Tandem ladies on bike

Emotional intelligence relates to individual differences in how we perceive, communicate, regulate, and understand emotions, both our own and those of others.  Two forms of emotional intelligence, ability [maximum performance] and trait [typical performance], combine and work in tandem to influence psychological adaptation.  Researchers recently investigated the “tandem” concept, and broke new ground in emotional intelligence research.

Reading this post puts you on the leading edge of understanding a wide-ranging, important topic for lawyers and other professionals whose daily work involves a rich and challenging mixture of emotions and other psychological occupational stressors.  Staying informed and learning about emotional intelligence so that we may better use, understand, and manage our own and others’ emotions positions us to do better work, cope with stress, and preserve our health and well-being.

Tandem emotional intelligence, ability and trait forms combined, as these researchers show in an adolescent subject population, provides a resource at the individual level which enables a person to cope with stress and deal with depression.  As a result of their work in advancing the “tandem” concept, a more complete concept of an “emotionally intelligent coping profile” has emerged.  This coping involves both the selection and implementation of the strategies which deal with stress.  This post will note the theoretical background, discuss the study and results, which did not involve adult participants or lawyers, and will extrapolate the study results and offer some take-away thoughts for lawyers and other professional service providers about the relevance and importance of the “tandem” concept of emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence Roles and Psychological Adaptation – Combined Selection and Implementation Factors

This study concerns two types of emotional intelligence:  ability and trait.  Prior posts on Psycholawlogy have discussed these.  Those interested can access these and other references located below.

Ability emotional intelligence, assessed via maximum performance tests, like intelligence tests, drives coping strategies.  Researchers believe that it helps us select coping strategies in response to stress.  One example relates to emotional awareness.  People with superior skills in these processes can reason more intelligently about emotion, and thereby choose adaptive response strategies earlier in the face of stressors relative to those with lessor ability.

Researchers describe trait emotional intelligence, a grouping of emotion-related self-perceptions and dispositions, determined in part by personality, as “integral to coping”. In that capacity, it influences the implementation of the coping strategies selected.  Researchers believe that it modifies the the effectiveness of the strategies selected.  The more emotionally confident person will use their superior self-believe and selectively apply a given coping style more effectively.  The authors of the article stated that their program of research “confirmed this distinction”.

Research Question

The investigators stated their research goal as follows:  “The goal of the present study is to assess the combined influence of both TEI [trait emotional intelligence] and AEI [emotional intelligence] on coping processes and mental health (depression and disruptive behavior) in adolescents exposed to a range of psychological stressors (family dysfunction; negative life events; and socioeconomic adversity).” They utilized statistical models to test both forms of EI as potential drivers of coping selection or modifiers of coping effectiveness.

Participants, Measures, and Procedure

About 1200 adolescent students, age range 11-16 years, participated in the questionnaire study.  The researchers used a number of measures which tapped into the following variables:  coping styles (active, avoidant, and support seeking), ability emotional intelligence (total AEI assessed by the MSCEIT (Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test – Youth Version):  perception-rating faces for emotional content, use-matching sensory experience to emotion, understanding-knowledge of emotion definitions, and management-rating strategies for attaining a target feeling, trait emotional intelligence (full scale of the TEIQue-Adolescent, measures sociability, emotionality, self-control, and well-being), family dysfunction, depression and disruptive behavior, major and daily negative life events, and socioeconomic adversity.


Without discussing or analyzing the techniques used by the researchers to examine by modeling the effects of each of the three stressors(family dysfunction, negative life events, and socioeconomic adversity) in interactions between pathways involving ability emotional intelligence and trait emotional  intelligence, my summary of the relevant results for this post are:

  • Ability emotional intelligence and trait emotional intelligence have a weak relationship with each other, i.e. they measure distinct concepts
  • A less active, more avoidant coping strategy associated with lower trait emotional intelligence and greater experience of family dysfunction and negative life events
  • Only when trait emotional intelligence [TEI] and ability emotional intelligence [AEI] combined, did the combination show a detectable effect on depression via avoidant coping
  • When high levels of TEI coupled with above average to high levels of AEI, the combination showed a beneficial impact in reducing the impact of family dysfunction on depression via avoidant coping

Discussion of Results

This initial study of how trait emotional intelligence and ability emotional intelligence combine to provide adaptive advantage to adolescents who experience a range of stressors addressed a big gap in the research about EI.  While much more theoretical work and empirical testing remains for the future, this research team showed that “TEI and AEI work in tandem, modifying the selection and efficacy of avoidant coping, to influence the indirect effect of stressors on depression.”   The emotional intelligences combine.  In tandem, the two – ability emotional intelligence and trait emotional intelligence – in effect share a yoke and work as a team to provide a coping advantage against depression.

