Emotional Intelligence: A Secret to a Healthier, Smarter & More Successful Life
Have you ever heard of 'Emotional Intelligence'?
You're likely already familiar with the idea of 'intelligence' which involves learning ability and understanding of things. But what does the emotional aspect involve in 'Emotional Intelligence'?
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence is a popular concept that has sparked a lot of discussion amongst many people including psychologists, authors and organisations.
Perhaps the curiosity and great interest in this topic revolves around the idea that according to research Emotional Intelligence is thought to be something that can affect our health, how we engage in relationships, how we work, our ability to thrive mentally and more (1).
Interestingly, American psychologists Salovey and Mayer started to explore and marvel at this topic as they wanted to understand the reason why people behave in particular ways which can sometimes impact their careers negatively or even their personal lives (2).
Psychologist Goleman describes Emotional Intelligence as relating to particular abilities such as an individual being able to regulate their mood, motivate themself or their ability to be hopeful (3).
The 5 Main Areas
Goleman’s model of Emotional Intelligence can be broken down into 5 main areas of skill (4):
1) Self-Awareness - which involves understanding & having knowledge of one’s internal state
2) Self-Regulation - which concerns managing one’s impulses & internal state
3) Motivation - which can be described as how emotions can steer an individual in the direction of their goals
4) Empathy - which is an individual’s ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes to be both aware of & understand how they’re feeling
5) Social Skills - which relate to the ability to have positive interactions & good communication with others
Emotional Intelligence involves the perception and generation of emotions which are used to further understand emotions and to reflect on emotions which can further enhance intellectual development (5).
Emotional Intelligence is something that can play a role in the state of our physical health. For example, studies by Pennebaker found that students who were instructed to give a written account of their distressing emotional experience made less frequent visits to the medical centre at their university in comparison to students who were assigned to give a written account of something much less significant (6). In addition to this, his findings show that sharing experiences that are considered to be emotionally distressing could improve processes in the immune system and therefore, physical symptoms and negative feelings are reported less (7). The main results of research that explored the links between Emotional Intelligence and health found that better physical, mental and general health were linked with people who obtained higher scores on Emotional Intelligence trait subdimensions, which could likely be attributed to people utilising better self-care techniques and coping methods (8).
Emotional Intelligence is seen as being a significant factor in developing an individual into a good leader (9). For example, an idea that George (2000) puts forward is that people who possess a high level of Emotional Intelligence can be effective leaders as they can typically manage and identify emotions well. This gives them the ability to collaborate well with members of their team and also positively push them (10). Other research exploring the idea of leaders having Emotional Intelligence found that leaders who saw themselves as an authority, who provided a sense of inspiration and motivation to their colleagues, stated that they managed their own emotions, however also observed and kept an eye on the emotions of others (11). The ability to manage emotions is a defining characteristic which is a primary trait of Emotional Intelligence and the evidence suggests that good leaders have this skill.
Stress & Mental Health
Stress is another aspect that has been explored in terms of Emotional Intelligence. Research has shown a potential link between the ability to handle stress and Emotional Intelligence (12). Emotional Intelligence has also been defined as a person's ability to restrain negative emotions such as anxiety and anger and replace them with emotions that are considered more positive (13,14). As a consequence of this logic, this could suggest that having higher Emotional Intelligence could have the potential to make it easier for an individual to handle the event of stress as they possess the tools to perhaps emotionally frame things from a more positive lens and therefore, deal with emotions better. Some research has also suggested that children that possess Emotional Intelligence are much happier and have better health and these characteristics work in their favour in terms of achieving well academically (15).
Furthermore, other research has suggested that in some scenarios having a reduced amount of Emotional Intelligence skills could be linked with a higher rate of anxiety, depression and social issues (3). An individual being able to comprehend, be aware of, regulate their internal state and motivate themselves plays a significant role in how an individual handles various situations (3). The findings of a study also suggest that having particular types of Emotional Intelligence can act as a buffer against stress (16). For example, having skills that enable one to manage their emotions could allow them to maintain a positive mood which consequently could reduce the likelihood of experiencing depression (16).
The workplace is an area where Emotional Intelligence has been suggested to have a positive influence in terms of workplace productivity and success. Seeing as many of us spend a large proportion of our time at work and in organisations, it makes sense that the big bosses want to better understand why this is the case. Especially as this aspect could be integrated into interventions and these skills could be nurtured if there's potential that they could have a positive influence on behaviour in the workplace.
It has been suggested that individuals who are regarded as having higher Emotional Intelligence are better at getting their ideas across and confidently presenting their intentions and therefore, they integrate well into the workplace (4). On top of that, individuals who possess higher levels of Emotional Intelligence may have good social skills which allow them to work well as a team and specifically excel at tasks that involve integrating emotion with other aspects (17,18). In a workplace study, there was a relationship found between higher levels of Emotional Intelligence with increases in merit and job status (19). This shows that having emotion-based skills could contribute to how a person can cooperate with others and also how they can ascend to higher levels in terms of occupational success (19).
Emotional Intelligence Could Help You Reach Your Potential
All in all, Emotional Intelligence is an area which can have a powerful impact across many areas of our lives. Having a higher level of Emotional Intelligence could have a range of positive effects. For example, in managing our emotional states but also potentially affecting how well we relate and communicate with others. It makes sense as to why there is a lot of interest surrounding this area, especially as it has fantastic potential to improve our lives across the board, awareness of ourselves and others. Wouldn't you want to have improved health and well-being? Wouldn't it be great to work better with others and be more successful? The existing research out there is encouraging and suggests skills related to Emotional Intelligence should be paid closer attention to enable us to reach our potential. It's time to tap into this area and elevate our lives so we can reach new heights!