Emotional intelligence is an important thing to have. Unless you are a hermit and never have to or want to deal with any other human beings, you should probably be interested in finding out exactly what emotional intelligence is and in how to increase it.

Much like empathy, some people are born with greater emotional intelligence and find that it is largely an innate thing, whereas others may need to use that muscle more intentionally and more regularly for it to become second nature. But how do you even know if you have emotional intelligence, and what do you do to increase it? What even is emotional intelligence, to begin with? If you are here, you must be at least a little bit interested in this topic, so keep reading and I’ll tell you all about it!

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

According to Oxford Languages, emotional intelligence is “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”

So, basically, our emotional intelligence level is responsible for most of the way we act in relation to others, and even in relation to ourselves. It is our ability to understand, regulate and express our emotions in healthy ways. Also, it’s being aware that emotion drives behavior and that our emotions and behaviors can and do affect and influence others. Emotional intelligence means understanding that emotions can have positive and negative impacts on ourselves and others. Having a higher level of emotional intelligence means that while you allow yourself and others to feel their emotions, you don’t allow emotional responses to dictate your behavior or use your emotions to manipulate or harm others.

Because emotional intelligence means perceiving and evaluating, interpreting and demonstrating emotion constructively, the better your emotional intelligence is, the better relationships you can have with your spouse or partner, your boss or those working with you or under you, with your children, their teachers, with your friends and relatives, and even with your casual acquaintances. Emotional intelligence plays a part in every single relationship in your life.

Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important?

Having a higher level of emotional intelligence makes you a better problem solver. Emotional intelligence makes it easier to move on from problems and mistakes. And it makes it easier to deal with endings and new beginnings and change, in general. Sharing your feelings with others and responding most appropriately when they share theirs with you is also a part of it. Emotional intelligence includes empathy and that helps you to be less judgemental of yourself and others.

Quality leaders have high emotional intelligence. Good bosses, good therapists and clergy, great teachers, parents, and partners possess high emotional intelligence. When you understand that emotion (the whole range of human emotions) affects behavior and decision-making, it’s easier to understand why emotional intelligence is so important. Emotional intelligence ultimately makes it easier for you to feel happier and more fulfilled in your life.

What Are the Features of Emotional Intelligence?

Most people agree that there are 5 main features or characteristics of emotional Intelligence. These are:

  1. Self-awareness.
  2. Self-regulation.
  3. Empathy.
  4. Motivation.
  5. Social skills.

This list is relatively self-explanatory, but it might be helpful to look at each of these characteristics at least a little more closely.

Self-awareness is about recognizing your own emotions. Some people might feel like this is a little bit of a no-brainer, but the truth is that this is one of the more difficult things about being human. We often have feelings and emotions we don’t even realize we’re having, let alone put our finger on what exactly they are. For us more spiritually-minded folks, self-awareness is actually the key to greater intuition. Generally speaking, it helps with decision-making and instinctively making better choices.

Self-regulation is all about managing your emotions. Particularly the more difficult (I hesitate to say negative, even though that is the common vernacular, I just don’t think any of our emotions are “negative” per-se) emotions like anger, jealousy, frustration, fear, and guilt. It’s important that we allow ourselves and others to feel the full range of emotions, but it is what we do with those emotions that is important. Learning to handle those more difficult emotions more effectively is what self-regulation is about.

Empathy is such a big one for me. I think it is one of the most important pieces of emotional intelligence. Empathy is all about the ability to see things from another’s perspective, to be able to put yourself in another’s shoes and feel what they are feeling. But it isn’t just being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, it is how your respond to the other person once you are there. Understanding, respecting diversity, and responding in inclusive and compassionate ways are also part of empathy.

Motivation can often be one of the more difficult aspects of emotional intelligence for many people. It is all about one’s drive to improve, to learn, to grow, to achieve. It is also about optimism, and one’s drive to achieve. I personally think it is important to not get so hung up on achievement, or at least to define achievement for yourself, but also note that motivation is about resilience and your ability to bounce back after hard moments.

Social skills of course have to do with how you relate to others. Can others trust you? Do they feel listened to by you? Do they feel comfortable around you, confiding in you? People that speak well and listen well have emotional intelligence. Great leaders, great motivators, great coaches, teachers, and counselors generally possess good social skills.

Can You Increase Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is something that can be increased. Often a good place to start with increasing your emotional intelligence is with some form of therapy or counseling. Working through past traumas and other emotional issues is a great way to start to really get a grasp on one’s self-awareness.

Personally, as I started working through a lot of my trauma and emotional issues, I developed an “observer” that sort of stood outside of my emotions and interactions with others that could be more objective and help me to see if my emotional reactions were appropriate to the situation or caused by being triggered from past events. This very much helped me not only to become more self-aware but also more able to self-regulate better.

I believe that it would help our society, in general, if people were more empathetic. If they judged less and helped more. Motivation to do better in the world, to relate to others better, and to make a positive impact would make such a better world. And these things can be learned and practiced. There are courses and coaching to increase emotional intelligence available. Social skills classes are available for people of all ages, not just children.

Why Should I Increase My Emotional Intelligence?

Well, I’ll just end on this note. If you want to live a happier, more productive life, you should work to increase your emotional intelligence. If you want to get along better with the people in your life, you should work to increase your emotional intelligence. If you want more opportunities to earn more money, you should increase your emotional intelligence. If you’ve ever dreamed of being in a leadership or teaching or helping position, you should work to increase your emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is important in every aspect of our lives. Unless, of course, you want to go live in a cave and become a hermit. But even then, I daresay, emotional intelligence would be important. I mean, you’d still have to live with yourself, somehow!

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