While the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) as a whole isn’t necessarily a new one, the concept of EQ as it relates to healthcare (known as Healthcare Emotional Intelligence, or HEQ) is a topic that has been at the forefront of many discussions with our healthcare clients recently.
In order to better understand HEQ and the importance of an HEQ competency model, it is first useful to understand EQ. In short, EQ is the capacity to recognize how our actions impact the cognitions and emotions of others. It also deals with the ability to “read” or “intuit” the intentions, feelings and motivations of others as we navigate social interactions in our lives. For instance, an individual with high EQ may be better able to pick up on the emotions of someone they are directly interacting with and then act accordingly. This individual would also be more aware of the affects their words and actions can have on the person with which they are communicating.
When some people first think of EQ, they sometimes think of the concept as a singular construct. However, EQ is actually more than that— it is a collection of many different competencies and components. The traditional approach to measuring EQ is to treat it as what we call a “meta-construct,” where EQ isn’t in and of itself a thing, but rather it is a collection of many psychological constructs: self-awareness, social sensitivity, self-esteem, positive attitude, and compassion and empathy. Those many constructs interact with one another to predict an individual’s performance and determine how that person might relate to others in interpersonal situations—in short, they predict his or her EQ.
This general approach to EQ has been used for 15 or 20 years and it’s admittedly useful. Recently, however, we have posited that we need to start thinking about HEQ construct. This concept is particularly important in a healthcare setting, where the patient experience and understating are becoming increasingly more important for healthcare organizations. While all of the specific components of EQ are important, we find that the aspects like empathy and compassion — how you perceive others’ emotions – to be particularly important in defining what EQ is and how it impacts performance and patient-provider interactions in healthcare.