Having emotional intelligence ability, i.e. akin to your emotional intelligence “IQ”, is not enough, when it comes to successfully navigating the stresses of life to beat the odds against developing depression.  A main take-away from this research resides in the fact shown that the emotionally intelligent skillset, i.e. ability EI does not, by itself, suffice for successful adaptation to depression.  In addition to possessing them, a person needs confidence in his or her emotional abilities to fit in the profile of most successful adaptive potential.  The study participants low in trait emotional intelligence failed to implement avoidant coping strategies.

Those higher in trait emotional intelligence did implement the skillful strategies needed to navigate around the negative emotions arising from stress.  The investigators noted “. . . better outcomes were found with increasing levels of emotional confidence and, at very high levels of TEI, the effects of family dysfunction on depression were significantly attenuated.”  In addition to abilities, these people “crucially also possess accurate perceptions and confidence in their skills”.  Such individuals “believe that they can identify, control, and make a positive impact on their situation”.  This positive belief actually protects against negative emotion which can arise from the cognitive and behavioral avoidance to reduce depression, according to the authors.  This internal belief, along with personality, comprise the TEI and AEI coping profile shown by this initial empirical examination.

Tandem EI, as described and investigated by the authors of this post’s featured article, addresses depression more than disruptive behavior. The authors’ results – bolstered coping processes – show the importance of boosting emotional skills in tandem with emotional self-concept to realize advantageous outcomes in dealing with stressor health processes in general and, more specifically, in dealing with depression.

Emotional Intelligence Assessment, Feedback, and Coaching Services – By a Lawyer for Judges and Lawyers . . . .

Dan DeFoe, JD, MS, owner and lead blogger at Psycholawlogy and owner and lead consultant at the organization development consulting firm, Adlitem Solutions here, is a working lawyer with over 20 years experience in the legal trenches.  For over 12 years, I worked as an in-house corporate litigation and trial attorney personally handling and resolving high stakes, emotionally charged litigation matters in various trial and appellate courts.  My wide-ranging experience includes two years as appellate judicial law clerk, over 5 years as a solo practitioner, and over 12 years as an in-house corporate trial attorney.  I have tried over 70 cases ranging from simple fender-bender accidents to poisoning, electric shock, catastrophic personal injury to the very nuanced, contract-based insurance dispute claims to jury verdict.  As a result of my career experiences, in addition to high caliber counsel, I also am very comfortable working with judges in a one-on-one relationship.  Additionally, for over 17 years I have served as a volunteer mediator and arbitrator for my state bar’s public service program for resolving attorney-client fee disputes, have fulfilled qualification requirements to serve as a court-appointed guardian ad litem, and am qualified under Supreme Court rule to serve as a mediator in Missouri state courts.

I also have earned an M.S. degree in organizational development psychology.  My Master of Science degree educationally qualifies me to purchase, administer, interpret, and provide confidential feedback about the results from leading scientifically validated emotional intelligence assessments.  These assessments include the EQ-i 2.0, the world leading self-report assessment, and the MSCEIT, the leading ability-based emotional intelligence assessment.  Additionally, I have attended extended training and the test publishers have certified my knowledge and competence in these assessments.  I received my MSCEIT (Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test – ability EI model) assessment certification training at Yale University from Dr. David Caruso, see EI Skills Group here, one of the authors of the assessment.  Dr. Henry L. (“Dick”) Thompson, see High Performing Systems, Inc. here, provided my EQ-i 2.0 (self-report EI model) certification training.

Tandem [EQi 2.0/MSCEIT] Emotional Intelligence Assessment, Interpretation, and Feedback . . . .

 As a result of my MS degree program, emotional intelligence certifications and training, and continued study, I subscribe to and if appropriate can suggest to clients the “Tandem” concept advanced by Dick Thompson in chapter 12, pages 267-281, contained in the Handbook for Developing Emotional and Social Intelligence:  Best Practices, Case Studies, and Strategies here.  This Tandem approach uses the EQi and the MSCEIT emotional intelligence models and assessments.  “The Tandem process provides a multi-lens approach to assessment, interpretation, and feedback with the end result being a more robust assessment.  Each instrument unveils its own unique insights about the respondent.”

