5 Key Emotional Intelligence Skills

Emotional intelligence skills are abilities that allow you to understand and manage your emotions. These skills are linked to a range of benefits including academic achievement, decision-making abilities, and overall success in life. Some experts have suggested that emotional intelligence, or EQ, might even be more important than IQ.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to recognize, manage, and understand emotions. This includes the ability to recognize and interpret your own emotions as well as those of other people.

So what does it take to be emotionally intelligent? According to psychologist and author Daniel Goleman, there are five components of emotional intelligence.

This article discusses what you can do to learn to improve these emotional intelligence skills. By working on and increasing these skills, you can become more emotionally intelligent.

1

Self-Awareness

Two people smiling and chatting.

Tom Werner / Getty Images

Self-awareness, or the ability to recognize and understand your own emotions, is a critical emotional intelligence skill. Beyond just recognizing your emotions, however, is being aware of the effect of your actions, moods, and emotions on other people.

To become self-aware, you must be capable of monitoring your own emotions, recognizing different emotional reactions, and then correctly identifying each particular emotion. Self-aware individuals also recognize the relationships between the things they feel and how they behave.

These individuals also recognize their own strengths and limitations, are open to new information and experiences, and learn from their interactions with others. Goleman suggests that people who possess self-awareness have a good sense of humor, are confident in themselves and their abilities, and are aware of how other people perceive them.

How to Improve Self-Awareness


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2

Self-Regulation

Two people having a conversation.

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In addition to being aware of your own emotions and the impact you have on others, emotional intelligence requires you to be able to regulate and manage your emotions.

This doesn't mean putting emotions on lockdown and hiding your true feelings—it simply means waiting for the right time and place to express them. Self-regulation is all about expressing your emotions appropriately.

Those who are skilled in self-regulation tend to be flexible and adapt well to change. They are also good at managing conflict and diffusing tense or difficult situations.

People with strong self-regulation skills also tend to be high in conscientiousness. They are thoughtful about how they influence others, and they take responsibility for their own actions.

How to Improve Self-Regulation

3

Social Skills

young people laughing and having conversation

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Being able to interact well with others is another important aspect of emotional intelligence. Having strong social skills allows people to build meaningful relationships with other people and develop a stronger understanding of themselves and others.

True emotional understanding involves more than just understanding your own emotions and those of others. You also need to be able to put this information to work in your daily interactions and communications.

In professional settings, managers benefit by being able to build relationships and connections with employees. Workers benefit from being able to develop a strong rapport with leaders and co-workers. Important social skills include active listening, verbal communication skills, nonverbal communication skills, leadership, and persuasiveness.

How to Improve Social Skills

  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Find icebreakers that will help start conversations.
  • Notice other people's social skills.
  • Practice good eye contact.
  • Practice your social skills.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Show interest in others.
  • Watch your body language.
4

Empathy

woman and man having serious conversation

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images 

Empathy, or the ability to understand how others are feeling, is absolutely critical to emotional intelligence. But it involves more than just being able to recognize the emotional states of others.

It also involves your responses to people based on this information. When you sense that someone is feeling sad or hopeless, how do you respond? You might treat them with extra care and concern, or you might make an effort to buoy their spirits.

Being empathetic also allows you to understand the power dynamics that often influence social relationships, especially in workplace settings. This is important for guiding your interactions with different people you encounter each day.

Those competent in this area are able to sense who possesses power in different relationships. They also understand how these forces influence feelings and behaviors. Because of this, they can accurately interpret different situations that hinge on such power dynamics.

How to Build Empathy

  • Be willing to share your own feelings.
  • Engage in a cause such as a community project. 
  • Listen to other people.
  • Practice loving-kindness meditation.
  • Talk to new people.
  • Try to imagine yourself in someone else's place.
5

Motivation

adult man running across bridge

Chad Springer / Getty Images

Intrinsic motivation is another important emotional intelligence skill. People who are emotionally intelligent are motivated by things beyond external rewards like fame, money, recognition, and acclaim.

Instead, they have a passion to fulfill their own inner needs and goals. They seek internal rewards, experience flow from being totally in tune with an activity, and pursue peak experiences.

Those who are competent in this area tend to be action-oriented. They set goals, have a high need for achievement, and are always looking for ways to do better. They also tend to be very committed and are good at taking initiative.

How to Improve Motivation

  • Avoid overusing extrinsic rewards.
  • Celebrate your results.
  • Focus on setting small, measurable goals.
  • Introduce challenges to keep things interesting.
  • Set goals to help build intrinsic motivation.
  • Work with a friend or co-worker to find accountability.

Why Emotional Intelligence Skills Are Important

Possessing strong emotional intelligence skills can have a number of positive effects on a person's life. People who have such skills always seem to keep their cool. They are able to handle even the most awkward social situations with grace. And they always seem to make others feel at ease.

Some of the key benefits of having good emotional intelligence skills include:

  • Emotional intelligence allows you to be a more effective leader
  • Understanding how others are feeling allows you to communicate with them better
  • Knowing more about what you are feeling allows you to be more self-aware and understand yourself more deeply
  • By being more aware of your emotions, you can also improve your self-control abilities
  • Managing your emotions effectively allows you to exert greater control in situations marked by stress or conflict

Having emotional intelligence abilities also allows you to feel greater empathy for the people around you. This skill plays an important role in developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships. Creating strong connections with other people allows you to foster and strengthen a social support network, which plays a pivotal role in both physical and mental health.

Recap

Building your emotional intelligence skills can have a positive impact on your life. In addition to helping you become more aware of your own feelings, these skills can help you build stronger relationships and succeed in social situations.

A Word From Verywell

Emotional intelligence is essential for understanding yourself as well as successfully navigating your social world. While some people tend to come by these skills naturally, there are strategies that you can use to learn and strengthen your own emotional intelligence skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you improve emotional intelligence skills?

    You can improve your emotional intelligence skills by practicing identifying and naming your emotions. Once you are better able to recognize what you are feeling, you can then work on managing these feelings and using them to navigate social situations. Working on social skills, including your ability to work in a team and understand what others are feeling, can also help you develop strong emotional intelligence abilities.

  • What emotional intelligence skills are important in managing conflict?

    Research suggests that skills such as problem-solving, stress management, and interpersonal relations are essential for effective conflict management. These abilities all require emotional intelligence, so boosting these skills can help you manage conflicts more successfully.

  • How are emotional intelligence skills connected to interpersonal skills?

    Interpersonal skills are those abilities that you use when you are interacting and connecting with other people. They allow you to create healthy, meaningful relationships and to communicate effectively with the other people in your life. In order to develop these interpersonal skills, it is essential to be able to interpret and understand other people's emotions. This ability to understand the emotions of others is a key emotional intelligence skill.

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9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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