Emotional intelligence (also known as emotional quotient or EQ) is an important skill for navigating personal and professional relationships.
It refers to the ability to read the emotions of others and understand and manage your own emotions in a healthy way.
Just like general intelligence, EQ varies from person to person.
Developing emotional intelligence can help you build stronger relationships with others. It can also increase your resilience and ability to handle stress and other difficult feelings.
We explore the signs of high and low emotional intelligence and offer some tips to build your EQ here.
Signs of Emotional Intelligence
People with emotional intelligence can recognise emotions in themselves and others and use self-control to respond appropriately.
They’re aware of – and care about – how their emotions and moods impact others, and they take steps to avoid causing hurt and to maintain harmonious relationships.
Emotional intelligence is strongly linked to empathy. Emotionally intelligent people can read others, observing social and emotional cues to understand what someone might be feeling underneath.
Some key signs of high emotional intelligence might include:
- Self-awareness – Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and triggers
- Self-control – Ability to regulate emotions and control impulsive behaviours
- Empathy – Recognising how other people feel and responding appropriately
- Healthy boundaries – Awareness of your limits, and ability to set and maintain healthy boundaries
- Respectful communication – Ability to express emotions and needs in a respectful way, as well as listen and consider other perspectives and solutions.
Signs of Low Emotional Intelligence
People with low emotional intelligence generally lack self-awareness and self-control. They may appear selfish as they don’t consider how their moods and behaviours impact those around them.
They often miss social and emotional cues and say things that are insensitive and/or inappropriate.
For example, someone with low emotional intelligence might make a joke when a friend is grieving the loss of a loved one. They may also lash out in emotional outbursts when things don’t go their way.
Some key signs of low emotional intelligence might include:
- Lack of empathy – Inability to understand other people’s feelings or consider their point of view
- Lack of self-control – Emotional outbursts or mood changes, particularly during conflict or tense situations
- Fixation on mistakes – Tendency to fixate on mistakes or constructive feedback instead of learning from them and moving on
- Obliviousness to social cues – Missing social and emotional cues from those around them and potentially responding inappropriately
- Complaining and negativity – Tendency to complain about an issue without considering solutions, and often finding someone else to blame.
Why is emotional intelligence important?
Emotional intelligence helps us understand ourselves and the people around us.
It helps us build relationships, communicate effectively, and navigate conflict respectfully. It can make us great friends, partners, and colleagues as we’re aware of our actions and care about the feelings of those around us.
EQ is a highly sought-after trait in professionals – particularly leaders. Some hiring managers specifically seek emotional intelligence in candidates.
Research shows emotional intelligence can enhance our general quality of life, making us feel more satisfied and rewarded in our personal and professional lives.
How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
Improving your emotional intelligence can help increase your success at work and in your relationships.
Here are some tips to build your EQ by improving your:
Get to know yourself better
Self-awareness is a key component of emotional intelligence. Reflect on your strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and values, and pay attention to your knee-jerk emotional reactions.
Are there particular topics or situations that trigger tough emotions for you? How do your emotions factor into your decisions?
You can learn more about yourself by keeping a journal, monitoring your self-talk or inner monologue, and even asking trusted people for feedback.
Our emotions can tell us a lot about ourselves. When we take time to identify them, pause, and respond thoughtfully, we can have healthier interactions and avoid impulsive outbursts.
The more self-aware we are, the more we can recognise when we’re feeling elevated and practise self-control.
You can use self-regulating tactics such as:
- Considering the ultimate outcome you want and what kind of response would achieve it.
- Naming the emotion and paying attention to the kinds of thoughts and physical feelings it’s causing in your body.
- Pausing before responding, whether this involves taking a deep breath or even saying “I just need a moment to get my thoughts together”.
Tune in to the emotions of others
Paying attention to the emotions and needs of the people around us can help us build closer connections. It can strengthen our empathy and make our friends, partners, and colleagues feel seen, understood, and cared about.
When we really listen to the people around us and consider how things might feel in their situation, we can consider an appropriate way to respond.
For example, if you recognise your partner is tired or irritable, you can predict your joke isn’t going to land well. If you notice your friend is less chatty than usual, you might assume they have something on their mind and ask if they want to talk about it.
Improving your emotional intelligence takes time and effort, but your relationships will thank you for it. If you’re finding it tough to get started on your own, talking to a counsellor can help.
You can call 1300 364 277 to make an appointment or to learn more about our counselling services here.
Want to improve your communication skills? You might find our blog post How to Be a Good Listener helpful.