MTP Communication: Emotional Intelligence

As a faculty mentor, you may deal with a challenging relationship with a mentee. You can use your Emotional Intelligence (EI) to enhance your effectiveness.

According to Daniel Goleman (1998) "Emotional Intelligence is the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships". Brian Tracy noted that "You have a healthy personality to the degree to which you can get along with the greatest number of different types of people."

EI is the ability to feel, understand, articulate, and effectively apply the power of emotions as a source of human energy. In a world of different cultural norms and behaviors, this involves: broadening of communication skills, resilience in the face of complex and challenging realities, and the ability to shift perspective and influence others who are different in order to achieve needs and objectives in a constructive way.

EI, therefore, complements intellectual intelligence. Nonetheless, it is not uncommon for individuals who score very high in intellectual intelligence tests to act deficiently when emotional intelligence is needed. Unlike intellectual intelligence, which develops through academic training, research, critical thinking, and the capacity to analyze and synthesize abstract information, EI develops through self-awareness, acceptance and understanding of the diversity of human experience and motivation, and the ability to communicate across the gaps of interpersonal and intercultural differences.

EI can be understood as balancing the focus on Self versus the focus on Others; and the focus on Insight versus the focus on Action. Accordingly, there are four principal aspects of EI:

  • Insight into Self or Affirmative Introspection: Knowing what makes one tick, being in tune with and aware of one's own "hot buttons", and becoming comfortable in one's own skin.
  • Insight into Others or Intercultural/Interpersonal Literacy: Being capable of empathy, knowing what makes others tick, by transcending one's own perspective, being able to appreciate the benefits and limitations of different personality styles and cultural backgrounds, and understanding how culture shapes and informs behavior.
  • Action on the Self or Self-Governance: Getting in charge of self-talk, acting as one's own change manager, being willing and able to undertake personal change and to manage changes in one's environment, and learning to deal with and make an ally of ambiguity.
  • Action with Others or Social Architecting: Serving as an interpersonal/intercultural interpreter, being effective at conflict resolution and bringing diverse people together despite personal and/or cultural differences, and knowing how to create and sustain compelling working relationships and environments.

As a faculty mentor, you may face a situation when your usual approach doesn't seem to be working and either the mentee's performance is far off what you would expect and/or his/her behavior has proved especially problematic to deal with and is becoming a serious obstacle. If you find yourself dealing with such an unusually challenging relationship with a mentee, you may use the Decision Tree for guidance to your thinking as you try to determine what kind of problem you are facing and how best to approach it, including when to consult with the Faculty & Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) or the Work-Life Resource Center.