November 30, 2018

What is our Emotional Intelligence?

Mental Health & Wellbeing

How well do you understand your emotions? How well do you manage your emotions in ways to relieve stress? These are some of the abilities we can describe as Emotional Intelligence. Many people are familiar with the term IQ or Intelligence Quotient, but the idea of Emotional Intelligence is not as widely discussed. Simply, Emotional Intelligence measures how well we are able to identify, use, understand, and manage our emotions. It is not necessarily our ability to feel certain emotions when we want. Rather it is about how well we can utilize the emotions that arise in positive ways that can help us solve problems, resolve conflict, empathize with people, relieve stress, and communicate how we are feeling effectively. For this post, I am briefly introducing Goleman’s model of Emotional Intelligence and reviewing the pillars in which a person can be in tune with themselves and others.


Our ability to recognize our moods, emotions, motivations, and how these affect others would reflect our own level of self-awareness. Check how well you identify when you’re feeling certain emotions and what triggered the emotions. If you’re not sure, that is okay! Noticing our moods and triggers takes practice, so slow down and do an internal check with yourself when you notice yourself feeling joyful, sad, angry, excited, etc, and try to identify what brought the emotion about.

Self-Regulation & Self-Management

Redirecting or reeling in our disruptive impulses and moods. Suspending judgment and thinking before acting, and delaying immediate gratification for long-term benefits. A simple way of checking how well you are at self-management is, can you opt to make the difficult decisions for long-term goals versus getting satisfaction now.

Social Awareness & Empathy

Our ability to understand the emotions of others. Can we identify their needs, emotions, and concerns. Check how well you respond to other’s emotional reactions. Do struggle to feel the emotions that someone else is experiencing? Even if we are not able to fully ‘put ourselves in another’s shoes’, having social awareness of what is happening can help us make decisions for what to do next.

Relationship Management & Social Skills

Our ability to develop and maintain relationships. Can we build common ground between people and support each other? How good we are at being collaborative and working with others.  Usually an indicator of good social skills is that we are able to communicate what we want and what the other person wants effectively. A simple way to check is how well do you work in teams?

Internal Motivation

Motivation within yourself is the guiding force for the previous four aspects of Emotional Intelligence. Do you have a passion to work for intrinsic rewards? Like doing something for the joy of it, a strong sense of purpose or meaning, or even the curiosity to learn. This Internal Motivation can be the corrective force for any of the previous areas. What is your drive in life? Does it propel you to overcome obstacles? An indicator of strong internal motivation is perseverance in the face of struggles or maintaining optimism after facing failure.

What Does High Emotional Intelligence Look Like?

While Emotional Intelligence is not something one can master or become a genius at, a person with a high level of Emotional Intelligence can work through various emotion-related problems effectively and quickly. Not only can they accurately identify their primary and underlying emotions, they understand how to utilize their emotions to drive the way they think. For example, when you feel anger you recognize that sadness is the underlying emotion that is fueling your angry outbursts. While doing activities to help relax may help with the anger, you understand there something else you have to do to address your sadness. Furthermore, you understand that you can use your sadness to process what is wrong and identify ways to make things right.

Reflection Will Help Make Improvements

Developing our Emotional Intelligence is not as straightforward as raising our IQ. The process is different for every single person. We may all struggle with similar emotional processes, but the way we manage and use our emotions can look very different. Take some time to reflect on these different aspects of Emotional Intelligence and identify strengths and weaknesses. If you find yourself stuck on finding ways to manage difficult emotions, reach out for help! Improving our EI can improve our mental health and well-being.


Written by therapist Daniel Pak

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