[Image description: The image shows a human brain in the shape of a heart.]
Emotional intelligence, sometimes called emotional quotient (EQ) is different than intellectual or academic intelligence. Instead, it’s a measure of your ability to understand and be aware of emotions — both your own and those of others — and to manage your emotions in your personal life, work life, and relationships.
The four components of emotional intelligence
Psychology researchers have identified four key components of emotional intelligence:
- Self-awareness: Being able to recognize your moods and emotions, how they affect your thoughts and behaviors, and how they affect those around you. It also includes being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses.
- Self-management: Being able to keep your emotions from causing compulsive behaviors or feelings. Also, being resilient in the face of change or difficult circumstances.
- Social awareness: Having awareness of other people’s emotions, having empathy for others, and responding to others based on their emotional needs or concerns.
- Relationship management: Using your understanding of emotions to develop strong relationships, manage conflict, and work well as part of a team.
Why emotional intelligence matters
Your level of emotional intelligence can affect many areas of your life, including your:
- Academic achievement
- Career success
- Physical health
- Mental health
- Social connections
- Ability to achieve your goals
Luckily, emotional intelligence is something you can develop — especially early in life. Some schools in the U.S. (and around the world) teach what’s called “social and emotional learning” to help kids become more aware of their emotions, develop empathy, and use their emotional awareness in their interactions with others. The goal is not only to help students perform better academically, but also to reduce misbehavior, conflicts, and bullying.
It’s also possible to increase your emotional intelligence in adulthood, through learning and practice. Therapy can help you become more in touch with your feelings and how you respond to them, and help you develop the skills to deal positively with your emotions as they occur. Doing so can help you improve your mental health, achieve your goals, and strengthen your relationships. It can also help in the workplace: Employees who are good at managing conflict and communicating well with others perform well in teams, and managers who use their empathy and ability to view situations objectively can be more effective leaders — helping employees feel valued and appreciated.
How to improve your emotional intelligence
Here are some tips for increasing your EQ:
- Put your emotions on slo-mo: Try not to react instantly to a stressful or difficult situation. Instead, slow down and see if you can identify what emotions you’re feeling and what may have caused them. If you’re hurt or angry at someone else’s behavior, think about what feelings may have driven their actions.
- Reconnect emotionally: Sometimes we distance ourselves from important feelings like anger, fear, sadness, and even joy. This can be unrelated to our current situation and instead date back to early life experiences. If you tend to “shut down” your emotions, pay closer attention to how your feelings change in real time as a situation changes. Try to be aware of any physical impacts as well, such as tension in your body or sensations in your throat, stomach, or chest.
- Look for nonverbal cues in yourself and others: Posture, facial expressions, and tone of voice can all communicate what you’re feeling and thinking, before — or in spite of — any words you may say. If you’re in a conflict, or simply hoping to communicate effectively with another person, try to recognize the nonverbal emotional messages they’re sending — and be aware of how your nonverbal behaviors may be perceived.
- Be mindful of how you communicate: When you’re speaking with someone else, listen actively. Ask questions and give your full attention to their responses. By staying in the moment and aware of the emotions the other person is expressing, you can also become more mindful of your own feelings in response.
If you think you could benefit from professional assistance in improving your emotional intelligence, consider speaking to an Amwell therapist. They can help you boost your emotional awareness and practice the skills that can help in many areas of your life.