That is the primary question. Now that emotional intelligence is well established as a major net positive in virtually every profession, what can be done to raise one’s emotional intelligence?
The most recent evidence of the efficacy of emotional training comes in a study of doctors announced last month that found that EI training improved resident physicians’ emotional intelligence. The training was undertaken with a specific goal of protecting doctors against burnout, which the study noted “has reached alarming levels, with one study finding it affects at least half of all doctors. Burnout is defined as overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism, detachment from work and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.” Research has shown a consistent relationship between high physician burnout and low patient safety and quality of care, a result that, of course, also impacts hospitals’ bottom line.
In this study published in the journal Advances in Medical Education and Practice, doctors took a test measuring their emotional intelligence both before and after completing the training. The results after the training showed significant increases in their scores for overall emotional intelligence, stress management and overall wellness. The training was integrated into the regular resident educational curriculum, with a focus on “self-awareness (being aware of your emotions), self-management (ability to manage your emotional reactions to situations and people), social awareness (ability to pick up emotions in others) and social skill. The educational intervention included didactic teaching, discussions and videos.”
This latest study comes on the heels of a new, May 2018 meta-analysis— i.e., an exhaustive review of EI-training studies–which again says resoundingly “yes, emotional training works!” An analysis of 58 published and unpublished studies that included an emotional intelligence training program showed an average moderate positive effect for training emotional intelligence, regardless of design, gender of participants, and type of EI measure (ability v. mixed model). The increase was larger when discussion of the meaning of the construct and how it applies to the participants was included and was significantly larger when there was practice and feedback incorporated into the training. No significant differences in training effectiveness were found between programs based on ability and mixed-model EI theories.
That meta-analysis followed by only months another one (published in September 2017) reviewing 24 EI training studies that also found emotional intelligence training to be effective. This study found more nuances in the effectiveness of various types of training programs, with those based on the abilities-based MSCEIT model formulated by Mayer, Salovey and Caruso showing the most effectiveness. It also found that raising the ability to understand emotions–how they differ, develop and evolve and are best used–accounted for significantly higher results, a reflection of the critical importance of that ability in the ability to actually manage emotions. This study concluded that a fixed schedule (averaging 6 sessions, each with 2.5 hours duration) with defined individual goals for participants works best, although the training effectiveness increases as the length of training increases. For a more extensive discussion of these and earlier studies particularly as they apply to lawyers, see this recently published Psycholawlogy post.
The good news is that study after study and meta-analysis after meta-analysis confirms that emotional intelligence can be raised through training, which is particularly good news for law students and lawyers everywhere.