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This definition is based on the academic and theoretical work of Professors Jack Mayer and Peter Salovey. Professors Mayer and Salovey are widely recognized as the leading thinkers in the still new field of emotional intelligence.
The specific definition presented here is called the "innate potential model" because it emphasizes that emotional intelligence is something we all are born with to varying degrees, and that this potential is later developed in either healthy or unhealthy ways over our lives.
In other words, each baby is born with a specific and unique potential for these components of emotional intelligence:
Because this model of emotional intelligence is based on innate potential, it makes a very important distinction between this inborn potential as compared to what actually happens to that potential over a person's life. If this distinction is not made, it will be quite possible to incorrectly identify someone as lacking in emotional intelligence, when in fact, they are actually only lacking in healthy emotional skills and knowledge.
Potential vs. Actual EI Skills
As suggested above, each child enters the world with a unique potential to feel, use, communicate, recognize, remember, describe, identify, learn from, manage, understand and explain emotions.
The way we are raised, the experiences we have, the learning we receive and acquire, and the models we see around all combine to dramatically affect what happens to our potential in each of these areas. For example a baby might be born with a very high potential for music -- he or she might be a potential Mozart -- but if that child's potential is never recognized, nurtured, and encouraged, and if the child is never given the chance to develop their musical potential, they will never become a talented musician later in life. The world will then miss out on this person's special gift to humanity.
Also, a child being raised in an emotionally abusive home can be expected to use their innate emotional potential in unhealthy ways later in life. For example, such a child might grow up to use their emotional skills to hurt or manipulate people.
Because of these distinctly different possibilities, it is important to make a distinction between a person's inborn emotional potential versus their actual emotional skills and use of their emotional intelligence later in life.
(See the "Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence")
|Applying The Innate Potential Model
Of EI To A Baby
As a practical example of emotional intelligence, and to see how even one babys innate level of emotional intelligence can be different than anothers, lets look at a babys feelings of fear.
Fear, of course, is a natural feeling. Its purpose, as designed by nature, is to help the baby survive. A baby has a natural fear of abandonment because the baby knows its life depends on others. When it is left alone, it feels afraid. A baby is also afraid of being separated from its parents, so if a stranger tries to take the baby away from them, it is natural for the baby to feel afraid. But not all babies respond to fear in exactly the same way.
Lets consider a babys natural fear as we look at each of the components of emotional intelligence. First, here is a reminder of the definition of EI.
Now let us look at each component in detail.