What is emotional intelligence?

“Emotional intelligence is the ability of individuals to recognise their own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour.”

This concept can be broken down into five key traits which characterise emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness – the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognise their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
  2. Self-regulation – involves controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
  3. Social skill – managing relationships to move people in the desired direction.
  4. Empathy – considering other people’s feelings especially when making decisions.
  5. Motivation – being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement.

Goleman includes a set of emotional competencies within each construct of EI. Emotional competencies are not innate talents, but rather learned capabilities that must be worked on and can be developed to achieve outstanding performance.

Why is it important?

Emotional intelligence is considered important as it allows individuals to perform better in their roles as they understand themselves and those around them, allowing them to make the most of every situation.

How can I become more emotionally intelligent?

Emotional intelligence is something that can be learned – try the following tips to help you succeed:


Practicing mindfulness can help increase your self-awareness. Try to be aware of yourself in the moment; try to understand your strengths and weaknesses. You could write a journal to understand how you are feeling and reflect on this to better understand your reactions.

Self-regulation is about learning to control your emotions. Once you are aware of your emotions as they happen, and have taken some time to reflect on what triggers your emotions, try to keep them under control when you are faced with situations that could trigger them.

Further reading on personal resilience may help with practicing self-regulation.

Social Skill
If this is something that you are not naturally suited to, consider how you communicate with people you meet; how do you build trust and rapport? Taking some time to reflect on previous interactions, whether they went well or not so well, will help you understand where your strengths and weaknesses lie in this area.
Empathy is the ability to recognise and understand others’ emotions. Use active listening to understand others’ viewpoints and try to see things from their point of view.

Motivation can be affected by a number of things within your day-to-day life, and becoming distracted can have a negative impact. In order to stay motivated, set yourself small, achievable goals throughout the day to help your sense of achievement and maintain your motivation towards bigger or longer term goals.

It can also be useful to take some time out to reflect on your longer term aspirations and rediscover your purpose in work or your home life.

Where can I find more information? 

Coleman, Andrew (2008) A Dictionary of Psychology (3 ed.). Oxford University Press.

Goleman, D. (1998) Working with emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.