Cultivating Emotional Intelligence in Seminary Formation:
Development of Core competencies

-Mathew Vattamattam cmf

 emotional intelligence in semSelection and formation of priests and religious has always been giving attention to intellectual endowments of the candidates as they are trained to become leaders of communities of the people of God. Of course, an intelligent person tends to respond better to the challenges of life and contribute more to the welfare of the society. The traditional understanding of what constitutes an intelligent behavior (IQ) has undergone great changes as new theories of intelligence began to gain ground. The theory of emotional intelligence (Goleman,1995) and multiple intelligence (Gardner, 1983) have contributed to broaden the concept of intelligence to include more significant variables of healthy living. Thus terms such as emotional intelligence, social intelligence and spiritual intelligence have entered into common parlance of every day life.

 There has been significant body of research on the variables of career success which suggests that IQ alone does not predict success (Kelly, 1998; Spencer & Spencer, 1993), where as competencies that integrate cognitive, emotional and social abilities do. In fact, all definitions of emotional intelligence represent a combination of cognitive and emotional abilities (Cherniss, 2001). Cognitive, emotional and social intelligences are required for better performance in social professions such as that of physicians, CEOs of big business enterprises and administrators of important institutions which require complex decision-making, self-awareness, affective self regulation, motivation, empathy, and interpersonal functioning. Priestly and religious ministry by their very nature belong to this category. Positions of leadership requires higher levels of cognitive ability to process the complexity of information that the leaders receive and their emotional maturity to deal with those around them.

 There is sufficient data of research that points to limits of IQ as a predictor of future success. An interesting follow up study of 80 PHD’s in science who took IQ tests in 1950’s were tracked down after 40 years in their early 70’s and estimates were made of their success by various means. It was found that social and emotional abilities were four times more important than IQ in determining professional success and prestige (Feist & Barron, 1996). I am not aware of any longitudinal study of various abilities of seminarians and their future success as priests and missionaries. I would expect that emotional and spiritual intelligences would significantly contribute to success in ministry, perhaps, much more than cognitive abilities. Here is a list of competences that form part of emotional intelligence that can be cultivated to enhance emotional intelligence. The following list of competencies are drawn from different manuals of emotional intelligence (Goleman 1998, Spenser and Spenser 1995). Some practical formative tips added to each of these competencies.

Table of competencies

Personal competence

Social competence

1. Self awareness

2. Self-regulation

3. Self Motivation

4. Social awareness

5. Social skills

Emotional awareness

Accurate self-assessment







Achievement drive





Service orientedness

Developing others

Leveraging diversity

Political awareness




Change catalyst

Conflict management

Building bonds

Collaboration & cooperation

Team capabilities

 Personal Competence


white1Emotional awareness: Recognizing one’s emotions and their effects. It is expressed in the capacity to:

  • Know which emotions they are feeling and why
  • Realize the links between their feelings and what they think, do, and say
  • Recognize how their feelings affect their performance
  • Have a guiding awareness of their values and goals

 Accurate self-assessment: Knowing one’s strengths and limits. People with this competence are:

  • Aware of their strengths and weaknesses
  • Reflective, learning from experience
  • Open to candid feedback, new perspectives, continuous learning, and selfdevelopment
  • Able to show a sense of humor and perspective about themselves

 Self-confidence: Sureness about one’s self-worth and capabilities. People with this competence:

  • Present themselves with self-assurance; have .presence.
  • Can voice views that are unpopular and stand for what is right
  • Are decisive, able to make sound decisions despite uncertainties and pressures

Positive indicators

Negative indicators

Able to name emotions

Freely share about feelings to the formators

Listen to feed back and benefit from criticism

Accept corrections comfortably

Learn from mistakes

Tell opinions in the group

ask questions in class

Lose temper easily

Long period of mood out, passive aggression

Defensive to criticism and correction

Difficulty to accept and learn from mistakes

Perfectionist view of oneself: I am right”.

Hurting/aggressive remarks on others

Fear to stand up for oneself and express personal views in a group

Blame others for one’s situation

 Exercises to develop awareness:

  1. Climate check: Pause for a while especially before you start an activity and check the internal state especially of mood and energy level.
  2. Mindful eating. Take food with awareness of its taste, smell, touch etc. using all senses.
  3. Consciously ask questions when you do not understand.  Express your views politely in community meetings or in a class setting.
  4. Think of a recent mistake or failure and review the process of how it happened and learn the lessons they give without blaming oneself.

