Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage your emotions in positive ways. Having high EQ leads to better relationships, career success, physical and mental health, and overall happiness. While some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent, you can learn and strengthen these abilities at any age.
Raising your EQ takes commitment and practice, but the payoff is well worth it. This comprehensive guide provides key information and strategies on improving self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills – the main components of emotional intelligence.
- Emotional intelligence consists of 5 core skills: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
- Self-awareness, your ability to recognize emotions and understand their influence, is the foundation of EQ.
- Managing emotions through self-regulation helps you think clearly and respond appropriately.
- Intrinsic motivation drives you to improve and achieve.
- Empathy, the ability to understand others’ perspectives, is crucial for relating well.
- Strong social skills allow you to manage relationships and inspire others.
What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why Does It Matter?
Emotional intelligence was first defined by researchers Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990 as “the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.”
Daniel Goleman then popularized EQ in his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, bringing this concept into the mainstream. His research found that while IQ and technical skills are important, EQ is the key factor for outstanding job performance and leadership.
Emotionally intelligent people harness self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills to:
- Form healthy relationships
- Succeed at work
- Cope with challenges
- Make wise decisions
- Lead effectively
- Balance thoughts, feelings and behaviors
- Reduce stress
- Communicate clearly
- Defuse conflicts
- Overcome obstacles
- Balance work and personal life
In essence, EQ helps you thrive in all areas of life.
While cognitive intelligence relied upon in IQ tests remains crucial, EQ is a greater predictor of success as it reflects how you apply knowledge. Emotional intelligence determines your ability to use information effectively, manage emotions and behaviors, and navigate social complexities.
Research shows people with higher EQs are happier, healthier, and more successful across the board than those with lower EQs. Luckily, emotional intelligence can be strengthened through commitment and practice at any stage of life.
The 5 Components of Emotional Intelligence
EQ consists of five core skills:
Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. It involves understanding your strengths, weaknesses, needs, drives, values and goals.
People with high self-awareness are honest with themselves and others. They understand why they feel and act a certain way. This self-understanding allows them to trace their actions back to underlying causes or motivations.
Once aware of their emotions, self-regulated people manage them effectively. They control impulsive feelings and behaviors, instead responding adaptively to situations.
- Staying composed under pressure
- Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses under control
- Adapting to changing circumstances
- Recovering quickly from emotional distress
Motivation here refers to inner drive and passion. Motivated people pursue goals with energy, persistence and emotional investment. They help others achieve goals too.
Those skilled in this EQ component remain motivated despite setbacks. They channel emotions like anxiety or anger productively to achieve aims. Their drive enhances productivity, morale and results.
Empathy involves reading others’ emotions accurately to understand their perspective. It builds rapport and helps relationships flourish.
Individuals skilled in empathy listen well, pick up on nonverbal cues to discern how others feel, and avoid behavior that may alienate people. This emotional understanding facilitates communication and conflict resolution.
5. Social Skills
Socially skilled people build bonds and inspire others. They communicate clearly, persuade convincingly, lead groups effectively, and navigate politics expertly.
This EQ skill also helps you initiate and maintain relationships through charm, perceptiveness, persuasion and concern for others. It allows you to wield influence and steer interactions positively.
Signs of Low Emotional Intelligence
People with underdeveloped emotional intelligence struggle to:
- Understand their own emotions
- Keep their emotions under control
- Read others’ emotions and cues accurately
- Communicate or assert themselves effectively
- Relate or empathize well with others
- Make wise choices when emotions are involved
- Deal with challenges, stress and conflict
- Balance thought, emotion and behavior
As a result, those with low EQs are often stressed, frazzled and overwhelmed. Their relationships and performance suffer.
Luckily, you can learn to raise your EQ by developing these 5 core skills.
How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
Building your emotional intelligence takes commitment and practice. Focus on strengthening one skill at a time, using these strategies:
- Keep a journal to reflect on your emotional responses to experiences. Record how you acted, why you felt that way, and what you learned.
- Take personality tests to gain insight into your character and identify areas for growth.
- Identify negative self-talk and limiting beliefs impeding your potential. Replace negatives with empowering alternatives aligned with your strengths.
- Practice mindfulness through meditation, yoga, deep breathing or walks in nature to gain perspective.
- Learn from feedback by regularly asking for constructive criticism on your performance and emotional intelligence.
- Breathe deeply when stressed. Inhale slowly, hold for 5 seconds, exhale fully. Repeat until calm.
- Count to 10 when angry before reacting. Give yourself time to control emotions and respond mindfully.
- Squeeze a stress ball hard to release frustration or anxiety physically when needed.
- Go for a walk to shift your emotional state when overwhelmed.