Adlitem Solutions strives to provide leading edge emotional intelligence-based knowledge, insight, and applications for legal and other professional services providers.  Through its owner and lead consultant, Dan DeFoe JD MS, who has the knowledge, training, ability, and experience, Adlitem Solutions in partnership with its client organizations, and their leaders and members will endeavor to provide customized, comprehensive emotional intelligence assessment-based solution strategies and interventions designed to help judges and lawyers learn the boundaries of their maximum performance potential, learn their typical behavioral patterns, and through development planning and coaching, better equip and enable them to meet development opportunities head-on, leverage strengths, and train judges and lawyers in emotional intelligence and emotion regulation strategies.  Engagements, each one customized, can include on-site workshops, individual or group assessment and feedback, or in-depth coaching.

Emotional Intelligence Resource for Judges, Lawyers, Law Students, and Teachers

I strive to be the g0-to source for information and insight about emotional intelligence and its application in the legal services and other professional services environments.  I attempt to provide useful information, insight, commentary, and thought leadership for the legal services professionals and academics in the areas of emotions, emotion regulation, occupationally related psychological distress, and emotional intelligence.  At my thought-leading blog called Psycholawlogy here, I author, edit, and publish blog posts frequently which concern these topics.  A small sampling includes:

  • The Mental Ill-Health of the Legal Profession: Overcommitment, Job Demands, and Job Resources and Their Relationship With Lawyers’ Depression and Anxiety here
  • Important Notice to Lawyers: The MSCEIT Emotional Intelligence Test Will Not Show That You Are “Crazy” here
  • The Importance of Emotional Intelligence as a Factor in the Success and Professional Development of In-House Counsel here
  • All-Star [Lawyers] Players – The Top Five (5) EQ-i 2.0™ Attorney Emotional Intelligence Work Success Factors here
  • Judges [and Lawyers], Compassion Fatigue, and Tools to Respond Effectively here
  • Emotional Intelligence Emotion Regulation Ability Helps You [Lawyers] Interact With Others More Effectively here
  • Lawyers and Stress Relievers–When it Comes to Stress Management Resources, Do You Know Who, What, When, Where, and How . . . . ? here
  • Professional Education and Development Alert: Emotional Intelligence, Effective Communication, and Interpersonal Sensitivity–Predictions About Medical School [Law School] Success In the Interpersonal Academic Performance Behavior Dimension here

First Steps . . .

Judges, lawyers, law students, legal academics, court administrators, and other legal services actors and administrators can and should learn about and implement effective emotion regulation strategies.  A suggested first step:  engage a qualified emotional intelligence practitioner who has practiced law for over 20 years.  Judges and lawyers and all the rest of you . . . . . do not leave your organization’s and your own personal and professional development and career success to chance. . . . Contact me at dan@adlitemsolutions.com to arrange for an initial complimentary, confidential consultation.

Thank you

Please visit again soon. See you next time.  Dan DeFoe JD MS – Adlitem Solutions | Organization Development for Professional Services Firms and the Legal Profession: People. Projects. Practices |www.adlitemsolutions.com|dan@adlitemsolutions.com | Blog www.psycholawlogy.com.

Article Source:  Davis, S., & Humphrey, N. (2014). Ability Versus Trait Emotional Intelligence Journal of Individual Differences, 35 (1), 54-62 DOI: 10.1027/1614-0001/a000127.

Other Resource:  To access information about trait emotional intelligence [featured in the research discussed in this post] and the TEIQue, visit and access the abundant information from the London Psychometric Laboratory at University College London here.

Image Credits:  Tandem here / Tandem EI oxen team here /

Dan DeFoe

Owner and Lead consultant at Adlitem Solutions
I'm an attorney with 20+ years of experience and have an MS degree in organizational development psychology. I provide normal personality and emotional intelligence assessments, assessment interpretation and feedback, and professional development planning and training activities for lawyers, judges, other legal services providers, and their organizations.
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One Response to Tandem Emotional Intelligence and Protection Against [Lawyer] Depression

  1. […] My blog, Psycholawlogy, strives to be one of the premier resources about emotional intelligence for lawyers, judges, and legal organizations see about “Emotional Intelligence Resource” here. […]