Ever notice a colleague who seems to keep up a positive attitude at work, no matter what comes her way? How does she do it? According to a study lead by psychologist Abraham Carmeli, published recently in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, the secret could be her emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence, the term popularized by Daniel Goleman in his book of the same name, is the ability to recognize your emotions, understand what's causing them, and reflect on them for the sake of emotional and intellectual growth. The idea is that people who are emotionally intelligent are able to maintain positive mental states because of their ability to manage their emotions.

In their study, Carmeli and his colleagues looked at the relationship between emotional intelligence and psychological well-being in the workplace. They gave two surveys to 300 employees working for five different organizations in Israel: a financial organization, a court, an organization working in the defense industry, an advertising firm, and a software company. One of these surveys measured emotional intelligence, asking participants to agree or disagree with 33 statements that gauged their ability to understand, express, and regulate their emotions. The second survey measured their psychological well-being by looking at their life satisfaction, how positive their attitude was toward their life, and their self-esteem.

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The results showed that individuals with higher emotional intelligence reported higher levels of life satisfaction, self-acceptance, and self-esteem than their peers with lower emotional intelligence. This has important implications for employees' performance, as other research suggests that those who experience greater psychological well-being may do better work.

So how do we cultivate emotional intelligence? For ideas, Goleman's book is a great place to start. And new research and programs are suggesting there's a strong link between mindfulness practices and emotional intelligence, especially among kids. See this article by Jill Suttie from Greater Good's Summer 2007 issue for more.

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