What is Emotional Intelligence | EQ?

Emotional intelligence refers to a person’s abilities and awareness of personal and interpersonal emotions, communication, and relationships.

In other words, it’s a social science word applied to how well people do in relationships with others, and how well they understand and manage emotions. It’s a term that was coined in the 1995 book by Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence.


The book is regularly updated and remains a popular reference for this kind of work. Forbes describes the 4 key areas of Emotional Intelligence in this way: 

  • Self-awareness
    • Recognizing your own emotional state and the effect your emotions are having on you
  • Self-management
    • Using what you know about your emotional states to inform the actions you take and direct your behavior
  • Social awareness
    • Recognizing the emotional states of others and understanding what’s happening with them
  • Relationship management
    • Incorporating your knowledge of everyone’s emotional states to help manage relationships and conversations.

We all have an Emotional Intelligence «EQ,» that tells us how adept we are at personal interactions, getting needs met, and having positive relationships. By knowing your EQ, you can understand your strengths and weaknesses and take some action at improvement.  

Emotional Intelligence, IQ, and Personality Are Different

Emotional intelligence taps into a fundamental element of human behavior that is distinct from your intellect. There is no known connection between IQ and emotional intelligence; you simply can’t predict emotional intelligence based on how smart someone is. Intelligence is your ability to learn, and it’s the same at age 15 as it is at age 50. Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice. Although some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, you can develop high emotional intelligence even if you aren’t born with it.

Personality is the stable “style” that defines each of us. Personality is the result of hard-wired preferences, such as the inclination toward introversion or extroversion. However, like IQ, personality can’t be used to predict emotional intelligence. Also like IQ, personality is stable over a lifetime and doesn’t change. IQ, emotional intelligence, and personality each cover unique ground and help to explain what makes a person tick.

Emotional Intelligence Is Linked to Performance

How much of an impact does emotional intelligence have on your professional success? The short answer is: a lot! It’s a powerful way to focus your energy in one direction with a tremendous result. TalentSmart tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills, and found that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.

Emotional Intelligence Can Be Developed

“Plasticity” is the term neurologists use to describe the brain’s ability to change. Your brain grows new connections as you learn new skills. The change is gradual, as your brain cells develop new connections to speed the efficiency of new skills acquired.

Using strategies to increase your emotional intelligence allows the billions of microscopic neurons lining the road between the rational and emotional centers of your brain to branch off small “arms” (much like a tree) to reach out to the other cells. A single cell can grow 15,000 connections with its neighbors. This chain reaction of growth ensures it’s easier to kick this new behavior into action in the future. Once you train your brain by repeatedly using new emotional intelligence strategies, emotionally intelligent behaviors become habits.

Why Emotional Intelligence at Work Matters

Being a productive, cooperative member of a team is a key aspect of being a good employee. And great customer service is a direct indicator of high emotional intelligence levels. In fact, any business relationship benefits from being emotionally intelligent. 

When the whole company works well together, it’s evidence of great company culture. Emotional intelligence at work means fewer miscommunication mishaps, easier workflows, and better relationships among employees. 

Cultivating empathy and compassion go a long way. In the business world, being able to be flexible enough to see something from someone else’s point of view can mean more productive meetings, and more successful business transactions.