What is Emotional Intelligence?

 In Emotional Intelligence, Featured, Tools

What are Emotions?

Have you seen Inside Out 2? This movie was recently released and it, as well as its predecessor, sparked a lot of curiosity around the topic of emotions. One significant topic regarding emotions is that of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). In recent years, the term “Emotional Intelligence” has gained significant traction in both personal development and professional settings. But to understand emotional intelligence, first we need to understand what emotions are.

E-motions Evoke Motion. Emotions are our biologically wired-in tools that help us to navigate complex situations and relationships.

They act as our compass in life, pointing us in the direction of what we value, what we need, and what we want. They lay the foundation for our motivations and goals and tell us when we have been derailed from our desired path (i.e., anger, sadness), when we are going in the right direction (i.e., joy, contentment, happiness, excitement), or when we have lost something important on the journey (i.e., grief, sadness, hopelessness).

How we Experience Emotions

Physically – “I am heartbroken”, “I am so anxious I feel nauseous,” “I am heavyhearted”

Subjectively – No one feels an emotion the exact same way although there are real neurological and subjective similarities

Cognitively/mentally – “I can’t stop thinking about the new job”

Physiologically – “my heart is racing and I am sweating”

What is Emotional Intelligence?

So, what is emotional intelligence, and why is it so important? Let’s dive into the concept and explore how developing emotional intelligence can benefit various aspects of your life.

Emotional intelligence, often abbreviated as EI or EQ (Emotional Quotient), refers to the ability to recognize, understand, manage, and use emotions effectively. Unlike cognitive intelligence (IQ), which involves logical reasoning, problem-solving, and analytical skills, emotional intelligence is about being smart with your feelings.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman popularized the concept of emotional intelligence in his 1995 book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.” According to Goleman, emotional intelligence consists of five key components:


1. Self-Awareness: Recognizing and understanding your own emotions. This includes being aware of how your emotions affect your thoughts and behaviour and vice versa, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and operating within these limits, and understanding your impact on others.

2. Self-Regulation: Managing your emotions in healthy ways, such as doing things that are good for you in the long-term (i.e., exercise, healthy eating, pacing yourself). This involves controlling impulsive feelings and behaviours, managing your stress, adapting to changing circumstances, and maintaining self-discipline.

3. Motivation: Harnessing your emotions to pursue goals. People with high emotional intelligence are driven to pursue meaningful goals of self-improvement, more likely to take initiative, and to commit to goals that are aligned with their values. They are highly committed and are optimistic even in the face of failure.

4. Empathy: Understanding the emotions of others. Empathy involves recognizing others’ feelings, often showing compassion, and responding to their emotional cues. It’s essential for building and maintaining healthy relationships.

5. Social Skills: Understanding your role in social dynamics and being respectful of others’ needs while also asserting your own needs. Strong social skills include effective communication, conflict management, leadership, teamwork, and building bonds. It means being able to function within a team of others leading to synchronicity and harmonious relationships.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in various areas of life, from personal relationships to professional success. Here are some key reasons why developing your emotional intelligence is beneficial:

1. Improved Relationships

Emotional intelligence enhances your ability to connect with others, leading to more meaningful and fulfilling relationships. By understanding and managing your own emotions, you can communicate more effectively and navigate social complexities with ease. Empathy allows you to see things from others’ perspectives, fostering trust and cooperation.

For example, let’s say you are tired after a long day at work and are looking forward to sitting down and watching TV when you get home. As soon, as you walk in the door, your partner expresses their desire for you to help make dinner. If you have a high emotional intelligence, you may express something like the following:

“I know you would like my support with dinner right now, but I am feeling so tired and was really looking forward to sitting down and relaxing for a moment – I need some time to rest before doing anything else. How about we relax together for a little while and then in 20 minutes we can cook together and talk about our day?”

2. Better Mental Health

High emotional intelligence contributes to better mental health. When you’re aware of your emotions and can regulate them effectively, you’re less likely to experience overwhelming stress, anxiety, or depression. Beyond awareness of emotions, you start to feel in control of which emotions are helpful to you in any given moment and thereby start to see and use emotions as tools – our evolutionary derived tools for well-being.

For example, let’s say you are working from home and receive some negative feedback from your boss. You start to feel anxious about this and a thought crosses your mind of grabbing a beer and taking the day off – to spite your boss and to avoid the difficult feelings that are coming up.

When connected to yourself emotionally, you recognize that you are feeling angry because you don’t believe your boss appreciates your hard work and you feel sad that you are not doing as well as you would like in your career. A quick workout after work sounds like a great idea to destress and then begin researching about skill improvement. You use the emotions as information about you, your life, and what you ultimately need and want for yourself.

3. Enhanced Job Performance

In the workplace, emotional intelligence is a significant predictor of success. Employees with high emotional intelligence are better at teamwork, communication, and conflict resolution. Due to an increased ability to manage emotions and use them more freely for positive purposes, individuals with high emotional intelligence can more readily navigate high-pressure situations and respond to stress more effectively and efficiently – they don’t get lost in anxiety, anger, or shame.

