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What is Emotional Intelligence?

By Talia Filippelli, LCSW

It’s been more than 20 years since psychologist, and science journalist Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence made a case that EQ may be just as – if not more – important than IQ. People with higher emotional intelligence have been shown to have better leadership skills, job performance, and mental health. But what exactly is emotional intelligence?

Simply put, emotional intelligence is how we process and manage not just our emotions, but the emotions of others. Picture someone you know who always seems to keep a level head regardless of a situation, speak thoughtfully and purposely, and is a genuinely good listener. They are very self aware and display compassion and empathy when dealing with others. Odds are this person has a high emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is a collection of skillsets that anyone can acquire and improve with practice. There are five components to emotional intelligence:

Self- Awareness:

Possibly the most important aspect of EG is the ability to recognize an emotion as it happens and it’s effect on yourself and others.


We may not always be able to control our emotions, but we can control how we react to them or how long negative ones last. Self-regulation is the ability to keep negative feelings at bay and being able to think before we react, ultimately reframing thoughts and feelings such as anxiety, sadness, or anger into positive ones.


More specifically, internal motivation. The ability to drive yourself to work towards achievements and goals for purposes other than external motivations such as money, recognition, or status.


The ability to skillfully recognize how people feel and discerning the feelings behind others’ signals. This skill set is incredibly helpful in building and maintaining successful personal and business relationships.

Social Skills:

Social skills are essentially people skills, i.e. how you communicate, work with, and build bonds with others.

You can, and should, build and continually improve your emotional intelligence,  starting with a self evaluation. Honestly assessing yourself in a variety of different situations and how you react to each of them is key. Identifying your own emotions and reactions is the first building block to becoming more mindful and building control.