Emotional Intelligence (EQ): Skills for a Successful Life

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Many of us have a general understanding of “IQ”. Phrases like, “high IQ” and “low IQ” are used to express the measure – or our perception – of someone’s intelligence. What, then, is our “EQ”? Where IQ stands for Intellectual Quotient, EQ stands for Emotional Quotient and can be described as the measure of someone’s “emotional intelligence.”

Tapping into our EQ and working to elevate it is a vital practice. We are likely to find that EQ can be highly sought after as we navigate our lives. The benefits of a high EQ are crucial to the health and success of our intrapersonal relationship – the relationship we have with ourselves, our interpersonal relationships (romantic, friendships, and family), and our professional success. Someone looking to increase their IQ might “hit the books,” studying to achieve academically. EQ is more like working a muscle. It takes continued practice as skills develop over time. It is true that, for some, these skills are more inherent – “like second nature” – but a high EQ is in reach for us all. In order to understand the relevance of EQ to our health and success, we can take a look at the areas of our lives which benefit from a developed EQ. Then, we can look at the elements that compose our EQ and how we can practice them.

With Ourselves

young woman smiling with ipadWhen we exercise the elements of EQ, we begin by looking inward first. We build upon our internal foundation and, later, develop skills for navigating our external lives and relationships. Our intrapersonal relationship, the way we relate to ourselves, grows by focusing on specific elements of EQ. Benefits can range from overall mood improvement to the reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression. You may have heard the popular adage, “You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.” This emphasizes the importance of the self-management elements of EQ. When we identify, harness and regulate our own emotions, we are more likely to successfully identify the emotions of others and have healthy interactions in our relationships.

In Our Relationships

Romantic relationships, our friendships, family bonds, and even relationships at work with our supervisors, colleagues, and clientele are classified as interpersonal relationships. Exercising our EQ can determine the success of these relationships. Simply employing what Jacqueline Mroz, a friendship expert, defines as “the ability to identify and respond to others’ emotions and emotional world,” increases your potential to form and enjoy sustainable interpersonal relationships. Concepts across bodies of research regarding successful marriages – and friendships alike – show that relationships in which individuals actively tune-in to one another’s emotional processes are most likely to succeed.

At Work

man and woman business settingThe search for “soft skills” by employers has seen an increase in recent years. These soft skills are directly tied to a developed EQ. According to “Why Soft Skills Matter And The Top 3 You Need,” by Jan Bruce for Forbes, “businesses, policy experts, trade groups, and academics are demonstrating that soft skills … are critical.” Bruce shares that soft skills training, “boosts productivity and retention 12 percent and delivers a 250 percent return on investment based on higher productivity and retention.” Further, research assessed by The Center for Creative Leadership shows, “75% of careers are negatively impacted by emotional competency-related themes. These include the inability to respond adaptively to change, nurture trust, lead teams during tough times, and deal effectively with interpersonal problems.” With evidence like this, the incentive for employers to seek individuals who possess these skills continues to grow. In practicing EQ, soft skills like communication and problem solving are strengthened, increasing our professional appeal.

Developing Our EQ

So, what are these elements that we’re supposed to be practicing? Psychologist Daniel Goleman’s theory breaks down elements of EQ into five terms and two categories, depicted in the table below:

Intrapersonal Management (Ourselves) Interpersonal Management (With Others)

  • Emotional awareness
  • Accurate self-assessment
  • Self-confidence


  • Self-control
  • Trustworthiness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Adaptability
  • Innovation


  • Achievement drive
  • Commitment
  • Initiative
  • Optimism

  • Understanding others
  • Developing others
  • Service orientation
  • Leveraging diversity
  • Political awareness

Social Skills

  • Influence
  • Communication
  • Conflict Management
  • Leadership
  • Change catalyst
  • Building bonds
  • Collaboration and cooperation
  • Team capabilities

Based on ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence’ Daniel Goleman

Practicing self-awareness means identifying the emotions we have and why we are having them. The follow-up behavior is self-regulation, where we take the emotions we’ve identified, their causes, and manage them. We can chose how we respond to the stimuli around us, leading to feelings of being “in-control” of our lives. Motivation is a bit trickier to practice, but once we have started implementing self-awareness and self-regulation, behaviors like being optimistic and committed start to come to us more naturally. When we have mastered identifying emotions that have kept us from optimism in the past, self-doubt for example, we obtain the power to change them and turn them into achievement drive rather than hesitation. Self-awareness and self-regulation give us the power to find our motivation.

friends holding handsWhen we become accustomed to developing the self-management practices on the left of the table, it becomes easier to look outward and to practice the social skills on the right. Empathy requires us to turn those self-awareness practices onto the relationships we have with others, identifying their emotional experiences. This practice transitions directly into the final element of a developed EQ, social skills. With empathy in our skills arsenal, we are more likely to successfully engage in the behaviors listed under the SOCIAL SKILLS heading above. Communication with an empathetic approach allows us to have influence, build bonds, collaborate and even step into leadership roles due to the trust we build.

Above all, it is important to acknowledge that developing the elements of our personal EQ is a constant process. Yes, the skills come more naturally with practice, but each day presents new situations and new stimuli. As a final demonstration of EQ, consider the following example:

Situation: You and your friend are having a political conversation. Generally you are in agreement, but today they share an opinion that takes you by surprise.


  • First, you identify the reaction you are having internally (self-awareness); emotions of shock and surprise, anger and frustration, and potentially feelings of discomfort as the image you have of your friend shifts.
  • Next, you acknowledge these emotions (self-regulation) and adapt to the direction your conversation has taken.
  • You develop your response, taking initiative and acknowledging your commitment to your friendship and the discussion (motivation).


  • You employ empathy, acknowledging your friend has their own emotional motivations and experiences that contribute to their opinion. You ask them to share with you what these might be.
  • Finally, you can successfully communicate with your friend, managing potential conflict by opening the discussion, and proceeding by repeating all of these skills (personal and social) as you continue your dialogue.

In practicing EQ we can find achievement and fulfillment in our lives, both personally and professionally. We can gain better understanding of ourselves and share our skills with those around us, creating a life in which we feel and enjoy control when we have it, and can manage our way back to it when it feels lost. EQ improves our lives by giving us skills for success.

Resources and Further Reading:

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence Skills

Why Soft Skills Matter and the Top 3 You Need

High Emotional Intelligence Signs in Friends

What is Emotional Intelligence