Ever wondered why some people handle life’s challenges with ease and resilience, while others struggle emotionally? The key difference may come down to a skill called emotional intelligence (EI). The great news is that EI can be developed and strengthened with practice. In this blog, we’ll explore what emotional intelligence is, why it matters and, most importantly, how to boost this powerful life skill.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is our ability to understand, use, and manage emotions in positive ways, as well as the ability to perceive and influence the emotions of others.
There are 4 key components to emotional intelligence:
- Self-awareness: Recognising and understanding your own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and the impact you have on others.
- Self-regulation: The art of keeping your emotions in check. It's about managing impulses, staying calm under pressure, and adapting to changing circumstances.
- Social awareness: The ability to pick up on the emotions of those around you. It's like having a sixth sense for understanding the mood of a room.
- Relationship management: Using your emotional awareness and regulation skills to successfully handle social situations and conflict.
Despite what some people think, emotional intelligence isn’t about suppressing emotions. It’s about understanding the full spectrum of emotions - whether that’s anger, sadness, joy, or surprise - and recognising how they can influence our thoughts and actions.
For example, imagine you’re having a tough day and you’re feeling frustrated. Instead of letting it build up, having a high emotional intelligence would allow you to recognise it, take a step back, and choose a more constructive response. Understanding emotions in this way allows us to make better decisions, benefiting ourselves and the people around us.
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Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?
As mentioned, developing emotional intelligence can benefit your life across many areas and has a huge influence on your work and relationships. Emotionally intelligent people generally have fulfilling relationships and excel as leaders and team players in their careers. For example, doctors who are high in EI can provide not just clinical but emotional care, while managers are better able to motivate employees.
As people, we all deal with challenges at work, in relationships and within ourselves, but developing our ability to understand and use emotions intelligently can help us to deal with certain situations.
Here are some benefits of having high emotional intelligence:
- Stronger relationships - A high EI allows us to connect on deeper levels with others via having active listening skills and also helping to resolve conflicts through communication.
- Better career success - EI also helps with leadership skills and workplace communication. Those with high emotional intelligence naturally find it easier to get along with co-workers and management, opening the door to promotions.
- Confidence and self-esteem - The more we understand our own emotions and what triggers us, the more we can learn to accept ourselves, growing our self-confidence.
- Resilience - Handling stress via flexible thinking and knowing how to cope with situations in a healthier way all come more naturally with a higher level of emotional intelligence.
- Overall better health - Having emotional stability has been linked to having better mental and physical well-being.
Emotional Intelligence vs IQ
Intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EI) represent different types of ability. IQ relates to intellectual capacity in areas like maths, logic, and critical thinking. On the other hand, EI is our capacity to understand emotions and use that knowledge to communicate effectively, empathise, and regulate our feelings.
While IQ can help to predict academic and career success, EI plays a bigger role in other aspects of life. Emotional intelligence allows us to use emotions in constructive ways so we can communicate and collaborate well and cope with challenges.
Real-life situations where emotional intelligence comes into play can look like the following:
- Handling workplace politics and resolving conflicts with colleagues.
- Providing care and support for loved ones.
- Understanding others’ perspectives during debates and conversations.
- Staying cool when under stress, rather than lashing out.
- Motivating and leading teams by connecting with them emotionally.
Though IQ and EI are distinct, they complement each other. Combining intellectual capacity with emotional skills can create a powerful asset in life. The good news is that emotional intelligence can be developed through self-reflection, learning coping techniques, and practising social awareness.
How to develop Emotional Intelligence
- Self-reflection and self-awareness
The place to start is by tuning into your emotions. Take a moment to reflect on how you're feeling and why. What makes you tick? What are your triggers? The more you understand yourself, the better you’ll be able to handle different and difficult situations in life. You can keep a little emotional journal. Jot down how you felt during the day and what might have influenced those feelings.
- Practising empathy and listening
Empathy is like a superpower in the world of emotional intelligence. It's not just understanding someone else's feelings, it's feeling with them. Practise putting yourself in others' shoes, and really listen when they share their experiences. For example, the next time a friend opens up about their day, resist the urge to jump in with your own story. Instead, focus on their words, and let them know you're there for them.
- Regulating emotions
If you’ve ever been on the verge of an emotional breakdown and weren’t sure how to react, this one's for you. Learn to recognise when your emotions are heating up and practise reining them in. It's not about suppressing feelings; it's about steering them in the right direction. For example, in a situation where you feel overwhelmed, take a moment - go for a walk or practise deep breathing.
- Developing social skills
The more you work on your people skills and engage in conversations, the easier it will become and the better you will get at it. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone either. You could start a casual conversation with a colleague you haven’t talked to much or join a community group that shares common interests with you.
Remember, developing emotional intelligence is a journey, so take small steps and work on the areas we’ve listed above.
If you’d like to learn more about emotional intelligence, gain better control of your mind, and improve your communication, consider enrolling on our accredited Emotional Intelligence Diploma course for just £29 (save £98!). It equips you with a lifelong EI skillset to understand emotions, communicate more effectively, and excel in work and relationship environments. It’s useful for therapists, business leaders, and anyone who’s seeking evidence-based Emotional Intelligence training.