Emotional Intelligence: The OKA Approach

Emotional Intelligence: The OKA Approach

This essay by Hile Rutledge first appeared in OKA’s October 2009 newsletter. Come to our Emotional Intelligence (EQ-i) Certification Training  to learn how to use this tool.

The popularity of emotional intelligence, and the EQ-i in particular, has exploded in the last decade. The increase in people asking for EQ-i work at OKA in the last few years has been remarkable. The benefits of using this tool and model are numerous, but, as with all tools, there are some specific pitfalls that need to be avoided. The EQ-i details fifteen elements or scales that deal with self-concept, interpersonal relationships and general emotional well-being, and then compares a respondent’s results with those of a norm group so that respondents can see how their responses relate to those of others.

One of the benefits of the EQ-i, is that it was built around an IQ report structure (which presents a score of 100 as the mean or average score with standard deviations of 15 in either direction). This means that in an EQ-i report, a score of 115 means that someone is in about the 85th percentile on that element, and a score of 85 means that the respondent is about the 15th percentile on that element. A score of 100 is right on the mean or average.

The problem – or one of them – is that too many people read their EQ-i reports as verdicts; they see the reports as photographs that conclude skill, success, dysfunction or failure. This is completely untrue. The EQ-i report is more like an Impressionist painting that requires reflection, interpretation and both intellectual and emotional engagement. It is a model and a vocabulary leading to greater self-awareness, self-management and ultimately, better personal and professional performance.

While there are lots of interesting data within this report, consider Nicolette’s Independence score (126) and Empathy score (62). A conventional interpretation of this report-one that supports a high-scores-are-good and low-scores-are-bad approach-would suggest that Nicolette has well developed Independence (she is able to live and thrive without intellectual or emotional dependence on others), but that she lacks the ability to understand or connect with others (reflected in the unusually low Empathy score).

While this is one possible narrative, numbers alone NEVER tell the story, and only Nicolette-in the end-will be able to glean from this report the developmental path that will best serve her. Nicolette, for instance, while a high Independence score might reflect development and even skill, it could also suggest dysfunctionally high independence. Nicolette could have trouble connecting and sharing with others or allowing them to connect with her. High scores could suggest an over-attachment to a behavior.

Considering her low Empathy score, Nicolette could be a self-employed person who very much enjoys (and connects well with) a very small number of intimate friends or family, unable or UNINTERESTED in behaviors that connect more deeply or more often with others around her. If this were the case (and note she seems nicely Happy and Optimistic), then there may well not be any corrective action suggested by these elements of her report form.

Much of OKA’s activity in the world of emotional intelligence is trying both to teach new (and existing) EQ-i users how to convert prescriptive approaches to the EQ-i to a more interpretive, client-driven approach to self-awareness and development. In addition, OKA is giving significant attention to the “so what” and “now what” elements of EQ engagement. What does a client do once he has decided that Empathy is too low, or that she would be better off with greater Impulse Control. These action steps are a critical element of any effective training or coaching session that uses the EQ-i.


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