For example, you are working on a group project with a colleague that seems to know everything, is very qualified at their job, and is highly liked by everyone. When you are around them you feel inferior and incompetent. Rather than withdrawing, submitting to all their ideas, and falling into a cycle of anxiety and self-criticism, you take a bathroom break. You go into a stall, breathe, and remind yourself of a proud moment where you felt good about a previous accomplishment. After taking a moment to think, you go into the meeting and share an idea with the group.

4. Effective Leadership

Leadership is not just about making decisions; it’s about understanding and managing people. Leaders with high emotional intelligence can navigate the emotional landscape of their teams, inspiring trust, loyalty, and collaboration. They can handle stressful situations calmly and make decisions that consider both the emotional and practical aspects.

For example, you are a foreman at a construction site. There is a big delivery making its way to the site today and you need to clear space for the offloading of the supplies. There are numerous different workers around the area joking with each other, whom you find to be intimidating.

Rather than yelling or getting angry at them – scaring them into helping – you recognize that you feel slightly nervous and afraid of telling these workers to move out of the way and organize themselves to help with the offload. You take a moment, remind yourself that you are in charge, take a few deep breaths, empathize with the workers, and tell them you appreciate their energy for humour but that you need their help right now.

5. Personal Growth

Developing emotional intelligence contributes to overall personal growth. It encourages self-reflection, increases self-acceptance, and promotes a deeper understanding of your own emotions and behaviours. At best, this self-knowledge can lead to a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life and at worst will allow you to accept the things you can not control and embrace the things you can so that you feel more gratitude, appreciation, and contentment more regularly.

For example, you are playing with your son outside – kicking a ball around. Your son kicks the ball into the house window and cracks it. Now angry and agitated, you have a thought of yelling and getting angry with him, but instead you look away from him for a moment to collect yourself. After taking a moment to breathe you squat down on the ground and feel the tension in your legs and lengthen your exhales.

Then you remember how it felt when your dad yelled and got angry with you. Reflecting on this, you realize how you want to approach fatherhood and what type of a relationship you want with your son. You decide to turn around and express to your son that you are feeling upset that the window has been cracked, but that you understand it was an accident and you both figure out a way to solve the problem together.

How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Improving your emotional intelligence is a lifelong journey that requires practice and commitment. Here are some strategies to help you develop each component of emotional intelligence:

1. Self-Awareness

  • Keep a notepad or use an app on your phone to track your emotions and reflect on what triggers them. Reflecting at least once a day, at the same time every day, to notice what emotions you are feeling can help develop this habit.
  • Practice mindfulness to stay present and attuned to your feelings. Count your breaths until you get to 10. If you lose the number, start over again.
  • Seek feedback from others to gain different perspectives on your behaviour. After a conversation where you felt uneasy, uncertain, or anxious ask the person whom you were talking with how they were impacted by you.

2. Self-Regulation

  • Practice deep-breathing exercises or meditation to manage stress. If you’re anxious or angry try consciously squeezing your hands into fists, hold the tension for a moment, and then actively release the tension and open your hands as much as possible. Do this a few times while breathing slowly.
  • Subtract 7 from 100 until you get below 0.
  • Every time you see the colour purple, try one of the above exercises (see above in ‘Self-Awareness’).

3. Motivation

  • Set SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
  • Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small, to stay motivated. By the way, reading this blog counts as an achievement.
  • Recognize when negative/past-related thoughts come in your mind and bog you down, breathe through the moment, and remind yourself of what you really want for your life.

4. Empathy

  • Practice active listening by giving others your full attention. Pretend you are speaking to this person for the first time in your life – be curious and ask questions about their experience and perspective.
  • Reflect and remember a time in your life when you experienced something similar to the person talking with you. Remember what it felt like for you and then reflect on how the person in front of you might have experienced this situation.
  • Try not to pay too much attention to the words the person is saying. Focus on their eyes and how their body is moving as they speak – this helps activate the emotional parts of your brain involved in empathy.

5. Social Skills

  • Take a breath every time before saying something to someone – this will help you slow down and think about what you want to say
  • Ask lots of questions. Be curious about others’ experience and let go of any desire to impart advice or suggestions unless the person has asked for this type of support.
  • Conversations are always ‘to be continued’. Rarely are conversations last conversations. If you regret something you said, wished you had said something different, or struggled to communicate in general, don’t worry. You can usually go back to the person and apologize, restate what you said in a more coherent way, and ask clarifying questions.


Emotions evoke us into motion for the things that are important in our life. Emotional intelligence is a vital skill that is about how to use emotions, the tools built into us, to positively impact every aspect of your life. By developing self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills, you can enhance your relationships, improve your mental health, boost your job performance, and become a more effective leader. Start your journey towards greater emotional intelligence today, and experience the profound benefits it brings to your personal and professional life.

Recent Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search