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Does Emotional Intelligence Matter?

Emotions are fascinating but also complicated. You may even know someone who you observe as being emotionally composed, someone who masterfully suppresses emotions, or another person who is quite emotionally explosive. You may even struggle with expressing your feelings out of fear of seeming too emotional to others. I will share Salovey and Mayers definition and their four branches of emotional intelligence in this post.

What is Emotional Intelligence

"The ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions (Salovey & Mayer, 1990, p.190)"

The Four Branches of Emotional Intelligence

  1. Accurately perceive emotions in oneself and others – we communicate verbally and nonverbally. In our interpersonal communications, it is pertinent we recognize and appropriately interpret the emotional reactions of the other person. In this way, we communicate correctly and read the person's emotional responses through their tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions. For example, tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions clue us if the person is excited, angry, or fearful.

  2. Use emotions to facilitate thinking – our beliefs shape our thinking, and our thinking influences our reactions. We prioritize our responses to what we deem worthy of our attention. Our interpretation of what we heard or saw in someone's tone of voice or facial expression serves as a precursor to our emotional reaction to the person.

  3. Understand emotional meanings – it is vital to comprehend the other person's emotional reaction. Deciphering the other person's verbal and nonverbal responses can help us determine if we communicate in meaningful ways. In addition, we get insight into how effectively we are speaking. Sometimes, we overlook our role in how someone reacts by exclusively making their reactions about them rather than them responding to what we are doing. Cultural influences also help us with understanding the meaning of some emotional expressions.

  4. Manage emotions – this is an essential capability to develop. Managing one's emotional reactions is not the same as suppressing your feelings. Instead, managing one's emotions relies on awareness of the thoughts and feelings that precede your response to emotionally charged situations. Our interpretation, beliefs, expectations, and the thing or person we hold responsible for our actions help to shape our emotions.

Our expression of emotions runs on a continuum. We are open about our emotions or keep our emotions to ourselves. As we mature, we become more self-aware of our emotions and the emotions of others.

Marcus Aurelius wrote the words, "when you deal with irrational animals, with things and circumstances, be generous and straightforward. You are rational; they are not. When you deal with fellow human beings, behave as one."

In my interpretation, Aurelius suggests a pragmatic approach to emotional awareness, conflict management, and advocating emotional regulation. Our emotional intelligence is pertinent to our relationships and adapting our behaviors. Further, our ability to emotionally regulate can strengthen our connections in our social, interpersonal, and intrapersonal relationships.

In addition, when Aurelius states, "when you deal with fellow human beings, behave as one," he is not only saying regulate your emotions but also be mindful of the other person's emotions. For example, you can tell the other person's emotions through facial expressions, words, and body language. In short, please pay attention to the person to accurately appraise their emotion.

Still, some people have difficulty expressing their emotions. For example, people who have difficulty recognizing or expressing their emotions are affected by alexithymia. In other words, people with alexithymia struggle with their emotions and the emotions of others, which affects their capacity for emotional intelligence.

Emotions are a powerful guide to behaviors. Not only are emotions powerful, but they are also purposeful in adaptation to environmental challenges. Emotions motivate action when we need to protect ourselves and retreat from a situation we determine as unpleasant or frightening. Emotions influence our sense of accomplishment when:

  • We meet our goals.

  • When we are challenged and need to find a solution, and

  • Trigger our survival instinct.

Low emotion intelligence behavior is passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive. Examples of these behaviors or statements include:

  • "You're so sensitive."

  • "I'm fine; I'm not mad."

  • "Don't be offended, but …."

  • Display nice-nasty behavior and make polite statements but have negative connotations.

  • Insecure about speaking openly about feelings and struggle with saying no when necessary.

  • Threatened by the success of others

  • Tell others how they should feel and think

High emotional intelligence behaviors are assertive. Examples of high emotional intelligence behaviors:

  • Open-minded

  • Self-motivated

  • Self-aware of their behaviors and the way their behaviors contribute to interpersonal conflicts versus holding others responsible for their emotional reactions

  • Set and maintain healthy boundaries

  • They are transparent about expressing their emotions, thoughts, and feelings. They are open-minded about the emotions, thoughts, and feelings of others, respond appropriately to the views of others even if they are not in agreement.

  • Accept responsibility for their actions without deflecting or blaming someone else.

Whatever the circumstances, emotions directly impact our behaviors when things are going well and when we need to mobilize our efforts to deal with unpleasant experiences. Using the four branches of emotional intelligence can influence the resulting behaviors for the best outcomes. Crucial to emotional intelligence are communication and critical thinking.

Please share your thoughts on emotional intelligence in the comment section.

Stay Naturally Curious


Salovey, P. & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, cognition, and personality, 9, 185-211.

Davis, S. F. & Palardino, J. J. (1997). Psychology (2nd ed). Prentice-Hall.

Wade, C. & Tavris, C. (2008). Psychology. (9th ed.). Pearson.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1997). Educational Psychology. CRC Press.

Mayer, John D., "What is Emotional Intelligence?" (2004). UNH Personality Lab. 8.

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