Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught?

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Many of today’s organizations understand that in this hypercompetitive, technology-driven world, employees need more than traditional technical skills and competencies for the organization to not only be successful but to avoid becoming extinct. They understand that employees need to be able to embrace and thrive in an environment that is characterized as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. While these words form an acronym (VUCA) coined in the 1960s, they are even more descriptive of today. To assess their employees’ ability to grow and adapt in this type of environment, organizations are using emotional intelligence (EI) as an important measure.

EI refers to the set of skills and/or abilities that promote the awareness of emotional states for oneself and others. Garnering considerable support in mainstream culture and in business, EI is one of the most widely accepted tools for hiring, training, leadership development and team building. And there is no shortage of vendors offering measurement instruments, coaching, and training programs. Even the most prestigious universities, such as Yale, offer emotional intelligence training programs in their MBA programs (DiMeglio, 2013). However, with all this emphasis on EI, research has yet to systematically investigate whether individuals can be trained to improve their level of EI (Mattingly & Kraiger, 2018).

To answer this question, Mattingly & Kraiger (2018) undertook a meta-analytic study to investigate the impact of formalized training on EI. The researchers concluded that EI is in fact trainable and that programs can be developed to help individuals improve their abilities (Mattingly & Kraiger, 2018). One example of a type of program that can improve EI are those that utilize mindfulness practices as the foundation. Research suggests that a mindfulness practice encourages the development of key abilities and competencies associated with EI, such as self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and relationship management (Mia, Humphrey, & Qian, 2018).

It’s not surprising that there is a strong relationship of mindfulness to EI, because mindfulness supports the development of emotional regulation and improves the ability of an individual to recognize and manage their own emotions and the emotions of others (Mia et al., 2018). Also, the non-judgmental and self-regulating aspects of mindfulness may help individuals to develop adaptive emotional functioning and to help modify or stop maladaptive thoughts and behaviors (Mia et al, 2018).

This recent research points to yet another reason to make mindfulness practice a regular part of your day. Not only does mindfulness benefit your overall well-being, it can also help you with your career aspirations as well.

If you would like more information on our VUCA world and how mindfulness can help develop your skills, click here to read a recent article I wrote that was published in Workspan magazine. It sheds light on how mindfulness can help organizations develop the much needed skills of today’s often chaotic world.



Di Meglio, F. (2013, May 15). Want an MBA from Yale? You're going to need emotional intelligence (Retrieved9/15/17).

Mattingly, V., & Kraiger, K. (2018). Can emotional intelligence be trained? A meta-analytical investigation. Human Resource Management Review.

Miao, C., Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2018). The relationship between emotional intelligence and trait mindfulness: a meta-analytic review. Personality and Individual Differences135, 101-107.