What Is Emotional Intelligence And Why Should You Care?

The phrase “emotional intelligence” is one that you’ve probably heard recently, but do you actually know what it means? Or why it should matter to you and your relationships?

The idea behind focusing on your own emotional intelligence is to strengthen your relationships with those around you by preventing breakdowns in communication. You have to be in tune with your own emotions and understand your own reactions before you can expect your partner to.

You Might Already Be Emotionally Intelligent

Just because you don’t know what it is does not mean that you aren’t already in tune with your emotions or that you don’t incorporate some of the practices of EI into your life already.

Qualities Of The Emotionally Intelligent Person

couple having coffee photo through window at coffee shop
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Christin Hume
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Christin Hume

There are a number of qualities that you might exhibit already that would indicate you’re emotionally intelligent. Are you someone who thinks before they speak? Are you aware of your feelings, and are you able to reflect on them during and after certain situations? Can you take criticism well? These are all signs of an emotionally intelligent person.

What If You Don’t Have Those Qualities?

Even if you’re not someone who is good at regulating their emotions right now or you aren’t a self-aware person, that doesn’t mean that you can’t become one. There’s always room for personal growth!

There’s Always Room For Improvement

It may seem a little overwhelming, but even if you’re not someone who focuses on their EI right now, you can still become that person if you want to be.

Where Should You Start?

There’s a number of things that you can do for yourself if you want to build high emotional intelligence. Improvement looks different for everyone based on what they already practice, but it helps to understand the four main elements of emotional intelligence. Then you can figure out where to go from there!

#1 — Self-Management

woman standing in living room leaning head in hand
Photo Credit: Pexels / Alex Green
Photo Credit: Pexels / Alex Green

Being able to recognize your feelings is important, but so is being able to still function within those emotions. Your emotions shouldn’t rule over your day, which is why self-management is an important element of emotional intelligence.

It’s Helpful In Moments Of High Stress

Self-management is particularly crucial when experiencing something like a high-stress situation. Are you able to think rationally in the moment and make a solid decision, or do you let the present feeling overwhelm you? If you’re able to manage stress and stay present, you can learn to receive upsetting information or deal with difficult situations without letting them take over your thoughts.

#2 — Self-Awareness (Yes, It’s Different)

woman seated head in hands making looking at her no emotion
Photo Credit: Pexels
Photo Credit: Pexels

Being able to manage stress as well as other feelings like anger, sadness, fear, or joy, is an important step when building emotional intelligence. Your emotions are supposed to be something that you pay attention to and listen to, not something that you shut off.

Think About Your Daily Range Of Emotions

On a daily basis, think about how you experience your emotions. Can you identify moments in your day that made you feel specific emotions? Do you factor your emotions into the decision making process? You shouldn’t let your emotions control every aspect of your day, but being able to connect to core emotions, accept them, and be comfortable with them is key.

How Can You Be More Aware Of Yourself?

Mindfulness is a practice that is focused on exactly this: acknowledging how you’re feeling in the present moment without judging yourself. Practicing mindfulness can calm you down at the moment and help you to focus on yourself before moving forward.

#3 — Social Awareness

man and woman standing having discussion in office
Photo Credit: Pexels / Fauxels
Photo Credit: Pexels / Fauxels

The ability to recognize your own emotions is important, but it’s equally important to be able to recognize emotions in other people or interpret the non-verbal cues that people give off. Being able to identify non-verbal cues or relate certain behaviors to certain emotions in others will improve your relationships.

Empathy Is Wrapped Up Within That Awareness

Empathy is a major aspect of social awareness. Once you’re able to focus on the moment and identify the emotions someone else is feeling, you also want to be able to respond to them appropriately. Being in tune with your own emotions will help you respond to others.

Mindfulness > Multitasking

If you want to be able to improve your social awareness, mindfulness is a practice that will help you. Many people love to broadcast what a great multitasker they are, but you should be focused on the moment you’re in if you want to improve social relationships. You can’t read the social cues you’re being given by someone if your mind is elsewhere, right?

#4 — Relationship Management

man with cup of coffee seated next to woman with book
Photo Credit: Pexels / Tim Samuel
Photo Credit: Pexels / Tim Samuel

Do you play well with others, or do you find it difficult to relate to how others around you might be feeling in any given situation? Once you’ve strengthened your own emotional awareness, you’ll be able to apply it to the relationships in your life.

How Do You Come Off To Others?

Be aware of your own reactions to people. Are you someone who struggles to keep their facial expressions in check when you disagree with someone or when you’re upset about something? Think about what you’re giving off to the people you’re communicating with.

Change Your Views On Conflict

woman placing hand on chest of man pushing him away
Photo Credit: Pexels / Keira Burton
Photo Credit: Pexels / Keira Burton

I’m not suggesting that you go around starting arguments with people to improve your relationships in life, but you can reframe how you look at conflict. See it as an opportunity to learn new things about the people you’re trying to build relationships with, and grow from it.

So, Why Does It Even Matter?

Okay, so you’ve got the basics of emotional intelligence down pat, or at the very least you’re aware of them. So now you’re supposed to apply all these principles and suddenly everything in your life will be better? It might not be that cut and dry, but that’s the idea.

Your EI Can Affect All Areas Of Your Life

coworkers in workplace standing at coffee bar
Photo Credit: Pexels
Photo Credit: Pexels

It might seem like some mumbo-jumbo relationship advice, but being emotionally intelligent can help you in every aspect of your life, not just in romantic relationships. Having high emotional intelligence can help you navigate social settings or conflict in the workplace, manage stress at school, and it can lead to improvements in both your mental and physical health!

You Should Seek Change, Not Fear It

No one is asking you to change everything about yourself in order to improve relationships or be better for those around you, but what’s the harm in getting to know yourself a little better? Being aware of your own emotions doesn’t mean you have to change them—start with the goal of simply acknowledging them.

There’s Pretty Much No Downside To It

Being aware of your own emotions can make you a better child, a better parent, a better friend, or a better partner to someone you love. You can’t change what others do, but you are in control of how you react to it and how you let it affect you.