Emotional Intelligence

July 23, 2019

by Devin Vicknair, MS, PhD

What is Emotional Intelligence (EI)?

Emotional intelligence can be best understood through four areas:

  • Self-awareness: recognize and label your emotions, motivation, and mood;
  • Self-management: controlling impulses, judgment, adaptability and directing mood;
  • Social-awareness: empathizing with others and in tune with how people tend to function;
  • Social skills: connecting, teamwork, and communication.

What is the Goal of Achieving EI?

It is important to know that emotional intelligence can be taught and enhanced. The goal of EI is to demonstrate positive inter- and intra-personal skills. Research shows that people with higher emotional intelligence can better regulate their mood, understand and express emotions and empathy and interact more openly. These individuals are perceived as cooperative, demonstrate more self-control, adapt well to changes and have a lower perception of stress and burnout.

Why is Establishing EI Important for Residents?

We know that physicians are flooded with knowledge! It’s commonly said that medical school is like drinking (knowledge) from a firehose, but the application of knowledge and connecting to patients are skills that require practice. Our resident physicians will have the benefit of demonstrating enhanced patient care by applying emotional intelligence skills. This skill set will enable them to truly connect with patients and their families through compassion and empathy. Research shows that residents who are practicing emotional intelligence demonstrate greater psychological wellbeing, stress management and less fatigue/burnout which will translate into enhanced patient care. We want our residents to not only grow professionally but also personally!

How Can Residents Achieve EI & What Does NGMC Do to Teach and Implement it?

Much like our seasoned physicians, our resident physicians are constantly getting feedback and involved in ongoing education and skill-building activities. For example, our residents recently attended a two-hour Cornerstone of Resident Education (CORE) class that offered training on emotional intelligence as well as the assessment of their emotional quotient. The residents are then able to use this acquired knowledge and integrate it into their daily clinical practice to improve patient-centered care.

How Can EI be Useful Personally and Professionally?

Implementing basic EI skills starts with enhancing your self-awareness. Tune in to what you are feeling physically and emotionally while considering the trigger and meaning of your feelings. Ask yourself, “what prompted me to feel this way?” This will identify the precursor to the feeling while also taking full accountability for your emotions.

Taking accountability does not excuse another person’s behavior, but it does put you in a powerful position to be able to change your emotions. Practice self-management by redirecting your emotions to a more favorable outcome. This tends to be easier said than done, but with practice, you will become more proficient. For example, if you find that you are becoming more agitated with traffic, recognize that you just want to spend more time with your family rather than staring at the taillights in front of you. As a result, you may call your family on the way home or even just think about enjoyable times with them rather than focusing on the traffic.

You can also build social awareness and relationship management skills by paying attention to your interaction with others. This can be a common “blind spot” for people as you may not be aware as to how you present to others or what people think of you. Regardless, you can enhance your social interactions by practicing empathy and attending skills. For example, when you are in communications with others, eliminate distractions, make eye contact (if possible) and summarize what you are hearing before making your point.

Remember, “see first to understand, then to be understood.”

-Dr. Stephen R. Covey