Emotional intelligence isn’t some “made-up” thing, it’s actually a term used by modern psychology to define the capacity to deal with your emotions in a healthy way. More specifically, it’s the ability to recognize your emotions and the emotions of others, distinguish one emotion from the next, properly label your emotions, use your emotions to guide your thinking and behavior , and to manage your emotions to achieve your goals (1).
According to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence (EQ or EI) is generally said to include three skills (2):
- Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others.
- The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving.
- The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.
It also involves two kinds of focus: an inward focus on your own feelings and an outward focus on the feelings of the people around you (3).
Why Emotional Intelligence Matters
Emotional intelligence is key to developing problem-solving skills and healthy relationships.
It’s so important that social and emotional learning (S.E.L.) is now taught in schools throughout North America. That’s because the mental well-being of children correlates strongly with their future success. In fact, EQ correlates with better work, stronger marriages, better mental health, and better physical health (4).
When S.E.L. was studied in an elementary school in California, researchers: “…discovered was that [the] kids weren’t going to be able to make progress on the academics until they’d gotten help with their social and emotional issues.”
That’s partly because social-emotional training develops the prefrontal cortex. Consequently, it can enhance academically important skills like impulse control, abstract reasoning, long-term planning and working memory.
Among other things, researchers who studied S.E.L. in elementary schools found that children were able to move on more quickly when they addressed how they were feeling and communicated their emotions with teachers and peers.
Am I Emotionally Intelligent?
Emotional intelligence doesn’t come naturally for everyone, and depending on how you are raised, it may be a challenge to see the value in embracing your emotional side.
There are four key abilities to EI. To understand how your emotional intelligence sizes up, ask yourself the questions below.