Emotional Intelligence

See also: Understanding Others

Many of us are aware of IQ (Intelligence Quotient). Designed to measure intellectual intelligence, it gives a score from a series of tests. Higher IQs indicate better cognitive abilities, or the ability to learn and understand. People with higher IQs are more likely to do well academically without exerting the same amount of mental effort as those with lower IQ scores.

A logical assumption, therefore, is that people with higher IQs will be more successful at work and through life. This assumption has been proven incorrect – there is more to success than simply being ‘clever’.

Emotional Intelligence (EI or sometimes EQ – Emotional Quotient) is a more modern concept and was only fully developed in the mid-1990s, by Daniel Goleman, among others.

Emotional Intelligence is the measure of an individual’s abilities to recognise and manage their emotions, and the emotions of other people, both individually and in groups.

Benefits of Higher Emotional Intelligence

  • People with higher emotional intelligence find it easier to form and maintain interpersonal relationships and to ‘fit in’ to group situations.
  • People with higher emotional intelligence are also better at understanding their own psychological state, which can include managing stress effectively and being less likely to suffer from depression.

There is no correlation between IQ and EI scores.

In other words, academic aptitude (IQ) has no connection with how people understand and deal with their emotions and the emotions of others (EI). This makes perfect sense: we’ve all met very clever people who nonetheless had no idea about how to deal with people, and the reverse.

Some people have high IQs and low emotional intelligence and vice versa, while some people score highly on both and some do not.

IQ and emotional intelligence attempt to measure different forms of human intelligence; along with personality, these measures make up an individual’s psyche.

Emotional intelligence is the one part of the human psyche that we can develop and improve by learning and practising new skills. You can learn more about these skills from the many pages here at SkillsYouNeed. IQ and personality are more static measures and likely to stay reasonably constant throughout life (although you can develop your ability to complete IQ tests very successfully).

For more about personality types, you may be interested in our pages on Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI) and MBTI in Practice.

You can find many different tests to help you measure your IQ, EI and personality online and in books. Emotional intelligence tests require that the person taking the test answers questions honestly and it is therefore a lot easier to ‘cheat’ at an EI test than it is an IQ test.

Ultimately emotional intelligence can only be measured by how an individual progresses through life - developing meaningful relationships with others, their interpersonal skills and understanding, their ability to manage their own emotions, and their personal skills.

Why not try our Interpersonal Skills Self-Assessment which includes a section on emotional intelligence.

Elements of Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman divided Emotional Intelligence into ‘Personal’ and ‘Social’ competences, which broadly split between personal and interpersonal skills on SkillsYouNeed. Within each of these sections are a range of skills which are the elements of emotional intelligence.

Personal Skills or Competences Social Skills or Competences
How we manage ourselves How we handle relationships with others
  • Self-awareness
    • Emotional awareness
    • Accurate self-assessment
    • Self-confidence
  • Self-regulation
    • Self-control
    • Trustworthiness
    • Conscientiousness
    • Adaptability
    • Innovation
  • Motivation
    • Achievement drive
    • Commitment
    • Initiative
    • Optimism
  • Empathy
    • Understanding others
    • Developing others
    • Service orientation
    • Leveraging diversity
    • Political awareness
  • Social Skills
    • Influence
    • Communication
    • Conflict management
    • Leadership
    • Change catalyst
    • Building bonds
    • Collaboration and cooperation
    • Team capabilities
Based on ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence’ Daniel Goleman.

Personal Skills or Competences

There are three areas of personal skills or competences in emotional intelligence.

1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness encompasses:

  • Emotional awareness
  • Accurate self-assessment
  • Self-confidence

Self-awareness is the skill of being aware of and understanding your emotions as they occur and as they evolve. It is wrong to think of emotions as either positive or negative. Instead, you should think of them as appropriate or inappropriate.

For example, anger is usually associated with being a negative emotion.  However, it can be a completely reasonable and appropriate emotion in certain circumstances – emotional intelligence allows us to recognise our anger and understand why this emotion has occurred.

Effective self-assessment of feelings and emotions will help to improve your confidence and self-esteem.

See our pages on Self-Awareness and Confidence for more.

2. Self-regulation or Self-management

Self-regulation includes:

  • Self-control
  • Trustworthiness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Adaptability
  • Innovation

Having learned to be aware of your emotions, the skill of self-regulation relates to managing them appropriately and proportionately.

Self-management skills relate to the emotions you are feeling at any given time or in any given circumstance and how well you manage them. Self-control is a fundamental part of this, but other aspects relate to what you then do: whether you behave in a way which is recognised as ‘good’ or ‘virtuous’ or not.

See our page on Self-Regulation for more.


The final personal skills aspect of emotional intelligence is Motivation.

Self-motivation includes our personal drive to improve and achieve, commitment to our goals, initiative, or readiness to act on opportunities, and optimism and resilience.

Self-motivation and personal time management are key skills in this area.  Do not make unreasonable demands on yourself, learn to be assertive rather than just saying, ‘Yes’ to the demands of others.

See our pages on Self-Motivation and Time Management for guidance and best practice.

Social or Interpersonal Skills or Competences

Interpersonal skills are the skills we use to interact with other people. They enable us to communicate appropriately and build stronger, more meaningful relationships. Emotional intelligence includes how we understand others and their emotions, and our actions and behaviours towards them.

There are two key aspects.

1. Empathy

Empathy is an awareness of the needs and feelings of others both individually and in groups, and being able to see things from the point of view of others.

Empathy helps us to develop a stronger understanding of other people’s situations.

It includes understanding others, developing others, having a service orientation, leveraging diversity, and political awareness.

Empathy can often be difficult to achieve. Learn to listen effectively to both the verbal and non-verbal messages of others, including body movements, gestures and physical signs of emotion.  Use questions to find out more about other people and what they are feeling, and feedback to clarify that you have correctly understood their feelings. Acknowledge and respect the feelings of others even if you disagree, and avoid making comments or statements that are judgemental, belittling, rejecting or undermining.

See our page on Empathy for more.

2. Social Skills

Social skills encompasses a wide range of relationship and interpersonal skills. These range from leadership through to influencing and persuading, and managing conflict, as well as working in a team.

The term ‘social skills’ covers a wide variety of skills and competencies, many of which are rooted in self-esteem and personal confidence.  By developing your social skills, being easy to talk to, being a good listener, being sharing and trustworthy, you also become more charismatic and attractive to others.

This in turn improves self-esteem and confidence which makes it easier for positive personal dialogue and a greater understanding and acceptance of your own emotions.

See our page on Social Skills in Emotional Intelligence for more.

Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Further Reading from Skills You Need

Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Learn more about emotional intelligence and how to effectively manage personal relationships at home, at work and socially.

Our eBooks are ideal for anyone who wants to learn about or develop their interpersonal skills and are full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

In Summary

Working on your emotional intelligence could well be the most important aspect of your personal development.

Research has shown that people with higher levels of emotional intelligence enjoy more satisfying and successful careers and relationships.  If you think about ways to enhance your EI, you are likely to become more interesting and attractive to others, and you will also give your self-esteem a boost.

SkillsYouNeed has many pages about the ‘soft skills’ that are often overlooked or taken for granted – explore our site to learn more about the skills you need to unlock your hidden potential.