EQ-i as part of the Coaching/NLP Process

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The article below seeks to examine the evolution of the Coaching, NLP and EQ-i processes and how they can be applied in a coaching scenario. The Assignment was submitted as part of the certification process for the BAR-ON EQ-i test method. Since completing the research piece below (which was submitted as a requirement for the IT Carlow Level 8 Special Award in Emotional Intelligence in 2010), I came across the iWAM (inventory of Work Attitudes and Motivators) EQ test. Unlike the Bar-On test, the iWAM measures attitudes which are the basis for a person’s competencies. iWAM goes much deeper into a subject’s metaprograms (cognitive patterns) to help understand why they do what they do in the work environment.



The last century has seen significantly increased developments in the field of human psychology and our overall understanding of how we ‘operate’ as individuals and in our interactions with our environment. This assignment will examine the evolution of human intelligence as well as exploring how the modern concepts of Coaching, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Emotional Intelligence (EQ-i) testing can be used in a clinical environment when working with clients.




The subject of Psychology has been studied since ancient times. According to Charles Abramson and Craig Satterfield (2004) the first recorded psychological experiment was conducted in Egypt by Psamtik I in 700 BCE. Dr. Jonathan Plucker (2007) highlights the various ‘ages’ in the evolution of Human Intelligence as follows:


  • Historical Foundations. This period includes all early foundation work ranging from Plato to Itard.


  • Modern Foundations. This is the period when Psychology began to separate from subjects like Mathematics, Philosophy and Biology and includes the works of individuals like Locke and Charcot.


  • The Great Schools. This period marked the advent of many of the great European Schools in Psychology. Many of the famous American Psychologists studied in Europe and later returned to the US and opened similar facilities there. This period also marks the increase in popularity of the study of Intelligence, bolstered by the work of Wilhelm Wundt, James McKeen Cattell, G. S. Hall, and Hermann Ebbinghaus.


  • The Great Schools’ Influence. This period marked the increase in the level of theoretical and empirical investigations in intelligence. One of the greatest milestones of the period was the US Army’s Alpha and Beta testing program which were developed under the direction of Robert Mearns Yerkes. These programs provided the first Group Intelligence Tests and were the basis for all subsequent testing.


  • Contemporary Explorations. This period continued to build on the work of the previous period. New Statistical methods helped to make standardised testing of intelligence and achievement a way of life in most Western countries.


  • Current Efforts. Current developments in intelligence theories particularly in  the formation of more complex multiple intelligence theories have resulted in a de-emphasis on the use of traditional standardised test methods. Technological advances have also enabled the development of new test methods. Finally this period has also witnessed the emergence of new area of study in which environmental, biological, and psychological aspects of intelligence are studied simultaneously. This has been brought about by the development of new genetic and neurological methodologies.



Emotional Intelligence testing (EQ-i) has its genesis in the current ‘era’ of psychology evolution. EQ-i tests, such as the Bar-On method measure the “emotional-social intelligence as a cross-section of interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills and facilitators that impact intelligent behavior” (Bar-On, Reuvens (2007)).


Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) began in the 1970’s as a result of the work of John Grinder (Linguistics) and Richard Bandler (mathematics and gestalt therapy). According to the NLP University (1999), ‘NLP is a multi-dimensional process that involves the development of behavioral competence and flexibility, but also involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior’. NLP presupposes that:


  • As human beings we experience and respond to the world around us through our sensory representational systems. It is these experiences that give us our ‘reality’. In turn the ‘reality’ that we experience determine how we behave.


  • The processes that take place within us (intra) as well as between us (inter), other human beings and our environment are systemic. Together these processes form a network of complex systems and sub-systems which interact and influence each other.


In his book ‘Looking for Spinosa’ (2003), Antonio Damasio separates emotions from feelings and suggests that “..emotions are actions or movements, many of them public, visible to others as they occur in the face, in the voice and in specific behaviours”. He further suggests that “Feelings are always hidden…playing out in the theater of the mind”. Throughout his book, Damasio echoes the theory put forward by the philosopher, Spinosa in the 17th century that link the processes of the body and the mind together. This view appears to support that of NLP.


The profession of coaching has its origins in North America in the 1980’s when a former Financial Planner, Thomas J Leonard recognised the need to provide professional coaching to help people. He developed his skills over the next ten years and set up the Coaching University in the early 90’s. Since then coaching has evolved as a global profession.


