5 Components of Emotional Intelligence

5 Components of Emotional Intelligence

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Have you ever known people who always seem to keep their cool, who are able to handle even the most awkward social situations with grace, and who always seem to make others feel at ease? Chances are pretty high that those individuals possess what psychologists refer to as emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence involves the ability to understand and manage emotions. Experts agree that this type of intelligence plays an important role in success, and some have suggested that emotional intelligence might even be more important than IQ. In any case, research has has suggested that emotional intelligence is linked to everything from decision-making to academic achievement.  

So what does it take to be emotionally intelligent? Psychologist and best-selling author Daniel Goleman has suggested that there are five components critical to emotional intelligence. Take a look at these five factors and see if there might be things that you can do to improve your skills in each area. Once you finish this article, take our Emotional Intelligence Quiz and see how you do!


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

In order 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 are also capable of recognizing 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 this self-awareness have a good sense of humor, are confident in themselves and their abilities, and are aware of how other people perceive them.


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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 lock-down and hiding your true feelings – it simply means waiting for the right time, place, and avenue to express your emotions. 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. Goleman also suggests that those with strong self-regulation skills are high in conscientiousness. They are thoughtful of how they influence others and take responsibility for their own actions.

Social Skills

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Being able to interact well with others is another important aspect of emotional intelligence. True emotional understanding involves more than just understanding your own emotions and the feelings 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, while workers can benefit by being able to develop a strong rapport with leaders and co-workers. Some important social skills include active listening, verbal communication skills, nonverbal communication skills, leadership, and persuasiveness.


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Empathy, or the ability to understand how others are feeling, is absolutely critical to emotional intelligence. But this 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, for example, it will likely influence how you respond to that individual. You might treat them with extra care and concern or you might make an effort to buoy their spirits.

Being empathetic also allows people to understand the power dynamics that often influence social relationships, especially in workplace settings. Those competent in this area are able to sense who possess power in different relationships, understand how these forces influence feelings and behaviors, and accurately interpret different situations that hinge on such power dynamics.


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Intrinsic motivation also plays a key role in emotional intelligence. People who are emotionally intelligent are motivated by things beyond mere external rewards like fame, money, recognition, and acclaim. Instead, they have a passion to fulfill their own inner needs and goals. They seek things that lead to 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 the initiative when a task is put forth before them.


Goleman, D. (1998). Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam.

The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. (n.d.). The emotional competence framework. Retrieved from www.eiconsortium.org.

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