Using Different Emotional Intelligence Styles
Some people believe that having emotional intelligence is a skill to be learned or is about developing some particular competencies such as listening more attentively or showing greater empathy for example. However, there are two parts to being more emotional intelligent that appears to be critical. The first is to be able to have a high level of self-awareness (so as to respond appropriately to the situation at hand) and the second is to be able to read the needs of other people (so as to respond appropriately to the situation at hand). So in both cases, “responding appropriately” is the key requirement and this is therefore not so much about single skills or competencies more abut the overall approach we take or what this article calls our emotional intelligence style that we adopt.
In constructing a model for emotional intelligence style, there are two important dimensions that are suggested to be significant. These are:
- Individual drive or motivation
- Thinking structure adopted by an individual
Let’s look at these two dimensions in a little more detail:
DRIVE OR MOTIVATION
Personal motivation underpins many of the prevailing theories about emotional intelligence as it is important to understand what people tend to drive towards or are interested in pursuing. Drive/Motivation can be said to have the two ends of the scale or continuum as follows:
- A drive towards outcomes
- A drive towards beliefs
The drive towards outcomes reflects an interest in goals and targets as well as in task achievement or tangible action steps. This end of the continuum is often good for recognizing context, associations and relationships between ideas or data, or making rational sense of their world.
The drive towards beliefs reflects an interest in values and attitudes, and people and relationships in particular. This end of the continuum is often good to quickly recognize emotions or feelings (whether are experienced by the individual person or are expressed by other people or entire groups).
THINKING STRUCTURE ADOPTED
Writers and researchers such as Jung, Cattell, Myers Briggs and others have long recognized that individual thinking styles fall into two major categories. Intuitive or ‘free association’ thinking, and more structured, sensory oriented and analytical thinkers. This is reflected in the other major axis in this model:
- A drive towards experimentation
- A drive towards control
An experimental preferred thinking structure reflects an interest in the open exploration of ideas (diverging rather than converging). This end of the spectrum is therefore often good for dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty or for accepting quite varied data and opinions.
A controlled preferred thinking structure reflects an interest in an ordered and often systematic sequential thought process (converging rather than diverging). This end of the spectrum is therefore often good for applying sound and careful logic to data or opinions.
By intersecting these two axes, a four quadrant grid is created. This grid creates four possible style types, which can be simply labeled REFLECTIVE, CONCEPTUAL, EMPATHETIC and ORGANIZED:
The Four Emotional Intelligence Styles
In this high structure and high outcomes or results driven style quadrant, the individual is likely to be task focused but look to achieve their goals in a quiet, considered, ordered and incremental or sequential manner. To do this they will approach new situations by looking to collect information that they can logically analyze and weigh up carefully in their mind before they decide or act.
The Reflective style type is predominantly interested in how the external world is structured and ordered and is therefore concerned to continually gather data to be mentally sifted and reviewed. The Reflective type consequently sees emotions, feelings, beliefs and values only as observable behaviors or actions that should be noted and appropriately categorized alongside all other perceptions of external events or situations. In other words, personal empathy levels with emotions experienced are low or even non-existent.
In this highly experimental and high outcomes or results driven style quadrant, the individual is likely to be task focused but look to achieve their goals in a challenging, stretching, decisive and non-linear manner. To do this they will approach new situations by putting forward a variety of observations, ideas and suggestions designed to push people’s thinking to new or different horizons. Some of these views may be deliberately offered with little pre-thought or impulsively, but are often argued quite strongly nonetheless.
The Conceptual style type is predominantly interested in how the external world can be understood in a range of different ways and changed or altered through action. New information therefore helps to modify this person’s model of the world. The Conceptual type sees emotions, feelings, beliefs and values only as observable behaviors to be incorporated into their big picture view of people and life in general.
In this high structure and highly beliefs driven style quadrant, the individual is likely to strongly value a world in which people can interact simply, fairly and with certainty (and therefore purposefully seek to establish sound processes that others will find helpful to follow). To do this they will approach new situations by communicating the importance of issues such as clear processes and systems, personal competence, good planning and discipline as a basis for an organized world in which people can operate in a calm, familiar and well ordered climate.
The Organized style type is predominantly interested in how the world of inner beliefs and the values of every individual can be accommodated in an ordered way with a well understood and practical set of parameters in which people can operate with confidence and certainty.
In this highly experimental and highly beliefs driven style quadrant, the individual is likely to have a strong drive to understand and communicate with people at a social level and spend much of their time looking to extend and deepen their relationships with others. To do this they will adopt a warm and gregarious approach to new situations and events in general and strive hard to understand other people’s inner feelings and views. The Empathetic type consequently likes to connect with others at an emotional level and most enjoys relationships where feelings are open and known (and outcomes and task goals are secondary).
The Empathetic style type is predominantly interested in how the world of inner feelings, beliefs and values can be better understood. They are therefore likely to adopt an open, giving and altruistic approach on the basis that it may well engender the same response in others.
We need flexible ways to respond to people in a range of different situations. Knowing which style we prefer most (and in some cases which style others prefer most) is a useful first step in becoming more self-aware. However, by appreciating the other three available styles that may not be our primary preference, we increase the scope to adjust our approach and thereby behave in what are then likely to be seen as much more emotionally intelligent ways.