This post was written in partnership with Dr Deb Perich at Perth College.

Emotional Intelligence?

For some people, the term “emotional intelligence” (EI) is an oxymoron. They struggle to understand how emotions (particularly at their extremes) can be intelligent or at the very least helpful.

Professor Marsha Linehan, a respected psychologist and creator of a psychological therapy known as DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy), proposes that we can operate from a “emotional mind”, a “reasonable mind” but the ideal being a “wise mind” that combines both i.e. hearts and minds.

The fact is, that for most of us, we know little about emotions (ours or other people’s). Most people have limited emotional vocabularies, tending to use the same language for a broad range of sophisticated emotional states. The most alarming fact is that most adults have had no education or training in how to manage or intelligently use emotions. Thankfully there is an increased interest and application of social and emotional learning in schools – see below.

Interestingly though, there has been much interest in the topic, primarily through the publication of the New York Times Best-Seller written by Daniel Goleman entitled “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ”.

And it’s not just “waffle” – there’s hard science that underpins the topic. Two of the key experts in this field are academics from Yale, Professors Mayer and Salovey. Their model of Emotional Intelligence incorporates the abilities of identifying emotions, understanding emotions, using emotions and managing emotions. They’ve also created an “ability” test of EI known as the MSCEIT – more on this to follow.

The Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence is also renowned for it’s research and application of Mayer & Salovey’s model of emotional intelligence for children and in schools. In fact, some of you may recall, here at PI, we were fortunate to have Professor Marc Brackett, the Director of the Centre, give an inspiring breakfast presentation in Sydney for us last year. Their model is called “RULER” and is outlined below:

For more information on the RULER program, go here.

This month I’m delighted to introduce Dr Deb Perich from Perth College, who we’re working with to apply Positive Education broadly and strategically at the school. Deb recently accompanied some of the students to see the movie “Inside Out” and has kindly written the blog below – thanks Deb!

Inside Out (Guest Blogger Dr Deb Perich, Perth College)

There’s a buzz around Australia and the world – about the new Disney Pixar movie Inside Out.

The animated film tells the story of 11-year-old Riley, whose world is turned upside down when her dad moves the family from Minnesota to San Francisco. The audience meets the little voices within Riley’s head as the colour-coded emotions Joy (yellow), Anger (red), Disgust (green), Fear (lavender) and Sadness (blue) work with and against each other to shape the young girl’s life as she settles into a new home.

It was an absolute delight for Perth College to hear about “Inside Out” given it is the same name given to the self-leadership programme Perth College created for its students from Kindergarten through to Year 12. It also aligns with the messages we teach the girls to help them understand and manage their emotions. We’ve been telling the girls Disney made a movie just for them!

After a year of research, Perth College implemented “Inside Out” based on a positive psychology model in 2012 to guide girls through childhood and adolescence, and equip them with the skills to lead themselves as well as others. Workshops, seminars and guest speakers specific to each year level – from Kindergarten to Year 12 – help students become more resilient, emotionally stronger, confident and capable, and improve general wellbeing.

The School felt so strongly about the way the film addresses emotional wellbeing that it treated all classes from Kindergarten to Year 6 to a screening of “Inside Out” at a local cinema on the first day of its release. Countless reviewers are calling this Disney Pixar’s best movie yet – a masterpiece that easily breaks down a complex subject for both children and adults. As a parent and an educator, I’ve seen the film twice and got something different out of it each time.

Inside Out has a truly important message and has sparked deep conversations amongst our staff, our students and their parents. All of the Perth College girls who attended one of the screenings returned to School and recorded her reactions via drawings or a short report. The Year 2 class noted:

Kate Walton (Teacher): The movie was a wonderful way for our students to visualise how emotions work inside the brain. It supported the discussions we have in our own Inside Out program at Perth College about looking after our feelings. It also highlighted the importance of acknowledging the feelings we have in order to move forward, that it’s okay to be sad sometimes but finding ways to move forward from this, by talking with our families or exploring happy memories, can help us through these moments.

Lauren: I learned that sometimes after you are upset and have had a cry you might feel better, and that sadness is okay.

Aliza: I thought it was a good way to learn about how feelings can control your body and how they kind of do different things when you are in different situations.

Ellsie: I thought it was amazing and I learn that you have feelings inside your head and they control how you feel.

Watch a short clip of the film. And if you’ve not seen the movie yet, whether you have children or not, go treat yourself!

Here at PI HQ we did just that last Friday night. It was a cold and dismal evening with only 7 people in the cinema, including us, and all adults! As the movie begun and the characters were introduced, it became apparent not only to myself, but to Tracy, who was sitting next to me, that I was wearing the same jumper that “Sadness” was wearing! Oh well, how apt – even at The Positivity Institute, sadness is embraced as one of the full range of human emotions! Too funny!

Want More?

For those of you that would like to undertake a valid and reliable, scientific assessment of Emotional Intelligence, known as the MSCEIT (Mayer Salovey Emotional Intelligence Test), contact us at for more information.

Recommended Reads

• Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child – A #mustread for all parents!

• Becoming an Emotionally Intelligent Manager – A #mustread for those of you in leadership positions

This month’s challenge…

Whilst we can’t offer you the magic bullet in becoming emotionally intelligent overnight, we can offer you two kick-start activities to help you on your way:

1. Assess and commit to expanding your emotional vocabulary – How large is your emotional vocabulary? Set a timer for 5 minutes, and then write down as many “emotion” words as you can. In the EI workshops we run at PI, what we normally find is 1) women have a larger vocabulary than men; and 2) most people (both males & females) have fairly limited vocabularies, whereby people tend to use the same “emotion” words for many different and distinct emotions without a nuanced understanding of the difference say between frustration and irritation. Set a goal to learn 1 new emotion word each week.

2. Be a mindful and compassionate observer of your emotions – Commit to being more aware of your emotions and the subtle and significant shifts that occur on a daily basis? What triggers emotions for you? Are there certain situations or people that cause you to feel a certain way? More importantly, start to be mindful of any types of thoughts (ANTS: automatic negative thoughts) that might create stronger and unhelpful emotions such as rage, anxiety and depression. Try to practice naming these emotions. Sometimes simply naming them can help you understand and manage your emotions better. If you find this to be a difficult task, or discover that you could do with some assistance in managing emotions better, don’t hesitate to seek professional help – go to the free “Find a Psychologist” service offered through the Australian Psychological Society – – or contact us for recommended providers of psychological services.

So until next month! Let’s hope Joy takes the lead role on stage!

Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy)