Emotional Intelligence and How to Increase It

Definition of emotional intelligence and how to be more emotionally intelligent.

Posted Nov 30, 2020 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

 Igor Lukin/Pixabay
Source: Igor Lukin/Pixabay

Emotional intelligence is a type of intelligence that is defined as an ability to monitor and regulate one’s own and others’ emotions and to use emotions to facilitate one’s thoughts and actions (Brackett, Rivers, & Salovey, 2011). Emotional intelligence is often referred to as emotional quotient, or EQ (kind of like the emotional version of IQ).

What are the dimensions of emotional intelligence?

  • Perception of emotion: Being able to identify and differentiate between different emotions and feelings. 
  • Use of emotion to facilitate thinking: Being able to use emotions to foster reasoning, problem-solving, and interpersonal communication. 
  • Understanding and analyzing emotions: Being able to understand the causes and meaning of emotions.
  • Reflective regulation of emotions: Being able to prevent, reduce, enhance, or modify one’s own and others’ emotions.

What are the skills that make up emotional intelligence?

Just like other types of intelligence, you can grow your emotional intelligence. You can build your emotional skills and engage in emotion activities that help you better understand and work with your and others' emotions. Here are some examples of skills you can build to increase your emotional intelligence (take this well-being quiz to see how you're doing on some of these skills).

How to grow your emotional intelligence

Any activity that helps you build the emotional skills above can increase your emotional intelligence (EQ). Here are some activities to get you started: 

​Activity: Know your strengths. Discover your strengths and weakness so you can improve your weaknesses and capitalize on your strengths. strengthen your brain's ability to work with positive memories and information.

Activity: Gratitude List. In this activity, you'll think of and write about things you're grateful for.

​Activity: Mindful meditation. In this activity, you'll practice being aware and accepting in this mindful meditation.

Activity: Self-compassion letter. In this activity, you'll write yourself a compassionate letter.

​Activity: Positive memory. In this activity, you'll strengthen your brain's ability to work with positive memories and information.

Here are more activities to grow your emotional intelligence.

To keep growing your emotional intelligence, focus on improving these four aspects of yourself:

1. Self-awareness

  • Ask yourself, why do you do the things that you do? 
  • Reflect on your personal values to understand the why behind what you do.
  • Get clear on your emotions to understand what you feel and why.

2. Self-management

  • Close your eyes and breathe deeply for a few moments to be more present. 
  • Reframe the situation to see if you can find the silver linings.
  • Take time to solve complex problems in your life and find the right solutions for you.
  • Take care of your body and your health.

3. Social-awareness

  • Be more present in your social interactions.
  • Practice empathy and compassion to better understand why people who are different from you do the things they do.
  • Have a "back-pocket" question on hand—or a question you can ask to start up a conversation or defuse awkwardness.

4. Relationship management

  • Practice gratitude for all the little things.
  • Express your emotions by telling other people when you appreciate them, care for them, admire them, or feel positively about them in some other way.
  • Explain your decisions and be willing to listen to why others make the decisions they make.

Building any or all of these skills can help boost emotional intelligence.

Benefits of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is linked to really important positive outcomes including:

  • Better mental health
  • Better social relationships:
  • Improved academic and workplace success

In sum

Emotional intelligence is an important set of skills that improve the quality of your life. And good news! These skills can be built, even as an adult. So go ahead and start boosting your emotional intelligence.

Created with content from The Berkeley Well-Being Institute.