Emotional Intelligence: What it is & how to spot it.

19 Jul 2021 | News

You’ve probably heard people talk about emotional intelligence, but what exactly does it mean?

Emotional Intelligence

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand our own emotions as well as the emotions of others. It allows us to understand how these emotions drive our behaviour and the behaviour of others. Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness and impulse control, persistence, zeal and motivation, empathy, and social skills. These are the qualities that identify people who excel, whose relationships thrive and who are stars in the workplace.

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher summed it up perfectly when he said ‘Anyone can be angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy’.

Psychologist Howard Gardner from the Harvard School of Education summarizes personal emotional intelligence into two categories. Firstly, interpersonal intelligence which is the ability to understand other people – what motivates them, how they work, and how to work with them effectively. Successful salespeople, politicians, teachers, and national leaders are likely to have a high level of interpersonal intelligence. Secondly, we have intrapersonal intelligence which is the ability to look inwards and form an accurate view of ourselves and be able to use the insights to operate effectively in life.

How do we know what emotional intelligence levels people have?


The following are just a few ways to spot the signs of individuals with low levels of emotional intelligence.

  • Low levels of EQ might cause people to have emotional outbursts. They experience rapid changes in their emotions, where strong or passionate feelings occur and they display these emotions. To quote Professor Steve Peters, author of the Chimp Paradox, they let their chimp out of its cage.
  • They have poor coping skills and don’t operate well under pressure. Meaning that they can be highly sensitive, even to the most trivial things and can become angry or upset easily.
  • People with low EQ play the blame game and put the onus on others when things don’t go to plan, rather than being accountable for their actions. If people focus on the ‘bad’ of others, it takes their minds off the bad feelings within themselves.
  • People with low levels of emotional intelligence tend to listen in order to know when they can next contribute to a conversation, instead of listening to absorb, to see the bigger picture and understand the other person’s point of view.
  • Those with low levels of emotional intelligence display low levels of sensitivity. These People do not take other people’s feelings into consideration and so they can’t identify how their words or actions might make other people feel.

The following are a few ways to identify people with high levels of emotional intelligence.

  • Characters with high EQ will feel the anger, but they have control over it and so do not display sudden outbursts. They feel the euphoria but display their happiness in a controlled and non-impulsive manner.
  • They demonstrate humility. It is likely they will perform at the highest standard, deliver major milestones, they are acknowledged as excellent, but they don’t gloat about it. Instead, people with high levels of emotional intelligence accept the praise with a gracious thank you, pass the thanks to others, and continue about their business.
  • They seek feedback, however negative it may be. Feedback is seen as a learning experience and so are open to constructive criticism.
  • High levels of emotional intelligence can be displayed through having a greater understanding of situations. They listen to understand, to see the bigger picture. Allowing them to become more knowledgeable and contribute to conversation and help in solving challenges.
  • They are empathetic towards others and can understand that other people are in different life situations to them and they are able to put themselves in the shoes of others, when problems need to be solved, in order to find a collaborative win-win solution.

How to raise your EQ.

The good news in relation to emotional intelligence is that it can be learned, and it improves with age. It grows over time because of the experiences we have. How a person reacts to an event or occurrence in their mid-twenties is different from how they will react to the same situation in their mid-forties. Life experience is the reason behind different reactions. As people grow older they have learned from mistakes; they can see the error of their ways and they can understand what behaviour enabled their success. As you get older you have the added advantage of hindsight – as the saying goes – hindsight is 20 20 vision! You don’t just grow older, you grow more emotionally wiser, you learn to pause and respond instead of reacting and you learn to listen in order to understand!

If you are interested in learning more about emotional intelligence, why not sign up for our Smart Choice programme where we explore this topic and many others in more detail.