Emotional intelligence (also know as EI or EQ) is the capacity to know, understand, and manage one’s feelings and the feelings of others. The term was first used by psychologists in the 1980s, although aspects of EQ had been described earlier. There is disagreement over whether EQ is an actual form of intelligence and how it can be measured, or if it is simply a personality trait or learned skill.
Author and psychologist Daniel Goleman was at the forefront of EQ’s global popularization with his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence. In the international bestseller he argues that EQ is a vital human skill that helps in nearly every area of life. He says that IQ is not all that a person needs to be successful and may not even be the most important; the rational and emotional support each other to form what we know as intelligence.
A person is born with a general emotional intelligence that largely determines their ability to further learn and understand emotions. EQ has been linked to greater success in work, relationships, and daily life. It has a direct link to empathy, adaptability, and self-confidence.
EQ is usually broken down into at least four parts, or abilities:
- Self-Awareness — The ability to be conscious of your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. Identify and understand your strengths and weaknesses.
- Self-Management — The capacity to control and direct your own emotions and adapt yourself emotionally to life’s circumstances.
- Social Awareness — The ability to identify, understand, and react constructively to the feelings and emotions of other people, and feel comfortable in social environments.
- Relationship Management — The capacity to create and support positive relationships. Relationship management involves knowing how to communicate clearly, work in a team, and manage conflict.
Some critics of EQ claim that it has little predictive ability — it does not reliably indicate a person’s success in various life situations. Others claim that most models and tests of emotional intelligence are biased toward extroverts. For example, an extrovert is more likely to be comfortable in social situations and have skills and experience working in groups. This allows the extrovert to score higher in abilities such as Social Awareness and Relationship Management.
A low EQ can be improved by focusing on certain skills. Connecting to your emotions, paying attention to non-verbal communication such as body language, and alleviating stress which causes a person to think less clearly.
Whether one is naturally gifted with emotional intelligence or struggles to understand their own emotions, there is no denying that EQ is helpful in life’s social situations. A person who can truly understand themselves and others has an advantage in navigating through the many situations where emotions are as important as intellect.
What’s your EQ?