In Jesus life (For meditation and contemplation):

  • Jesus as a boy at the temple, “Did you not know that I must be in my Fathers’ house?” (Lk 2.49).
  • He taught them as one who has authority. (Mk 1.22)
  • Jesus awareness of his own inner movement in Gethsemane: “My soul is very sorrowful even unto death.. ” (Mt 26.38)


regulationSelf-control: Managing disruptive emotions and impulses. People express this competence by:

  • Managing their impulsive feelings and distressing emotions such as anger, frustrations or affection well
  • Staying composed, positive, and unflappable even in trying moments
  • Thinking clearly and stay focused under pressure

 Trustworthiness: Maintaining standards of honesty and integrity. People express this competence by:

  • Acting ethically in congruence with one’s values and beliefs
  • Building trust through their reliability and authenticity
  • Admitting their own mistakes and confront unethical actions in others
  • Taking honest, principled stands even if they are unpopular

 Conscientiousness: Taking responsibility for personal performance. People express this competence by:

  • Meeting commitments and keep promises
  • Holding themselves accountable for their choices and actions
  • being organized and careful in their duties

 Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change. People express this competence by:

  • Smoothly handle multiple demands, unexpected events and emergencies
  • Adapt their responses and tactics to fit fluid circumstances
  • Are flexible  to look at events from different perspectives

 Innovativeness: Being comfortable with and open to novel ideas and new information. People express this competence by:

  • Seeking out fresh ideas from a wide variety of sources
  • Entertaining original solutions to problems
  • Generating new ideas
  • Taking fresh perspectives and risks in their thinking

Positive indicators

Negative indicators

Healthy handling of anger

Ability to smile amidst difficulties

Accept responsibilities courageously and do them well

Punctual for common work and prayer

Self disciplined

Honest in money matters

Able to adjust to changing circumstances

Alternative thinking to find solutions

Creative and innovative

Irritable and short temper

Crying easily over small issues

Postpone things

Easily hurt by comments of others

Forget appointments

Untidy room

Change is resisted strongly

Criticize others for being different

“I am always right”


 Exercises to develop self-regulation

1. practice of punctuality in your daily programs. Make it a point to reach a few minutes before starting prayer and prepare yourself interiorly.

2. If you are easily discouraged by criticism, learn to benefit from it by looking into the positive contribution it makes in your life and try to find out what you can learn from it for your growth. Consciously refuse to take it as an attack on your person. Select a past event and work on it.

3. Accept a community responsibility which you may have avoided to take up and use creative ideas to serve the community with love and dedication irrespective of appreciation and acknowledgement of your efforts.

4. Think of one weakness in you which you want to overcome (or a need in your community such as cleaning up a dirty corner in the compound) and take initiative to address it creatively.

 In Jesus life (For meditation and contemplation)

  • Jesus presence to himself and his mission when he is tested in the desert. (Lk 4. 1-13)
  • Jesus’ response when threatened by Herod, “Go, tell that fox, behold, I cast our demons and perform curs today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course”. (Lk 13.31-32)
  • Jesus dealing with Judas and elders at Gethsemane (Jn 18. 1-11).”If you seek me, let these men go” v. 8.
  • Jesus’ response to the soldier who struck him. “If I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (Jn 18.24)


blue Achievement drive: Striving to improve or meet a standard of excellence. People with this competence:

  • Are results-oriented, with a high drive to meet their objectives and standards
  • Set challenging goals and take calculated risks
  • Pursue information to reduce uncertainty and find ways to do better
  • Learn how to improve their performance

 Commitment: Aligning with the goals of the community and the congregation. Capacity to spend energy on the responsibility entrusted. People with this competence:

  • Readily make personal or group sacrifices to meet a larger goal of the group
  • Find a sense of purpose in the larger mission of the community and the congregation
  • Use the group’s core values in making decisions and clarifying choices
  • Actively seek out opportunities to fulfill the mission of the  community/congregation

 Initiative: Readiness to act on opportunities and find new openings in a situation of stalemate. People with this competence:

  • Are ready to seize opportunities apparent or hidden in a situation
  • Pursue goals beyond what’s required or expected of them
  • Are able to go beyond the letter of the rules to meet their true purpose and can even break them when appropriate to serve a still larger purpose.
  • Mobilize others through unusual, enterprising efforts.

 Optimism: Persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks. People with this competence:

  • Can tap energy from positive thinking and deep faith
  • Persist in seeking goals despite obstacles and setbacks
  • Operate from hope of success rather than fear of failure
  • See setbacks as a call for improved strategy rather than a personal flaw

Positive indicators

Negative indicators

Persevere in a task till one succeeds

Participate actively in meetings and programs at local and provincial levels

Offer practical and realistic suggestions to improve the working of the group

Affirm and encourage confreres especially those who are de-spirited

Volunteer with generosity when common service is solicited

Prioritize important tasks

Console, encourage and challenge the group with gentleness.

Dispersed and distracted in ones work

spend lot of time on unimportant things and gratifying relationships

tend to throw cold water on initiatives of others by negative comments

give up tasks or react negatively when obstacles or difficulties arise on the way

Hyper sensitive to criticism

Postpone important tasks to the last minute

Spend more time for sleeping or before TV or internet (for recreation).

