Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence is generally said to include a few skills: namely emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.
The theory of emotional intelligence was introduced by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in the 1990s, and further developed and brought to the lay public by Daniel Goleman. The concept, also known as emotional quotient or EQ, has gained wide acceptance. However, some psychologists argue that because EQ cannot be captured via psychometric tests (as can, for example, general intelligence), it lacks true explanatory power.
The emotionally intelligent are highly conscious of their own emotional states, even negative ones—from frustration or sadness to something more subtle. They are able to identify and understand what they are feeling, and being able to name an emotion helps manage that emotion. Because of this, the emotionally intelligent have high self-confidence and are realistic about themselves.
A person high in EQ is not impulsive or hasty with their actions. They think before they do. This translates into steady emotion regulation, or the ability to reduce how intense an emotion feels. Taking anger or anxiety down a notch is called down-regulation. The emotionally intelligent are able to shift gears and lighten mood, both internally and externally.
Such people are especially tuned into the emotions that others experience. It’s understandable that sensitivity to emotional signals both from within oneself and from one's social environment could make one a better friend, parent, leader, or romantic partner. Being in tune with others is less work for others.
This person is able to recognize and understand the emotions of others, a skill tied to empathy. The person with a high EQ can hear and understand another person’s point of view clearly. The empathic are generally supportive of the people in their lives, and they easily modulate their emotions to match the mood of another person as well.
This is a subject of active debate within the field. Some personality psychologists argue that emotional intelligence can be more parsimoniously described by traits such as agreeableness, and even charisma. A highly charismatic person, for example, is socially adept and can quickly read a room.
We are naturally drawn to a person with high EQ. We are comfortable and at ease with their easy rapport. It feels as though they can read social cues with superhuman ability. Perhaps they can even mind-read how other people feel to some extent. This effortlessness is welcome in all domains of life—at home, in social settings, and at work. Who wouldn’t want a boss who understood how you are feeling and what you are trying to accomplish?
Yes, you can. You can start by learning to identify the emotions you are feeling as well as understanding them. If you are able to name the emotion you are feeling, you have a better chance of understanding what you are feeling. You can also learn to better regulate your emotions just by stopping and thinking before you act and judge. These skills will help you martial inner resolve and stick to what really matters in life.
While some studies have found a link between emotional intelligence and job performance, many others have shown no correlation whatsoever, and the lack of a scientifically valid scale makes it difficult to truly measure or predict how emotionally intuitive a person may be on the job or in other areas of life.
These people are able to mobilize and utilize their emotions, and they are motivated to manage tasks and problem-solve obstacles. They are connected to who they are and what they value in life, which are foundational for prioritizing and reaching any objective or goal. Knowing what matters is crucial for productivity.
In recent years, some employers have incorporated emotional intelligence tests into their application and interview processes, on the theory that someone high in emotional intelligence would make a better leader or coworker. However, it is not clear if these measures are accurate or even useful.
Testing for EQ in the workplace, for example, is difficult because there is no validated psychometric test or scale for emotional intelligence as there is for the general intelligence factor—and many argue that emotional intelligence is therefore not an actual construct, but a way of describing interpersonal skills.