Learning Emotional Intelligence according to your Learning Style

Learning Emotional Intelligence according to your Learning Style

I’ve recently been engaging in a few Emotional Intelligence (henceforth EI) conversations on LinkedIn and it dawned in me that it might be helpful for people to see some tips for learning emotional intelligence according to their learning styles. For the sake of this article, let’s assume you already know what your learning style is. If you don’t already know what it is, the diagram to the right, which is based on Honey & Mumford Learning Style theories will help you determine what it (or they, if you have a blended approach to learning) is.

The next thing is to understand what EI is and which EI model is being referring to below. Salovey & Mayer (1990), prominent researchers in the field of EI defined emotional intelligence as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s own thinking and action”. This line of work has helped us to understand that people vary in their capacity to recognise, comprehend, utilise, communicate and manage emotions and that these differences influence people’s performance in a variety of contexts, including relationships and work.

In 1999, Salovey, Mayer and Caruso developed a model that considers one’s ability as a set of competencies within the parameters of the above definition. This Ability Model presents 4 domains:

  • The ability to perceive emotions
  • The capacity to use emotions to facilitate thinking
  • The ability to understand emotions
  • The ability to manage (or regulate) emotions

The most recent model of emotional intelligence was developed by Petrides and his team in 2007 and consists of four components:

  • Wellbeing: Confidence & self-esteem, optimism, and happiness
  • Sociability: Social competence & awareness, assertiveness, and the capacity to manage other people’s emotions
  • Self-control: Stress management, low impulsivity, adaptability, self-motivation, and emotion regulation
  • Emotionality: Emotional perception of oneself and others, emotion expression, relationship, and conveying empathy.

It is this model, the Trait Emotional Intelligence model that I’m applying the Learning Styles to. Let’s explore how emotional intelligence can be learned according to your learning style. 

For the ACTIVISTS among you

The best way for activists to learn to perceive emotions, improve capacity to use emotions for thinking, and understand and manage emotions, is by experiencing these things personally and absorbing the lessons presented experientially. When those things are lived out in daily life or a life event, activists are better able to connect dots in their minds and hearts that were once hypothetical or assumptions-based about their emotional intelligence. Turning their personal EI into a life project or short-term practical assignment that is measurable and tangibly impactful is the most natural way for activists to develop those skills. Activists are generally self-development oriented, so they’ve got this motivation behind them.

A draw back with this learner style is that activists tend to look for the next big challenge without really having reflected on the learning from the previous lesson. Once this blind-spot has been recognised, it’s really important for the activist to take their time to reflect well, instill deep in themselves all the learning that they took out of those lessons, and to figure out how they can translate that learning into actions that improve their wellbeing, sociability, self-control and emotionality in the future. 

Here’s a few ideas for activists:

  • Take the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (short version) (you’ll need to make a £30 donation to the company) and then see where your strengths and weaknesses are. Decide what you might want to develop. Self-analysis is very important to do every 1-3 years of our life.
  • Seek feedback from others in order to gain wider perspective. You might come to an emotional conclusion on something that another has not come to the same emotional conclusion on. This requires real two-way communication.
  • This one will take a lot of humility, but it’s a super effective one: ask others to give you their opinion on your reactions to things. You will learn an awful lot, or an awful lot will be affirmed for you! This will serve to educate your self-control as well as your emotionality.
  • Perseverance is key for you to reach that potential for growth in emotional intelligence. Where the temptation is to skip onto the next thing that you might be good or better at, you are in the here and now… so don’t lose out on this opportunity that could potentially be a game-changer for you in the future. Think ‘slow down, reflect & absorb’.
  • Take responsibility for how you’ve made others feel. Then put into practice your action points. Here’s where you up your sociability game.
  • Connect with your own emotions, come to understand them in your inner reality and accept that they exist. People have different ways of doing that. My way is to shrug my shoulders, smile and say… OK! Well to wellbeing, I say!

For the REFLECTORS among you

Reflectors learn primarily through observing credible and experienced role-models. The method that works best for them is in-person but standing back from the action and pondering from the sidelines. They like to discuss reflections and plans with a mentor who they feel can walk the talk. Having said that, reflectors surprisingly also pick up these lessons from books, articles and case studies. As the most cautious and most reluctant risk-takers of all four types of learners, reflectors tend to come to emotional conclusions after they have had a good, long and thorough think-through of the situation, collecting and analysing as much data about the experience or event in order to come to the most informed decision possible. Is it any wonder they tend to make the best listeners, and be the last to speak in meetings and discussions! They’re often the last to jump to conclusions or make rash judgements too.

Because of their extremely cautious nature, reflectors may delay their learning in emotional intelligence. This is mainly due to the foreseeable risk-taking involved in being emotionally intelligent. Reflectors will understand well that emotional intelligence is proven in practice.

Here’s a few ideas for reflectors:

  • Start. Just start. Trust in your own abilities to learn along the way. Once you’ve started, don’t stop. Build up your courage to keep going. Learning by mistake is a much better outcome, than by not learning at all.
  • Approach role models for their stories and/or ask friends, family, acquaintances to share with you how they learned to manage risks, build confidence, become socially aware, develop self-control and regulate their emotions.
  • Watch YouTube videos on the subject.
  • Observe yourself as much as you observe others. Since reflectors generally love taking notes, note down how you react to people and how you make judgements about a situation. Reflectors tend to do really well with journaling.
  • Learn more about risk management.
  • Use your wonderful observational and reflection skills to spin the mirror on yourself. What are you learning about yourself? What needs working on, or a different approach? If there is a blockage on self-reflection: a) imagine this experience took place in third person (don’t habitualise this though) and write down your learnings, and b) address the inability to self-reflect.
  • Self-evaluate against the 2007 EI components above.

