What is Emotional Intelligence?

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Emotional intelligence is a popular term in business and day-to-day life that few truly understand. Emotional intelligence (EQ)  is equally important as intellectual intelligence (IQ). It is a little-known fact that we can all boost our IQ by exercising it. EQ is exactly the same. In both cases, we have the potential and the ability to fulfill it. Let’s take a closer look at emotional intelligence as it is the key to happier relationships.

emotional intelligence

Defining EQ

The definition of EQ is:

e·mo·tion·al in·tel·li·gence


  1. the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
    “emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success”

By definition, emotional intelligence has several components:

  1. Awareness
  2. Control
  3. Expression
  4. Judicious handling of interpersonal relationships
  5. Empathetic handling of interpersonal relationships

There is also a framework for EQ proposed by professors Mayer and Salovey in 1990 for achieving these goals through practice. These were amplified by professor Goleman. A composite of these are the following: 

  1. Identification of emotion in self. (Self Awareness)
  2. Identification of emotion in others. (Self Awareness, Empathy, & Social Skills)
  3. Integration of emotions into our thought processes. (Self Awareness & Self Regulation)
  4. Processing “complex” emotions. (Self Awareness & Internal Motivation)
  5. Regulating our own emotions. (Self-regulation & Internal Motivation)
  6. Regulating the emotions of others. (Empathy, Social Skills)

Benefits of EQ

Though our society has long valued high IQ, we are only just coming around to EQ. As a society, we are waking up to the fact that those who are successful in life work well with others. People with high IQ and low EQ fail to connect well with others and as a result, are less likely to move their ideas forward in the world. Businesses recognize this and many development programs to develop and promote EQ in their teams. 

EQ is vital in partnerships. Partners who have strong EQ will work better together. This is especially true in families. Families that are high functioning typically emerge from marriages/partnerships that are grounded in high EQ. There are also multiple benefits to EQ:

  • Better mental/psychological health
  • Stronger physical health
  • Lower stress levels
  • Strong interpersonal problem-solving skills
  • Greater success in business
  • Improved academic success

Because of all these benefits, our Master Plan Program leans into EQ growth heavily as the bedrock for growth in other areas of life. 

emotional intelligence

Signs You May Want To Work on Your EQ

It’s all about me: I feel like I need to talk about myself a good deal. When others speak I nod my head but don’t explore what is really going on with them.

I’m right: I find myself nitpicking when others make strong statements. I know that they are wrong, or are missing a key piece of the puzzle, I need to get the last word in any conversation.

I find myself easily triggered: I go from zero to sixty on a regular basis at work. Sometimes I carry that feeling home with me. I go to bed angry having not resolved my feelings.

I’m struggling in my relationships: I don’t have many friends. My partnership feels more like parallel lives. While it is easy to love my kids and take them places, it’s hard to connect with them emotionally.

I can be seen as insensitive: I need to get things done and sometimes I say things that are taken completely differently than I intended. I send out emails and texts quickly, the result being that people misunderstand my meaning and are hurt or alienated.

It’s rarely my fault: A lot of people have done me wrong in life. When there is an argument, it’s because they just don’t understand or have their own problems they want to put on me.

I avoid conflict: Focus on the positives, and simply don’t respond to the negatives. As a result, my partner and I mostly focus on raising the kids and things we can do together that won’t generate conflict. 

Not You?

If you don’t have any of the above going on, kudos to you. There is also a chance that you are in some denial as everyone gets at least a taste of these experiences, even if it’s when they are tired and not at their best. We all have experienced and will experience these tendencies in thought and emotion. Why? Because the fact is EQ is something we can constantly improve, it’s a lifetime mission of practice and improvement. Let’s talk about HOW we can practice.


How To Practice EQ

EQ has  5 areas with accompanying practice components. These are two regulating practices (self and others), as well as identifying, processing, and integrating our emotions. Let’s explore these one at a time:

Identification of Emotion in Self 

Monitoring and identifying our own emotional state is at the heart of all EQ practices. Understanding the feelings we project is grounded in being conscious and aware of ALL our feelings.

What we mean here by multiple levels is this; we all operate on several emotional levels at once, meaning we experience multiple emotional reactions to any given situation. Emotion is a melange, a mix with one emotion dominating the rest. 

Eliza’s Story:

Eliza is given a promotion at work to a managerial position. She was given this promotion because she is a strong leader who connects well with her team. Eliza’s first and dominant emotion is happiness, she wants to celebrate. However, she stifles this emotion a little because she knows that Tom who will now be under her supervision really wanted this position and she feels bad for him. At the same time, she is a little hurt and angry with Tom for a disparaging remark she heard he made about her competency before the decision was made. She is also a little afraid that she might not have all the skills she needs to do the job.

