What is Emotional Intelligence? A mini Take

Emotional intelligence is a fairly new term in the psychological and mental wellness space, with its inception only beginning in 1990. Though it may seem like an informal term exchanged within the mental wellness community, it’s actually an extensively studied topic in research. Since its recent inception at Yale, EI’s definition has been expanded and reshaped to include many facets of emotional behavior. It was first thought to be the ability to perceive emotions accurately, use emotions to facilitate decision-making, understand emotions, and manage emotions to “upregulate” positive emotions and “downregulate” negative emotions (Mayer & Salovey, 1997). In the famous best-seller Emotional Intelligence, Why it Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman describes it as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Since then, factors like genera mood, adaptability to change, and various personality traits have been added to the search for what makes up EI. 

Regardless, we can all agree that EI separates itself from simple emotional awareness in that it combines all aspects of taking in emotional information, processing that information, and experiencing or outputting an emotional consequence. It’s an individual’s ability to recognize the malleable nature of their emotions, and is therefore necessary to have in order to fully understand how they are experiencing their present environment through those emotions.

Our definition of EI

  1. Emotional management: If you have high emotional management, then you feel that you can exercise control over their thoughts and feelings, and subsequently “handle” your emotions. How you choose to process your emotions reflects how well you exercise control over them; will you sit with them and feel them, or will you react to them? Will you see them coming, or will you let them overcome you? Emotional management also comes from managing emotions from others. 
  2. Emotional expression: Effective expression of emotion comes in many forms; of course it includes speaking how you feel, but it also includes feeling how you feel. What we mean by that is expression comes from the body as well: smiles, tears, stomach aches, heart rate… These are all part of emotional expression. Effective expression is allowing your emotions to express themselves as needed within your body–”sitting” with them–and allowing them to pass through you without judgment. Emotional intelligence is recognizing how your body is expressing those emotions, and using that to help you verbally translate that into words and actions. Someone with high emotional expression has their emotions aligned with their body’s and their word’s expressions. 

3. Empathy: Not to be confused with sympathy, empathy is the intensity with which you can experience another’s feelings. The term is used interchangeably with “self-awareness” or “social awareness” among various models of EI, and that’s because it also includes your ability to construct your expression towards others in a way that translates it to what they would understand. You may experience and portray “confusion” differently than someone else, and strong empathy allows you to keep adding to your own construct of what “confusion” looks and acts like. 

4. Emotional influence: One of, if not the most important part of EI, is the ability to use your management, expression, and empathy to influence your external environment in ways that mirror your desired internal environment. As emotional beings, the basis of our MO are our strongest emotions. Having high emotional influence over our lives looks like actively choosing the type of people we want around us, making decisions we can be confident in, or being satisfied with our job or educational performance; at its core, it’s being able to know that our life circumstances were our choice. Mayer describes this facet of EI as aligning your emotions and your personal goals; do your emotions reflect your desired outcome (Mayer et. al, 2001, as cited in MacCann & Jiang, 2019)? If they don’t, you may not feel like you have influence in the outcomes of your life. 

You may be curious about your levels of EI, or you may be seriously wanting to improve it. Vibeonix looks to help you through this process. At the beginning of all EI is understanding what that emotion is. From there, you can start managing it, expressing it, using it to empathize with others, and growing your influence with it. 

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Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional intelligence, Why it Can Matter More than IQ. (pp.xii). United Kingdom: Bloomsbury. 

MacCann, C., & Jiang, Y. (2019). Emotional intelligence predicts academic performance: A meta-analysis. American Psychological Associationhttps://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000219

Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (1997). What is emotional intelligence? In P. Salovey & D. J. Sluyter (Eds.), Emotional development and emotional intelligence: Educational implications (pp. 3–34). Basic Books