For the THEORISTS among you

Concepts. Theorists love to understand and rationalise concepts. Consider concepts and theories as the foundational building blocks to a Theorist’s learning. Anything nonsensical is often anathema to a Theorist, and therein lies a potentially huge problem since some of the most acute emotions we experience are seldom logical! So emotions can become a problem to be solved in the Theorist – and they’re likely to do that through theory-based courses with well-qualified and experienced trainers, well-written manuals or books and articles. Our Theorist friends are the most analytical and rationalistic of all four learning types because of how much they naturally value principles, theories, models and systems thinking. 

The greatest struggle for the Theorist when it comes to learning emotional intelligence is the two-way blind-spot of assimilation. Firstly, the theorist may automatically separate one’s own personal experience from the analysis – as if it were a hypothetical situation. Take for example, grief. To learn and grow from grief requires a genuine lived and felt experience of every nuance that comes as part and parcel of grief. Theorising the situation removes from it authentic human experience. Sometimes, the human experience is beyond theory and logic, so must be lived rather by mystery and what is super (above/beyond) – natural: supernatural. Secondly, should the theorist be able to rationalise the experience into a logical scheme and thought, the risk is to leave it as such, and not use this new-found knowledge to learn about oneself, and to reach the deep human lesson of the self from it. The potential detachment between theory and lived experienced, and discomfort caused by subjective judgement is something that theorists need to watch out for in their learning.

Here’s a few ideas for theorists:

  • Spend time, on occasion, focusing solely on knowing yourself. I’ll repeat that. Knowing yourself. Not rationalising yourself. Just… knowing yourself. There is a greater intimacy between knowing a person and rationalising a person. EI is personable. Yes, it might be unnatural at first… but build a routine habit of it. Getting to know yourself will be a huge step in learning EI.
  • Get in touch with your perception of the world – living and non-living things. This will boost your wellbeing and emotionality levels.
  • Yes, facts and the objective is very, very important. In fact, it’s critical. But so is the subjective experience – otherwise, how can one say something is ‘real’? Philosophers have spent many years exploring the balance between the intellect (the guiding force behind rational thought) and the will (the guiding force behind subjective experience).
  • Theorise on this: Realist Phenomenology
  • Find a way to systemise or analyse your emotional reactions over a longer period of time. Study the data, what does it reveal to you?
  • Even though you may be able to detach your subjective experience from a logical occurrence, it doesn’t mean that others can do that as easily. If for example at some point you’re perceived as ‘indifferent’ or ‘uncaring’, this is a sign or a signal that someone else’s feelings have been triggered or impacted by your actions or words at a deep emotional level.
  • Take responsibility for your words and actions, and make efforts to listen ‘to the heart’ of the people in your life. Learn to be sincere in your apologies.

For the PRAGMATISTS among you

Pragmatists who actively develop their EI are their own real-life project and are perhaps the most keen of all learning types on self-development and self-growth. Transforming their learning into practical use is one of a pragmatist’s greatest strengths, and this is why they greatly value the help of someone who gives valuable feedback and coaching. Knowledge can’t just remain theoretical to the pragmatist… they’ll want to see it brought to life in practice, and enjoy trying out new things, new ideas and experimenting. So when it comes to learning EI, they are generally open to constructive criticism and tend to be more open to change in themselves. Pragmatists really do thrive on knowledge and have a special love of learning. Others who support pragmatists would be encouraged to champion the energy and excitement of some new idea or project proposal that has generated a speed of action, confidence and motivation. They’re fast learners and fast movers generally though – so supporters can equally be encouraged to help pragmatists pause for a moment and consider all option.

The danger of the pragmatist is that they can enjoy experimenting so much, that they risk bringing this ‘experimentation’ into their most valuable and important relationships, doing some serious damage along the way. In order to progress and develop themselves, pragmatists might be willing to, or adopt an attitude of, using or ignoring the other person to achieve this. The warning signs of this are when the subjective reality (the feelings and experience) of the other person is no longer of concern to the pragmatist. This is when the pragmatist has the most amount of learning and self-reflection to do! Having said that, they are real natural problem-solvers, and an emotionally developed pragmatist will have both the knowledge and the means to restore relationships (at least from their end). 

Here’s a few ideas for pragmatists:

  • Know that a lot of decision-making is pragmatic for you. Sometimes, this isn’t always the best course of action. Consider other options on occasion too, before taking action.
  • Take the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (short version) (you’ll need to make a £30 donation to the company) and then see where your strengths and weaknesses are. Decide what you might want to develop. Self-analysis is very important to do every 1-3 years of our life.
  • Attend an EI course or workshop.
  • Have a long-term coach in your life who will help you increase your awareness of personal wellbeing, sociability, self-control and emotionality. Hire a coach specifically for this, and watch your EI growth accelerate! 
  • Don’t forget to examine your reactions to distressing situations. Develop action plans for mitigating risks in making same mistakes over and over.
  • Check in on your emotional wellbeing for yourself, but also through the feedback and opinion of those closest to you.
  • Accept that you’ll always be a work-in-progress (WIP)!
  • Build in a routine of ‘preparatory work’ into the early stages of your learning journey. Ask yourself: “how will my actions affect others?” “How will my decision impact others?” “How can I help others manage the impact of my decision?” 
  • Remember that we can’t change other people. We can only change ourselves. Other people aren’t problems to be solved, but human beings to be loved.

I’ve opened up this post for comments and discussion! Feel free to share your thoughts, corrections, opinions, suggestions etc! 


I’m Claz, a Life & Career Coach working with individuals as well as organisations, accredited in the UK. I am also a holistic massage & wellbeing therapist based in West London. You can contact me through my website www.touchofclarity.com and sign up to my workshops on my Eventbrite Page.

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