What is Virtual Emotional Intelligence™?

Employee Wellness & Digital Communication

Up to 70% of communication at work is digital, so it’s not surprising that it can have a profound impact on employee well-being. In fact, studies show the volume of messages, expectations of constant connectivity, and the quality of messages all play a role in workplace wellbeing[i]. Back when the term Emotional Intelligence was first coined in 1964 by Beldoch (and popularized again in 1995 with Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ[ii]) digital communication wasn’t the norm and teleconference (let alone videoconference) calls were few and far between. But since then, virtual workplaces have become commonplace, and digital technology ubiquitous. Therefore, applying the basics of emotional intelligence to digital environments has become (I argue, anyhow) an essential 21st century workplace skill. That is because a person with strong virtual emotional intelligence understands how communication changes across channels and is able to apply emotional intelligence to their digital communications. And when communication improves, so does employee well-being.

Virtual EI Defined

Virtual emotional intelligence™(sometimes referred to as digital EI) is ability to apply the fundamentals of emotional intelligence to a virtual/digital environment, including: videoconference meetings, company intranet, learning management systems, internal communications, text messages, chat rooms, emails, forums, and social media.

Daniel Goleman outlined five features of emotional intelligence in the workplace that can be applied in this context:





5️⃣Social skills

Are EI Skills Transferrable to Virtual EI?

Arguably, one might think that a person who is strong in social skills (for instance) should also be strong in social skills online—but that can only be the case if they understand how behavioural norms and emotional reactions will vary depending on both the platform and context.

For example, we all know how text and email conversations can lead to misinterpretation and ambiguity, compared to those in-person. That is because face-to-face conversations provide us with more contextual information (think: body language, gestures, and tone of voice). This allows us to “read” others and perceive the situation more clearly. Now think about how we interpret text messages. Internally, we decode these messages and read them like a “voice in our head”, perceiving them with a particular tone and feel (but for the most part, we’re just guessing). To make matters worse, along with it comes unconscious biases. For instance, with confirmation bias[iii] we subconsciously look for evidence to back up our own opinions of a person. So if you’re not overly fond of a co-worker, you may be more likely to interpret their email as being abrupt, curt, or shallow, instead of efficient and to-the-point. This can lead to unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings. Through this example, we can begin to understand the complexities involved when it comes to digital communication and the additional considerations that are required when it comes to managing our emotional intelligence online.

If you would like to learn more about how Virtual EI™ training can help your organization, please Email [email protected]