 Exercises to improve self motivation

1. Define your purposes when you undertake projects. Make a mission statement and keep it written on your desk

2. participate in a self discipline course (available in this formation website)

3. Take any of your projects currently you are undertaking and write down your motivation, long term and short term goals and steps towards reaching your goals and a time frame for it. clearly and realistically.

 In Jesus Life (For meditation and contemplation)

  • Jesus as a boy at the temple, “Did you not know that I must be in my Fathers’ house?” (Lk 2.49).
  • “My food is to do the will of him who sent me” (Jn 4.34)
  • “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end”. (Jn 13.1)
  • He gave up his spirit (Jn 19.30)                                                                                             

Social Competence


social awareEmpathy: Sensing others’ feelings and perspective, and taking an active interest in their concerns. People with this competence:

  • Are attentive to emotional cues and listen well
  • Show sensitivity to understand others’ perspectives
  • Able to perceive the needs and feelings of others and help them out

 Service orientation: Anticipating, recognizing, and meeting the needs of those under care. People with this competence:

  • Understand the needs of those in their care. Adapt the ministry accordingly.
  • Seek ways to build community and communion among people. Enjoy shared mission
  • Gladly offer appropriate assistance
  • Grasp the perspective of other agents in mission, acting as a trusted advisor

Developing others: Sensing what others need in order to develop, and bolstering their abilities. People with this competence:

  • Acknowledge and appreciate people’s strengths, accomplishments, and development
  • Offer useful feedback and identify people’s needs for development
  • Mentor, give timely coaching, and offer assignments that challenge and grow a person’s skills.

 Intercultural sensitivity: Appreciate, enjoy and learn from the interaction with people of different cultures, customs, cults and languages . People with this competence:

  • Respect and relate well to people from varied backgrounds
  • Understand diverse worldviews and are sensitive to group differences
  • See diversity as opportunity, creating an environment where diverse people can enjoy common life.
  • Are aware of one’s own prejudices and can challenge bias and intolerance

 Political awareness: Reading a group’s emotional currents and power relationships. People with this competence:

  • Accurately perceive power relationships in one’s group and in the society..
  • Detect crucial social networks
  • Understand the forces that shape views and actions of the people whom they serve as well as one’s collaborators.
  • Accurately read situations and organizational and external realities

Positive indicators

Negative indicators

Sensitive to the needs of others

Attend to the needs of guests and visitors in the community gracefully

Assist those who are sick or are at the margins of the community

Aware of the different powers influencing the community or place of ministry

Appreciate and value the cultural differences of people in the community.

Sensitivity to speak common language in an inter-linguistic group.

Self-engrossed, overlook the needs of others

Relate with people for personal gains

Comfortable only in one’s own group

See reality in terms of black and white, good and bad, friend and enemy

Ignore the presence of strangers and speak only one’s own language

Act on prejudices and stereotypes about people of other cultures

 Exercises to improve social awareness

  1. Cultivate listening skills. Take time to listen to a senior Claretian narrating past events and try to feel how he must have lived them then.
  2. Learn a new language to converse with familiar people whose language is different from yours.
  3. Develop cultural intelligence by appreciating customs and traditions of other cultures
  4. Become aware of attitudes of superiority and prejudices in relation to other groups (foreigners, Muslims, other tribes, women, other Christian denominations).

 In Jesus life (For meditation and contemplation):

  • Jesus attention to the sick (Mt 4.23-25), the paralytic (Mk 2.1-12), the widow of Nain (Lk 7.11-17), the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8. 1-11) and Zacheus (Lk 19.1-10).
  • Jesus spends time with his disciples when they return after their missionary journey (Mk 6.30).
  • Jesus way of dealing with the Samaritan woman (Jn 4.7-26), lepers (Mk 1.40-45) and tax collectors (Mk 2.15).


green2 Influence: Capacity to touch the lives of other people positively. People with this competence:

  • Are skilled at persuasion
  • Provoke positive response from others by genuine care and concern for the good of all
  • Fine-tune presentations to appeal to the listener
  • Use complex strategies like indirect influence to build consensus and support
  • Orchestrate dramatic events to effectively make a point

Communication: Sending clear and convincing messages. People with this competence:

  • Are effective in give-and-take, registering emotional cues in attuning their message
  • Deal with difficult issues straightforwardly
  • Listen well, seek mutual understanding, and welcome sharing of information fully
  • Foster open communication and stay receptive to bad news as well as good

Leadership: Inspiring and guiding groups and people. People with this competence:

  • Articulate and arouse enthusiasm for a shared vision and mission
  • Step forward to lead as needed, regardless of position
  • Guide the performance of others while holding them accountable
  • Lead by example

 Change catalyst: Initiating or managing change. People with this competence:

  • Recognize the need for change and remove barriers
  • Challenge the status quo to acknowledge the need for change
  • Champion the change and enlist others in its pursuit
  • Model the change expected of others

 Conflict management: Negotiating and resolving disagreements. People with this competence:

  • Handle difficult people and tense situations with diplomacy and tact
  • Spot potential conflict, bring disagreements into the open, and help deescalate
  • Encourage debate and open discussion
  • Orchestrate win-win solutions

 Building bonds: Nurturing mutually empowering relationships. People with this competence:

  • Cultivate and maintain extensive informal relationships
  • Seek out relationships that are mutually beneficial
  • Build rapport and treat people with respect even when they are rude.
  • Make and maintain personal friendships among confreres and collaborators.

