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What is Emotional Intelligence and How Can You Improve it?

by Leanne Hall
Posted: July 05, 2016

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It’s a phrase that gained popularity in 1995 by Dan Goleman with his book “Emotional Intelligence – why it can matter more than IQ”, however it first appeared many years earlier with different meanings and adaptations hypothesised by different researchers over several years.

In recent years, Emotional Intelligence has become a phrase often used to predict the behaviour of others in certain situations and contexts.

But what is Emotional Intelligence? 

What is emotional intelligence and how can you improve it?

It has its critics. Some argue that it doesn’t really exist. Their point often lies in the fact that there aren’t really any standardised measures used to accurately “assess” it. This is a scientific argument. If you can’t test it and measure it, then it doesn’t exist right?  

For others, its existence is rather obvious. Think about it for a moment. We ALL experience emotions, but if you consider the people around you, you can see that some of them really seem to be aware and “connected” to their emotions, while others seems to have no clue at all!

Some people seem to be “better” at empathy than others, and some people can work through conflict in their relationships in a really mature way. All of these behaviours point to something “emotional” that is completely independent of general intelligence.

Put simply, Emotional Intelligence refers to the ability to connect with and identify your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.

It has nothing to do with how smart you are, nor is it related to being happy, motivated, or positive. It involves being emotionally tuned in and aware, and using this information to think and problem solve. It involves being able to use empathy to help other people with their own emotional responses and reactions, as well as being able to regulate your own emotions in situations. 

People with a high Emotional IQ are able to solve problems involving emotion (including those involving conflict) in a functional way. Having said that, a high Emotional IQ is not necessarily a predictor of behaviour. We are far more complicated than that!

However, it does expand our understanding of IQ in general and can be used to help predict a variety of important life outcomes.

How can you improve your Emotional IQ?

emotional intelligence thinking

What kind of relationship do you have with your emotions? The answer to this question will give you a clue as to whether your Emotional IQ is high or low.

The good news is you can certainly work to enhance your Emotional IQ. By practicing mindfulness and learning to connect with your emotions in a non-judgemental way (especially the uncomfortable ones) you can develop a greater awareness of how your emotions influence your thoughts and behaviour. Only then, can you start to make informed choices rather than acting impulsively and at the whim of your emotions. 

Not only will these skills help you in achieving your own personal goals, they will help you to be a better friend, parent or partner. After all, being sensitive and aware of the emotions of others is by far the best way to show a loved one that you value them and care about their feelings.

So get your zen on and start connecting with those emotions! 

Want to be inspired by more life advice from 25 of the web's top counsellors? Read more thoughts for better living here.


Leanne Hall

Leanne has been transforming lives for over 15 years as the mind and body expert for Channel 10 and as a practising clinical psychologist. Leanne Hall motivates her patients to achieve a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle using positive psychology and “mindfulness” techniques, holistic nutrition and exercise. Leanne's expertise covers everything from how the beauty myth impacts women's self-esteem, mental health and fitness.

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