What is Emotional Intelligence?

While we know that IQ stands for intelligence quotient and measures intellectual abilities, many theorists have acknowledged that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ in living a successful life.

The term emotional intelligence (known as EI or EQ) was coined in 1990 by researchers Peter Salovey and John Mayer in their article “Emotional Intelligence” from the journal Imagination, Cognition, and Personality. In 1995, Author Dan Goleman published the book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, which further popularized this concept and has become an international bestseller.

Emotional intelligence is defined as the “ability to process emotional information and use it in reasoning and other cognitive activities.” In other words, it has to do with how well you perceive, control, or evaluate your emotions, as well as the emotions of others.

PsychCentral’s “The Benefits of Emotional Intelligence” reports:

A high EQ helps individuals to communicate better, reduce their anxiety and stress, defuse conflicts, improve relationships, empathize with others, and effectively overcome life’s challenges.

Because emotional intelligence has been linked to higher life satisfaction, it’s worth understanding this type of intellect and understanding how to develop these skills. (Yes, you can learn EQ!)

Five Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence

Researchers have comprised five major areas of emotional intelligence:

1. Self-Awareness

Self-regulation, which involves managing emotions, is another essential factor in emotional intelligence. Self-regulation does not mean hiding from emotions or ignoring them; rather, it is about expressing emotions appropriately. If you possess self-regulation, you tend to be flexible, good at managing conflict, and conscientious about how you influence others.

3. Motivation

The third component of emotional intelligence is motivation. Motivation, regardless of what the end result is, includes specific goals and optimism. Motivated individuals possess a drive to succeed, a strong commitment, an innovative, positive outlook. They do not get down by setbacks; instead, they stick to their commitments and persevere.

4. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand others’ emotions and see situations from their point of view. However, empathy is not only being able to recognize emotions. It also involves how you respond to others. Empathetic individuals understand the power dynamics that affect social relationships, particularly in the workplace.

5. Social Skills

True emotional intelligence hinges on social skills— communicating and interacting with others, both verbally and non-verbally. Strong social skills allow you to build meaningful relationships and understand others on a deeper level. Eye contact, active listening, and positive body language are all important parts of developing social skills.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, a high IQ does not equal success in life. Intellectual ability may not amount to much if one does not possess high emotional intelligence. The article “Improving Emotional Intelligence” states:

“Intellectual ability or your intelligence quotient (IQ) isn’t enough on its own to achieve success in life. Yes, your IQ can help you get into college, but it’s your EQ that will help you manage the stress and emotions when facing your final exams.”

Emotional intelligence affects every part of your life: your performance at school or work, your relationships, your mental health, and your physical health.

If you’re unable to manage emotions, your stress will be high. Chronic stress leads to mental and physical problems such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, suppressed immune system, and an increased risk of other illnesses.

High emotional intelligence helps you manage the emotions and stress that inevitably come. By understanding both your and others’ emotions, you will naturally be equipped to manage conflict within the workplace, relationships, or personal life.

Can You Learn Emotional Intelligence?

Some people naturally possess high emotional intelligence, while others may lack these skills. However, anyone can work to build their EQ. The first step is understanding the knowledge and then, of course, applying it.

Below are some ways you can develop and increase your EQ:

Become self-aware

Becoming self-aware means learning to recognize and understand your emotions. It is common to ignore feelings, especially troubling ones, but the core of self-awareness is tuning in to emotions and learning how they affect actions and behaviors.

Regulate emotions

Once you can identify your feelings, you can learn how to regulate them. For example, emotional regulation includes not reacting impulsively and the ability to sit with feelings to give yourself time and space to understand. Not reacting from an emotionally charged state always leads to better decisions.

Develop social skills

Effective social skills are an important part of developing EQ. The good news is that you don’t see yourself as “social,” you can still develop strong communication, active listening, and empathy. Don’t worry: emotional intelligence isn’t going to make you into someone you’re not. Instead, it allows you to tap into who you are and lets you see people for who they are.


While emotional intelligence isn’t a new concept, its importance has been solidified in the past few years. The value and benefits of EQ are vast in terms of personal, academic, and professional success.

If you are interested in learning more, check out these YouTube videos and TED Talks on Emotional Intelligence: 

The Power of Emotional Intelligence – Travis Bradberry

The Art of Managing Emotions – Daniel Goleman

You Aren’t at the Mercy of Your Emotions – Your Brain Creates Them – Lisa Feldman Barrett

The People Currency: Practicing Emotional Intelligence – Jason Bridges

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