What is emotional intelligence?

Intelligence isn’t just about cognitive abilities. It is important to have intellect and be knowledgeable but another aspect of intelligence comes in the form of emotions. It has a profound impact on personal and professional success and is often seen as the secret to effective leadership, strong relationships, and overall well-being. Having emotional intelligence is about having a set of skills to help you navigate emotions and relationships. 

At its core, emotional intelligence is about understanding and managing both our own emotions and those of others. It’s the ability to recognize how emotions drive behaviors and impact decision-making, and then using that awareness to guide our actions and interactions. There are 5 key components to emotional intelligence. 

The first one is self-awareness as this is the foundation of emotional intelligence. It involves being in tune with our own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values, and goals. Self-aware individuals have a deep understanding of their moods, emotions, and how they can impact others. Without having self awareness, we lack the ability to effectively interact with others and the ability to have control over our own emotions. 

Second, is self regulation. Once we have the awareness we now have to learn to regulate our emotions properly. You can read more about emotional regulation in another blog titled, “what is emotional regulation?” Self regulating requires managing impulses, controlling negative emotions, and adapting to emotions changing with grace. It’s the ability to think before speaking. To listen with intent to respond and learning to remain calm in stressful situations without reacting. 

Third, is motivation. Emotional intelligence is closely related to motivation. We know motivation comes and goes but it still has a say in how driven you are. People who have a clear understanding of themselves and their ability to understand their emotions and how they interact with their daily lives, are driven by a passion for their work. They set challenging goals for themselves and are resilient when they face setbacks. They have the ability to delay gratification and know that working on something long term will bring about results. 

Fourth, is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s about stepping into someone else’s shoes and seeing the world from their perspective and not focusing on themselves. Empathetic individuals are skilled at listening attentively, validating others’ emotions, and providing support and encouragement. They not only listen, but they are attentive to the other person, asking questions, validating their experiences, and only offering advice when asked. They give space for the other person to express what they are feeling without judgment or criticism.

The last component is social skills. Someone who has strong interpersonal skills is the poster child for emotional intelligence. They are able to effectively communicate, can resolve conflict, collaborate with others and are able to build and maintain healthy relationships. They are not afraid to set boundaries and prioritize their time. They have clear values and will interact with people who will help them grow into the person they want to become. They know how to interact with others well and don’t get caught up in the drama of someone else. 

So the question is, why is this so important? Why do we need to have emotional intelligence? It’s becoming more and more evident that those who are able to portray the above components are more successful in their careers, have healthy relationships, and way less stress. In the workplace, these people are effective communicators, motivate their teams and foster a strong, positive culture. In their personal lives, they are able to connect on a deeper level, navigate awkward social situations and can manage conflict easily. It also contributes to greater resilience and overall well-being, as individuals are better equipped to cope with stress and adversity.

This can all sound daunting and leave someone of you wondering, do I even have these traits? Am I stuck if I don’t? The good news is that emotional intelligence is not a fixed trait; it can be developed and improved over time with practice and self-awareness. Strategies for enhancing emotional intelligence include: engaging in self-reflection and introspection to increase self-awareness, practicing mindfulness and meditation to cultivate emotional regulation, seeking feedback from others to gain insights into our blind spots, actively listening and practicing empathy in our interactions with others, and investing in interpersonal skills training and professional development opportunities.

By honing our emotional intelligence skills, we can unlock a whole new level of personal and professional success. Whether in the boardroom or the living room, the ability to understand and manage emotions is a powerful tool that can transform our relationships, our careers, and our lives leaving us feeling more fulfilled and driven to continue.