The term ‘Critical Thinking’ could often give rise to confusing feelings in one’s mind. We may think of being critical as judging someone/something quite harshly. Rather, the intent of Critical Thinking however is to help us arrive at better decisions as we examine information from multiple perspectives. One aspect of Critical Thinking is to recognize assumptions and biases by distinguishing facts from opinions and seeking alternative viewpoints. Another component of Critical Thinking is to put strong emotions in check and to carefully evaluate data.
Emotional Intelligence, on the other hand is the ability to perceive, reason with, understand and regulate one’s emotions. This enables us to develop and maintain productive relationships. Understanding negative emotions such as anger or frustration is a facet of emotional intelligence which involves a deeper understanding of the source of our own and others’ reactions. Another component of emotional intelligence is managing emotions, which includes regulating emotions and responding appropriately across situations.
Let’s see how the two coincide. When we recognize biases (Critical Thinking) and understand emotions (emotional intelligence), we are better able to constructively explore differences of opinions, to come up with lasting solutions to problems. When we regulate our emotions (emotional intelligence) and consider data carefully (Critical Thinking) we are equipped to productively resolve conflicts.
Through the examination of these two concepts; one can infer that Self-Regulation, a skill of Critical Thinking, can be likened to certain aspects of the core emotional competencies of emotional intelligence. The four core competencies are the ability to: (Salovey and Mayer, 1990)
1. Accurately perceive, appraise and express emotion
2. Access or generate feelings on demand when they can facilitate understanding of oneself and others
3. Understand emotions and the knowledge that derives from them
4. Regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth
Self-Awareness emerges from these four core emotional competencies as a governing tenet for the development of emotional intelligence. Self-Awareness refers to the ability to recognize a feeling as it happens (Goleman, 1995). This ability is paramount for leadership positions. Goleman noted that “the ability to monitor feelings from moment to moment is crucial to psychological insight and self-understanding”. He further asserts that if individuals fail to recognize their true feelings, it can be rather detrimental. “People with greater certainty about their feelings are better pilots of their lives, having a surer sense of how they feel about personal decisions, from who to marry, to what job to take.”
This is highly transferable to the work environment as well. The lack of emotional intelligence undermines both a company’s growth and success and conversely the use of emotional intelligence can lead to more productive outcomes at the individual and organizational level. This is further affirmed by the overwhelming majority of employers who feel that emotional intelligence and specifically Self-Awareness, is critical to success in business. High Self-Awareness is the foundation from which all other emotional intelligence stems (Weisinger, 1998). This, coupled with the idea that employers expect employees to have high emotional intelligence, because it is highly correlated with positive social interaction; makes it quite apparent that the development of Self-Awareness must be a foundational pillar of any leadership curricula.
There exists an undeniable correlation between the two concepts. Self-Regulation (Critical Thinking) and Self-Awareness (emotional intelligence) are inextricably linked as individuals develop the ability to identify and manage their feelings regarding the decisions they make. Proficient abilities in both these skills would allow for individuals to make effective decisions, have the ability to revise those decisions and manage feelings to enhance effectiveness throughout the decision-making process.
As you consider developing skills in yourself or others; do use the unbeatable combination of critical thinking and emotional intelligence for win-win outcomes, both on the personal and professional front.