modelled after the old pattern that only required factual knowledge.

It took quite a few years until science was able to draw conclusions from Thorndike’s social intelligence to emotional intelligence. Finally, science was able to realize the important impact this form of intelligence has on the entire life.

Today, however, with every intelligence test, not only questions of factual knowledge, skills such as combinatory and abstract thinking are required, there are also tasks from the field of emotional intelligence to accomplish.

What is emotional intelligence?

Meanwhile, it probably has become common knowledge that factual knowledge based on intelligence is not necessarily beneficial to get around in a world which is characterised by emotions. Emotional intelligence involves the ability to move around in a socially and complex world and navigate accordingly. This includes many different aspects, for example:

Building relationships

Whether in business or private, in love relationships or friendships – people are social beings building relationships with others throughout life. Nevertheless, many people find it hard to empathize with others, to understand their motives, feelings and intentions, leave alone to comprehend or understand them. Emotional intelligence in this context, means understanding other people, have compassion, and sometimes grant some leniency, in order not to hurt their feelings and build a harmonious coexistence.


To learn reactions and feelings
To learn reactions and feelings | ©: Kurt Michel

Self-reflection is one of the skills coming with emotional intelligence. This means the ability to reflect on one's actions, motives and skills to draw the appropriate conclusions. One can describe it as a kind of self-management, which knows its own feelings and actions and has them under control.

Internal and external perception

Everyone who wants to reflect on their own and other people's behaviour needs above all the ability to perceive. Here we are not talking about appearances, but about the perception of the own feelings. Only those who are sufficiently sensitive can think and act with emotional intelligence. Only the one who can perceive his own feelings will succeed in perceiving and understanding the feelings of others as well. And that brings us to the next significant point the importance of empathy.


Empathy is the ability to respond appropriately to emotional conditions of other people. The foundation for empathy is the ability to perceive those emotional states, which often remains unspoken. However, to respond accordingly and correct the person must also be able to draw the accurate conclusions. It is all about learning to understand somebody’s feelings. – The ability to empathize with somebody else. If we truly succeed in this task, then we can build relations – build understanding. Ultimately, this will lead to an appropriate conduct with each other.


Emotional Intelligence is one of the fundamental conditions to lead a self-determined and independent life. This includes the appropriate use to implement the own resources of strength, time and emotions to respond accordingly to the situation within a specific target.

What is the difference of EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) and IQ ("classic" Intelligence Quotient)?

The classic intelligence quotient indicates the abilities of humans, to solve given problems and tasks. The most important feature of increasing the IQ is conscious learning. Learning, which is usually known from school, universities or professional training. This means: to a certain extent the IQ can be varied (increased). However, with age the IQ recedes again since man loses important mental abilities. Unlike the EQ that draws skills mainly from experience. Therefore, the EQ does not decrease with age, in contrary; it grows until (almost) to the end of life. The ideal, of course, is a very high IQ paired with an equally high EQ. And last but not least, almost all skills from the EQ field can be learned just the same as the skills from the IQ field.

Where and what areas of emotional intelligence are important for everyday life?

Emotional intelligence also refers to the "shaping of the heart". People, who have a high degree of emotional intelligence, can be recognized by their soulful conduct with others. However, it also needs to be acknowledged that people with a high level of emotional intelligence are almost always more successful in their career.

Every profession that requires social contact with people requires sensitivity, are professions where emotional intelligence is particularly important. EQ lends us the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of somebody else and, therefore, understand the feeling and motivations of the ones we are dealing with. Hence, we can adjust our actions accordingly. Every (youth) group too needs a high level of EQ, in particular, if the group pursues a common goal. Emotionally intelligent people put their own interests second in the pursuit of a desired goal. They are composed, motivated and take the feelings and problems of those around them serious.

Conclusion for youth work

Dealing with children and young people requires some sensitivity. And really, it should be like that. For many youth workers, this has gone bad. Why? They did not succeed to empathize with the child or young person. Therefore, they did not learn about the feelings and motivations of the young person. Neither did he get to understand the child’s actions. For many youth workers, this is not an easy task as they are still very busy understanding their own feelings which only makes them partially able to understand the world of young people. The ability to relate is extremely important for every youth worker when dealing with children and adolescents. It is an imperative that they can build relationships that reach young people.

In one of your next staff meetings, maybe you could discuss or at least think about each of the following questions:

  • How do I see myself? How do I experience myself?

  • Do I know my feelings and their triggers? Why am I getting angry? Why do or don’t I like certain people? Am I jealous? Do I recognise fear within myself? Do I know, "loneliness", "abandonment", "being spoilt", "helplessness", "and feelings of inferiority"?

  • Do I have my feelings, emotions and actions under control?

  • Do I have empathy? Can I empathize with others? How he feels, in his relationship to others?

  • Can I build relationships; can I establish relations with others?

  • Do I know my group members at all? What do I know of them? How do they live, feel, and think? How much do I talk to the individual? Am I interested in the individual?

Successful youth work only comes about with youth workers, who can build relationships with the young people. However, this can only happen with a person who knows his own feelings and knows how to empathise with the emotional world of the child or young person. That’s the only way to get on the same wavelength, to really get the child and respond appropriately.

[ © | 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work ] - 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work
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