- Practice self-restraint by pausing, thinking rationally, then responding appropriately to emotionally-charged situations.
- Clarify values then set goals aligning with what matters most to provide purpose and fulfillment.
- Start each day visualizing success to program your mindset for achievement.
- Reward yourself upon completing tasks to reinforce momentum.
- Limit time on activities that drain you to maximize energy for priorities.
- Inspire others’ enthusiasm by sharing the purpose behind the work. Communicate goals compellingly.
- Observe body language cues to better read people’s emotions and needs. For example, are their arms crossed or posture open?
- Paraphrase others’ comments to confirm mutual understanding during discussions. Ask follow up questions.
- Avoid interrupting; Listen patiently. Let people fully express themselves before responding.
- Send encouraging notes to show you care about others’ welfare during difficult times.
- Role play various scenarios with others to build comfort seeing through diverse perspectives.
Strengthen Social Skills
- Speak slowly, clearly, and confidently. This communicates assurance and trustworthiness.
- Share credit for accomplishments. Recognize all contributors to results publicly.
- Start conversations by asking questions that show interest in the other party.
- Focus fully on whomever you are with. Avoid distractions and give them your undivided attention.
- Learn negotiation skills to resolve conflicts through collaborative problem solving.
Continue Exercising and Developing Your EQ
Like physical fitness, the most effective way to improve emotional intelligence is to continue exercising these skills over your lifetime. Commit to ongoing development in these 5 EQ areas through continual practice.
Benefits of High Emotional Intelligence
Raising your EQ yields immense benefits to your:
- Less anxiety and depression
- Constructively handle challenges and change
- More optimism, resilience, and self-esteem
- Clearer thinking and problem-solving
- Reduced stress and frustration
- Stronger immune system
- Better quality sleep
- Increased energy
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Lower inflammation and cortisol
- Less substance abuse
- Deeper connections and rapport
- Effective communication
- Navigate conflicts and resolve differences
- Pick up on others’ needs and support them
- Avoid hurtful behavior
- Improve focus and strategic thinking
- Make wiser decisions
- Motivate yourself and lead others more effectively
- Learn quickly from experience and feedback
- Persevere through setbacks
- Excel at job performance and workplace conduct
- Work better on teams with diverse members
- Adept at office politics and influencing others
- Advance to leadership positions
- Higher income and job satisfaction
- More gratitude, optimism and life satisfaction
- Develop meaningful relationships and purpose
- Cope effectively with stress
- Regulate emotions skillfully
- Reach goals and full potential
While strengthening your EQ requires effort, dedicating yourself to ongoing improvement in these 5 skills will help you thrive in all areas of life.
Frequently Asked Questions About Emotional Intelligence
How is EQ different than IQ?
While IQ focuses primarily on cognitive abilities like logic, analysis, and critical thinking, EQ encompasses awareness, management, and application of emotions. IQ helps you gather and process information while EQ helps you apply that information effectively within social and emotional contexts.
What causes low emotional intelligence?
Low EQ can stem from different factors like genetics, childhood experiences, trauma, poor mental health, or lack of insight into emotions. Underdeveloped social and communication skills also contribute. Luckily, EQ can be learned and enhanced through practicing self-awareness, self-control, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
Can adults increase their emotional intelligence?
Yes, adults can learn and improve emotional intelligence skills through commitment and practice. While an individual’s EQ potential is partly shaped in childhood, it remains flexible throughout life. By consistently exercising the core components of EQ, adults can continue strengthening these abilities.
What are 5 key strategies for developing EQ?
Five research-backed methods for improving emotional intelligence include:
- Practicing mindfulness to enhance self-awareness
- Learning to manage disruptive emotions through breathing exercises, counting, and other techniques
- Setting values-based goals powered by internal motivation
- Developing empathy through active listening and perspective-taking
- Building social skills like clear communication, recognising others’ efforts, and resolving conflicts mutually.
How long does it take to increase your EQ?
Improving your emotional intelligence is an ongoing process, not a quick fix. While engaging in EQ strengthening exercises daily can start yielding benefits within a few weeks, it takes months of regular practice to reap the greatest rewards. Like physical fitness, continuing to exercise, develop, and apply EQ skills throughout your lifetime is ideal.
Emotional intelligence helps you navigate challenges, communicate effectively, excel in your career, form meaningful relationships, and lead a fulfilling life. While EQ has a genetic component influenced by upbringing, it can be learned and enhanced at any age through practicing self-awareness, self-regulation, intrinsic motivation, empathy, and social skills.
Commit to consistently exercising these core skills. Keep a journal, manage stress deliberately, set values-aligned goals, improve listening, and communicate clearly. Over time, you will reap immense benefits across all areas of life from heightened EQ.