 Collaboration and cooperation: Working with others toward shared goals. People with this competence:

  • Balance a focus on task with attention to relationships
  • Collaborate by sharing plans, information, and resources
  • Promote a friendly, cooperative climate
  • Spot and nurture opportunities for collaboration

 Team capabilities: Creating group synergy in pursuing collective goals. People with this competence:

  • Model team qualities like respect, helpfulness, and cooperation
  • Draw all members into active and enthusiastic participation
  • Build team identity, esprit de corps, and commitment

Positive indicators

Negative indicators

Confident and willing to take up responsibilities leadership roles in the group

Has clarity of what he stands for, wants and does

Willingness to take initiatives

Has the ability to organize and galvanize people for a purpose

Articulate ideas, presentations clearly

Willing to give and take (win win) while resolving conflicts for the sake of a higher goal

Team person not a solo performer

Has overcome the need to blow his own trumpet

Strives for integrity and authenticity

Afraid to accept responsibility

Self-doubt, happy to follow, meek and timid and often suffering from low self-esteem

Is not sure of the purpose of life

Scared of challenges and problems

Inability to put forward ideas clearly

Selfishness and adamancy while solving problems

Difficulty to work in teams

Enjoy gossips and tale bearing

Easily threatened when another performs better

 Exercises to cultivate Social skills.

  1. Make use of public speaking opportunities to develop the capacity to addressing people courageously .
  2.  Practice of non violent communication principles in relating with people (NVC)
  3.  Evaluate your current relationships especially those that may be stressful now, and reflect how you can improve those relationships. The best way to kill the enemy is to make him a friend.
  4. If you are socially shy, find out ways to overcome it and to share your feelings and opinions with your group.

In Jesus Life (For meditation and contemplation):

Jesus social skills in dealing with the ploys of the Pharisees and lawyers to trap him: on giving tax to Caesar (Mk 12.13-17); on question of eternal life (Lk 10.25); dealing with the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8. 1-11); on the greatest commandment ( Mt 22.36-40 ); on his authority (Mt 21.23-27).
He perceived what is in the hearts of men. ” He knew all men” (Jn 2.25); Jesus knew what they were thinking (Lk 6.8).
Jesus awareness of the impending persecution: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law..” (Lk 9.22)
Jesus was keenly aware of his surroundings, both nature and culture: the lilies in the field (Mt 6.28), trees and seeds (Mk 11.12-14; Mk 4.30-32), the weather changes (Mt 16.2-3), good fishing (Lk 5.4), farming (Mt 13. 3-9, Lk 10.2), merchants (Mt 13.45), stewards (Lk 16.1-9), tenants (Mk 12.1-10).


The concept of emotional intelligence as explained here with the different competencies implied in it is very helpful for formators to accompany the formees in their holistic growth. A transformative formation that unfolds all aspects of the life of formees point to the truth stated by Ireneus, “the glory of God man fully alive” (Adversus Haereses 4. 34. 5-7). A serious need in religious formation is to descend from the fine rhetoric on religious ideals to the ground of practical life where religious ideals are given an opportunity to incarnate in lived life. A good formation program needs to aim at empowering the formees to develop those competencies that enable them to enjoy their religious consecration and mission. Growth in emotional intelligence is a significant dimension of life that renders us more credible witnesses of the truth of the Gospel. This article intends to offer some clues to the formators to develop strategies to cultivate the various competencies in the formees through appropriate methods that are suited to their context and level of formation.


Feist, G. J., & Barron, F. (1996, June). Emotional intelligence and academic intelligence in career and life success. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Society, San Francisco, CA.

Goleman, Daniel. (1998). Working with Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam.

Gardner Howard (1983, 2011), Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Basic Books, N.Y.

Richard E. Boyatzis, Ph.D., “Core Competencies in Coaching Others to Overcome Dysfunctional Behavior”, 2002. ( )

Spencer and Spencer, “Competence at Work; and top performance and leadership competence” studies published in Richard H. Rosier (ed.), The Competency Model Handbook, Volumes One and Two (Boston : Linkage, 1994 and 1995).

The Emotional Competence Frame Work (1998),