Coaching focuses on helping the client to determine and achieve personal goals. It is a thought provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential. Because the coach works with the client, the coach/client relationship must be a partnership in order to be successful. Because Coaching focuses on working with people to identify and achieve future personal goals, it deals a lot more with emotions and feelings. 


What we have seen is that in the latter part of the 20th Century there has been considerable movement away from the traditional practices in psychology towards a ‘softer’  approach which looks more to understand how we perceive and interact with our surroundings as well as ourselves.


In the next section, we will observe how the three distinct practices of Coaching, NLP and EQ-i could be combined to form a very effective method for helping people identify and overcome many issues.



Coaching, NLP and EQ-i as a Clinical Process:

We have seen how the three distinct processes of Coaching, NLP and EQ-i developed, particularly over the last 30 years or so. As we enter the 21st Century, the ability to combine the processes of all three and use them to effectively help an individual must be considered.


Coaching and NLP have been used both separately and together since they began. Potential clients will find Practitioners who use either or both during their sessions. In reality, Coaching is the basis for working with clients.


As the coaching process works towards recognising and achieving personal goals, it is a forward looking process. People choose to work with a coach for a number of reasons which include:


  • Work and life are out of balance
  • The client wants to change an element of his/her life
  • The client wants to map out a career path
  • There is a gap in knowledge, skills, confidence or resources
  • The client wants to identify his/her core strengths
  • The client desires his/her work life balance to be simpler and less complicated
  • There is a lack of clarity and there are choices to be made


To be successful in the application of coaching, the coach must focus completely on the client. In order to do this he/she must:


  • Believe in the fact that clients hold the key to enable them to move towards their desired goals.
  • Be willing and able to challenge the client in a way that will help them develop a new path to their desired goals.
  • Fight the impulse to offer advice, the client already knows what to do.
  • Listen completely to the client, i.e. to what the client says, doesn’t say and how the client acts.
  • Become a “mirror” for the client so that the client can see and hear themselves in the actions of the coach.
  • Remember at all times that it is the client’s agenda which must be followed. The coach is merely the guide to ensure that the client adheres to his/her agenda and that the agenda only changes with the agreement of the client.


The biggest issue with the coaching process is the elicitation of what the client wants to tackle. While there are tools to tackle this issue, this is the area where EQ-i testing could be of enormous benefit. Using a tool like the Bar-On EQ-i test method would have a very positive effect on the entire coaching process.


The Bar-On test is an on-line questionnaire type document that respondents self complete in the comfort of their own home (or work). It is also available in paper form but is much easier to complete on-line. The test covers five key areas of emotion which in turn contain a total of 15 sub sections. The Scales are listed as follows:



  • Intrapersonal
      • Self-Regard
      • Emotional Self-awareness
      • Assertiveness
      • Independence
      • Self-actualisation


  • Interpersonal
      • Empathy
      • Social Responsibility
      • Interpersonal Relationships


  • Stress Management
      • Stress Tolerance
      • Impulse Control


  • Adaptability
      • Reality Testing
      • Flexibility
      • Problem Solving


  • General Mood
      • Optimism
      • Happiness



The test produces a score for each of these headings as well as overall scores each of the key areas and for the test as a whole.


From a Coaching perspective, this is an ideal way of establishing initial indicators for areas that the client may like to look at for improvement. Because the test is taken by the client when the client wants to take it, there is less pressure to ‘come up’ with something to be discussed. The various validity controls that are built into the scoring mechanism of the test ensures that any attempt by the client to give an overly positive or negative impression will be caught and can be questioned by the Coach when going through the results. Furthermore, as the test is scored after completion, there is little opportunity for the client to measure his/her responses to balance the result. So how could the Bar-On EQ-i test be used as an indicator for the Coaching process?


To demonstrate how the test might be used in the Coaching process we will take an example using possible scores for Self-Regard, Interpersonal Relationships, Stress Tolerance and Happiness.