Eliza’s overall feeling is happiness, then there is a mix of empathy, hurt, anger, and fear operating under that at the same time. Eliza is not unique, we all have this mix going on all the time. Being aware of these feelings (self-awareness), all of them, and managing them is key to the remaining practices.

Identification of Emotion in Others 

It is impossible to identify emotions in others that we have not identified in ourselves. If you spot it, you got it. Identifying what others are feeling and connecting to why they might be feeling those emotions is at the root of empathy. Managing our own feelings in relation to their feelings, particularly when there is a difference of opinion/conflict is a vital component of all social skills. Practicing self-awareness and empathy in regards to the kinds of relationships we want to have and fulfilling the purpose of those relationships is the basis of developing and utilizing our social skills.

Integration of Emotions Into Our Thought Processes

Science has long promoted the idea of intellect unfettered by emotion. Mr. Spock in Star Trek exemplified the notion of logic without emotion. In reality, studies show that human beings make ALL decisions from an emotional basis and then we rationalize the decision convincing ourselves that for all practical reasons, we made the right decision. Even Mr. Spock proved to be a highly emotional individual in the end.

We Are Complex

Because we are emotional creatures who make decisions about everything from an emotional stance, being in touch with and integrating ALL our emotions into our thought processes is extremely important. Thinking through which feelings drive which kinds of decisions is part of the process. 

Just like Eliza, we have multiple feelings running at the same time and each of these will impact our thoughts and decisions. The better we understand our emotional stream, and line it up with our values, principles, goals, and vision, the more consciously we will make decisions. Awareness and consciousness are key in self-regulation and self-regulation opens the door to growth and breakthrough.

Processing “Complex” Emotions 

A complex emotion is a feeling that is a blend of other emotions. For example, hate is a blend of anger, fear, and disgust. Since we have multiple emotions present at any given time, it’s easy to imagine how they can blend together into a new feeling. The ability to process and understand the underlying emotions that go into a complex feeling is a high-level skill. In the instance of hate, we either roll with it without thinking, creating chaos in our wake, or we break it down and seek to understand the components so that we can respond to the trigger constructively. Our motivation might be that we choose to be creative beings and not give in to truly destructive emotions like hate. 

emotional intelligence

What If We Love And It Hurts Us?

Similarly, love is a combination of passion, tenderness, pleasure, and devotion. Misplaced love can be destructive of ourselves and so again understanding what has triggered the sub feelings will help to legitimize the love or allow us to disengage. Why might we disengage? Love makes no sense when someone hurts us repeatedly. Time to let go of the devotional aspect of that feeling!

Regulating the Emotions of Others

OK, we can’t actually, directly regulate the emotions of others, and how we respond will impact others tremendously. If the other person is angry, and we engage with them in anger, guess what happens? If they are having a great day and we engage with them joyfully? Our emotional state, our mood, our intentions when we speak with others have a tremendous impact on them. When your partner has a problem, what is the first thing they want? To be heard. However, your inclination is instead to help them fix it before they feel heard? Guess what, the outcome will be less than positive. Really what we are talking about here is our ability to exercise compassion; compassion is taking our empathy (insight into the other person) into action. 

Ways To Improve EQ

We all stand to benefit when anyone grows their EQ. We especially benefit when we focus on our own. EQ growth is focused on uncovering our unconscious mind. About 80% of our mind is unconscious. Think of it as a guard dog who has been trained into ideas about what is safe and to be loved, what is not, and to be feared. This dog was trained between the ages of 0 and 7 and so a lot of the training may have little application to current circumstances. 

That dog generates a good deal of our feelings. Our dog rejects anything that looks scary. If it’s good for us but looks scary the dog rejects it. Similarly, things that are not so good but familiar may make it past our dog. Our job is to identify the original training and retrain the dog. 

Get To Know Your Feelings

As already stated, getting to know your feelings is the basis of growing our EQ. Identifying not only what we are feeling but why is vital. Why do we get scared? What are we reacting to? What does it remind us of? Journaling will be helpful for this. Coaching and therapy are both great vehicles. Prayer and meditation help tremendously. Fight/Flight instinct is regulated and reduced by meditation and prayer practice. Get Outside Feedback

EQ is as much about how we relate to others like ourselves. Ask for feedback from your friends about how well you handle conflict. How well do you engage in empathy? Are you a good listener? 


Believe it or not, reading fiction with complex characters can grow your EQ says a Harvard study. Reading fiction gives us insight into how others think. We develop insights into what makes the character tick. How their dog works. What their reactions might be and so we get greater insight into ourselves.

Emotional Intelligence is the secret weapon to success at work and at home. Making a conscious effort to develop ourselves, to understand ourselves and others will give us extra leverage in the world and greater joy in life. Take some baby steps towards developing your EQ today and begin entry into a whole new life.