There are mixed reviews on the development of Emotional intelligence (EI). Some researchers suggest that it can be learned and strengthened via training while others claim it’s a characteristic you are born with. EI is the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. The ability to express and control our emotions is an essential skill but so is the ability to understand, interpret, and respond to others’ emotions. People often relate EI to empathy. Now, empathy and sympathy are NOT the same. Sympathy is feeling sorry or sad for someone whereas empathy is the ability to understand and feel how that person feels.

A large part of EI is being able to think about and empathise with how other people are feeling. This involves considering how you would react if you were in the same situation. People who have strong EI are able to consider the perspectives, experiences and emotions of other people and then use this information to explain why people behave the way that they do. In turn, people with high EI are not just good at thinking about how other people feel but they are also very good at understanding their own feelings. EI allows people to consider multiple factors that contribute to their emotions and allows deeper self awareness. 

People who are high in EI also know that emotions can be very powerful but temporary. So, the key part is allowing time for emotions to change. When a highly charged emotional event happens, the emotionally intelligent response would be to take some time before responding. This allows everyone to calm down and think more rationally. 

How Emotional Intelligence Is Measured

Numerous kinds of assessments have appeared to measure levels of EI. Tests generally fall into two categories: self-report tests and ability tests.

Self-report tests are the most common because they are the easiest to use. On these tests, those taking the test respond to questions or statements by rating their own behaviors. For example, “I often feel that I understand how others are feeling,” then you rate the statement as ‘disagree’, ‘somewhat disagree’, ‘agree’, or ‘strongly agree’.

Ability tests involve people responding to situations and then assessing their skills. These tests require people to demonstrate their abilities which are then rated by another person.

How to use Emotional Intelligence

EI can be used in numerous ways in your daily life. Some different ways to practice are: Accepting criticism and responsibility, moving on after making a mistake, being able to say no when you need to, sharing your feelings with others, having empathy for other people, having great listening skills, knowing why you do the things you do, and not being judgemental of others.

EI is essential for good interpersonal communication and fortunately for us all, there are things that we can do to strengthen social and emotional intelligence. Understanding emotions can be the key to better relationships, improved well-being, and stronger communication skills. 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Stef Gafa’ is a counsellor with Willingness who has a particular interest in trauma, attachment, domestic violence and the LGBT community.