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Cedric Stephens | Emotional intelligence an important tool for resolving insurance disputes

Published:Friday | October 13, 2017 | 12:00 AMCedric Stephens

QUESTION: I ran into the back of another vehicle while driving along Lady Musgrave Road recently. My car was slightly damaged. I reported the accident to my insurers in the expectation that they would pay to fix the third party’s vehicle. The repair costs are estimated to exceed $200,000. The insurer has refused to honour the claim. They say that I am not an authorised driver. Does a vehicle owner require permission from himself to drive his vehicle? This sounds like a lame excuse on the part of the company not to pay my claim. Can you please help me to understand what is going on?
C.N., Kingston 10

INSURANCE HELPLINE: Dr Travis Bradberry, in an article titled Eight Habits of Highly Emotionally Intelligent People, writes that “when emotional intelligence (EQ) first appeared ... it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time”.

Before that, he asserts, the conventional wisdom was that IQ was the sole source of success.

What does this have to do with my response to your questions? Plenty.

For context, Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the No. 1 best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and co-founder of TalentSmart, a leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, which serves Fortune 500 companies. His books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries.


EQ is defined as “the ‘something’ in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behaviour, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is made up of four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence.”

In addressing your questions, my focus will be on the latter.

Social competence is made up of one’s “social awareness and relationship-management skills. Social competence is one’s ability to understand other people’s moods, behaviour, and motives in order to respond effectively and improve the quality of one’s relationships”.
Relationship management is using one’s awareness of one’s emotions and others’ emotions to manage the interactions successfully.

After speaking with two of your insurer’s claims officials, I concluded that had you used your EQ instead of your IQ in asking for a review of the company’s decision to turn down your claim, the outcome would have been very different.


1. You are a first-time buyer of motor insurance. Coverage began seven months ago;

2. The car was purchased before you undertook the test in order to be issued with a full driver’s licence;

3. You are designated as the policyholder; and

4. The certificate of insurance, which is required by law to provide evidence of insurance, says, under the section headed ‘Persons or classes of persons entitled to drive’ that: “(b) Any person other than [and your name is inserted here] who is driving with the policyholder’s order or with his permission”.

That section is followed by what lawyers call a proviso or condition, which reads: “Provided that the person driving is permitted in accordance with the licensing or other laws or regulation to drive the motor vehicle or has been so permitted and is not disqualified in order (sic) of a Court of Law or by reason of any enactment or regulation in that behalf from driving the motor vehicle”.

It is unclear what you said about the status of your driver’s licence or were told at the time of purchase; whether you read the certificate of insurance when it was handed to you; or what information was communicated to you when the contract of insurance was sent to you.

The insurer’s intention as expressed in the evidence of insurance is, on the other hand, crystal clear. The company assumed two things. First, persons other than you would be driving the vehicle. Second, you would tell them to change the terms of the insurance before you started driving the vehicle.

How could EQ help resolve your problem? The outcome may have been very different if you had adopted a different approach after your claim had initially been turned down. You could, for example, have requested a meeting with a company official instead of writing a letter.

Meetings from my experience are more effective in promoting understanding and building relationships particularly if they are properly planned than writing letters or emails to faceless individuals. This is precisely where the skills associated with social competence, instead of confrontation, come in.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I employed EQ to ask two officials of your insurer, with whom I have developed a relationship, to review your claim and reverse the original decision to turn it down. I am happy to say that they have agreed to do so.

The insurance regulator should mandate training in EQ for front-line claim staff in insurance companies. This would remove some of the confrontation associated with claims and promote financial inclusion.

- Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and advice about the management of risks and insurance. For free information or counsel, write to: