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Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Emerging from academia to enter the mainstream lexicon in 1995, emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to perceive, understand, manage, and use emotions. Management consultants need to be emotionally intelligent when they engage clients. It is not enough to perceive and understand a client’s emotional state, as consultants also need to be self-aware enough to project and use their emotional state in order to cultivate successful client relationships. A good way to develop a holistic understanding of EI is to review Mayer and Salovey’s ability model, which breaks down EI into four different types of abilities.

The first ability is the ability to perceive emotion. Part of a client engagement is to constantly acquire information. Verbal and nonverbal cues convey information; therefore, consultants need to be able to recognize these cues.

The second ability is the ability to understand emotion. Individuals have different preferences and attitudes under different emotional states. Understanding what kind of mood a client is in provides a useful frame for understanding and interpreting what they are saying.

The third ability is the ability to manage emotions. The emotional state that a consultant conveys when interacting with a client affects how the interaction is perceived. The ability to manage emotions is useful for establishing credibility and maintaining strong relationships.

The fourth ability is the ability to use emotions to enable adaptive or creative thinking. Emotions can either facilitate or hinder creative thought. Using creativity to solve problems is an essential part of consulting and consultants need to manage their emotions in order to foster creativity.

Consultants need to be strong in all four of these abilities if they are going to be successful in their client engagements. Fortunately, effectiveness at interpreting, analyzing, and presenting information is probably part of what brought them to consulting in the first place.

By: Mark Cuddihy