  • Self-Regard.  This measures the client’s ability to accept him/herself as basically good, accept limitations and measure his/her feelings of self-confidence, self-adequacy etc. Let us imagine that the client scored low under this heading. This can indicate that the client has low self-esteem, lacks confidence or he/she is unhappy with their physical appearance. Issues with self-regard can have a detrimental effect on a persons overall optimism, happiness and self-actualisation. From a Coaching perspective, a client with self-regard issues needs urgent and careful attention. In a normal coaching session (without EQ-i Testing), it may take several visits to fully establish that the client has self-regard issues. This is because the Coach has to work with whatever the client tells him, whereas using the test highlights the matter immediately. By using effective questioning and listening skills as well as various NLP techniques (such as Time-line Therapy), the coach will be able to take the client through a process which will dramatically improve his/her image of themselves.


  • Interpersonal Relationships. This measures the client’s ability to develop and maintain mutually satisfying relationships with others. A low score in this area can be an indication that the client is a loner, does not like intimacy or is not able to share feelings. This can affect their overall happiness and levels of optimism as well as affecting their overall independence. Working with a client the coach will develop a plan to improve their ability to interact with others. This process may involve some NLP techniques and questioning to establish the root cause of the problem followed by developing new beliefs that will help the client to become more confident and more open to interaction. The final phase will be to anchor the new beliefs and actions so that the client will be able to continue to develop the new skills after the coaching process has finished.


  • Stress Tolerance. This is possibly one of the most worrying (and life threatening) issues. This scale measures the client’s ability to withstand adverse events and stressful situations without falling apart. A low score here could indicate that the client is reactive, fearful or has high anxiety levels. Ultimately, poor stress tolerance can lead to a number of health issues if it isn’t tackled, including High Blood Pressure, Heart Attack or nervous breakdown. As in the case of Self-regard, the EQ-i test can highlight a potential issue here faster than through a normal coaching process. The low score can be due to a number of external factors which the Coach will seek to establish before beginning to work with the client to overcome the problem. Once again, through the use of various Coaching and NLP techniques, the Coach will be able to improve the client’s belief system for dealing with stress as well as anchoring the new beliefs so that they become the norm for the client.


  • Happiness.  This scale measures the client’s overall level of satisfaction with his/her life. A low score here could indicate that the client is dissatisfied with life, depressed or they tend to look for the negative rather than the positive in life. This can be a very heavy burden for a client to carry. Again, by using the test, the coach is more likely to spot a potential issue with the client’s happiness level than if the had to rely on more traditional methods. This is simply due to the fact that a client can feign happiness during the session and (if they are good at it) may block, or suppress, any negative thoughts during the session. Once the issue has been established the coach will be able to challenge the client’s perception on life. it may be necessary to use NLP tools such as Time-line Therapy to take the client to a memory that has sparked the current outlook and thereby adjust the belief that has come from the memory. Again, the Coach will use Coaching and NLP tools to verify the indicated score, to challenge the client’s beliefs regarding their happiness and to develop new Neuro links with the new beliefs and improved happiness levels.





The last 30 years have seen some dramatic breakthroughs in our understanding of human psychology, intelligence and in the area of Neuro-science. There is now a greater understanding and acceptance of human emotions as a critical aspects of human behaviour. The evolution of therapies such as NLP and Coaching have demonstrated the power of the human mind and the control we can have over all aspects of our neurology. The availability of EQ-i tests such as the Bar-On test method offer enhanced certainty to current coaching and NLP processes and will ensure that clients will be able to approach the overall coaching process with significantly less worry and stress.


Client’s regularly state that the most nervous part of the Coaching process occurs in the lead up to the first meeting. This has been due in part to the fact that the client has to think about what they wish to discuss, i.e. they have to identify the ‘problem’ area on their own. Using the EQ-i test methods removes this worry and has the added benefit of providing accurate results and a solid starting point. It is a little bit like enabling the client to avoid the possibility for the coaching version of ‘white coat syndrome’.


Coaches and clinicians now have the tools to provide the absolute best possible service for their clients in a ‘low impact’ and stress free format. The ability to utilise all three ‘systems’ will also open a number of new opportunities for further research.





Abramson, C. & Satterfield, C. (2004) http://psychology.okstate.edu/museum/history/index.html


Bar-On, R. (2007) http://www.reuvenbaron.org/bar-on-model/conceptual-aspects.php


Damasio, Antonio (2003) Looking for Spinosa


MHS (2006) EQ-i Certification & Training Workbook


NLP University (1999) http://www.nlpu.com/whatnlp.htm


Plucker, Dr. J. (2007) http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/periodIndex.shtml

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