What is Emotional Intelligence? And Do You Have It?

by | Feb 15, 2012

by Nancy Travers,LCSW

Everyone knows at least vaguely about general intelligence, or IQ, but what about emotional intelligence, or EQ? For the vast majority of us, emotional intelligence is more important to our lives than IQ. Harvard theorist Howard Gardner explains, “Your EQ [or emotional intelligence] is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them, and how to work cooperatively with them.” Today, our success among our peers and in our careers depends on our ability to interpret the signals from the people around us, and to react appropriately.

Emotional intelligence can be broken into five main categories that every individual should attempt to master.

Self-Awareness: Before a person can read another person’s emotions, they should be able to read their own. Self-awareness requires an individual to be aware of his or her own emotions, and be able to manage them. For example, a self-aware individual who finds himself fidgeting may recognize that they are nervous and begin to take steps to calm himself down. This self-awareness also encompasses self-confidence, which is always helpful when negotiating your way through interpersonal communication.

Self-Regulation: While no one will have complete control over the emotions that they experience, some can control how long these emotions last. Self-regulation is the ability to alleviate negative emotions such as anger or anxiety; the individual is able to take a breath, and review his or her situation in a more positive light. People who have mastered self-regulation are able to control any negative impulses, have personal standards of integrity, take responsibility for their actions, and are able to adapt to new situations.

Motivation: An emotionally intelligent individual will have personal goals, and be able to recognize that others also have their own goals. The achieve any of these, a person needs to be motivated to improve himself, ready to take advantage of opportunities, and optimistic. A person with a high emotional intelligence will be able to balance his own goals with the goals of organizations that he is involved with; this can include the workplace, volunteer organization, and even friend circles.

Empathy: This is the ability to discern the feelings or motivations behind another person’s signals; this will also determine which signals you need to send them in return. An empathetic person will be able to anticipate another’s needs, be able to bolster the abilities of their co-works, read a person or group’s emotional state, and understand the power dynamic in relationships or groups.

Social Skills: A well-developed set of interpersonal skills is important to success in both personal relationships and a career. People with good social skills are able to persuade others, send clear messages, guide others, manage change, resolve disagreements, and build bonds with others.

Of course, not everyone will have an inherently high EQ. The aspects and skills that make up a high emotional intelligence, however, can be learned. Every person can learn to recognize and regulate their emotions, and to react appropriately in group dynamics. The process often requires not only interaction with others, but self-reflection. As you learn how to read yourself, and control your own negative emotions, you will naturally become better at reading the people around you, and responding to their signals, and navigating the waters of any social situation!


Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
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As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.

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