Emotional Intelligence: Why It is Important and How to Develop It



"I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." — Maya Angelou

You have certainly heard about IQ, but you may not be so familiar with EI/EQ (emotional intelligence) and how important it is in your life. If this describes you, then read on and discover what emotional intelligence (EQ) is, why it is important, and most importantly, the steps that you can take to develop it so that you may enjoy the benefits that EQ brings.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

At the simplest level, emotional intelligence refers to your ability to process not just your emotions, but also the emotions of others, so that you can make decisions based on what is going on and the information at hand.

Emotional intelligence can be broadly looked at from five different perspectives, namely;

  • Self-awareness, or the ability to recognize and process your emotions and those of others.
  • Self-regulation, or your ability to manage disruptive or negative emotions within yourself.
  • Empathy, or your ability to understand or relate to how other people are feeling so that your responses to those people are based on understanding of their emotional states.
  • Self-motivation, which refers to your ability to look within rather than seek for external sources of approval or praise.
  • Social skills, or your ability to relate well with those around you on the basis of having a proper understanding of how emotions influence interpersonal relationships.

Unlike general intelligence (IQ) that is fairly fixed, emotional intelligence (EQ) isn’t fixed and can be developed if one puts in the effort to improve or better themselves. 

Why EQ is Important?

Before you embark on the journey to improving your emotional intelligence, you may be wondering how useful it could be?

As you may know, we are largely emotional beings and whether we admit it or not, many of the decisions we make are influenced by the way we feel about a particular issue.

Here are some of the ways a high EQ can benefit us in the different spheres of our lives;

Higher resilience to stressors. EQ keeps us from taking things personal and boosts our resilience in the face of adversity. For example, it is stressful to lose a job, but people with high EQ don’t take it so personally and easily bounce back compared to those with a lower EQ who may lash out at their former employer or do other “crazy” things in response to the job loss.

Better interpersonal relationships. When you are aware of your own emotions and those of others, you are better placed to form meaningful and lasting relationships. It is easier to form trust and to go deeper and formulate an authentic relationship.

Better decision-making. It is not what happens but how we react that defines who we are. People with higher EQ pause and evaluate whether their response to a situation is the most helpful, while those with low EQ are driven by their emotions and often make decisions that they later regret.

Self-motivation is a breeze for people with high EQ since they are aware of their values and how those values drive them, unlike people with low EQ who seek validation and praise from external forces. Constantly seeking for the approval of others can be an exhausting exercise!

Self-management is easier if your EQ is high because you have a degree of control over your impulses. Think about an ER doctor who calmly performs surgery on an auto accident victim while everyone else is freaking out.

Better job performance due to the healthier relationships between the person with high EQ and their workmates. People with higher EQ also make better leaders since they are better at influencing the behavior of their teams towards attaining set goals.

How to Improve Your EQ?

Now that you have seen some of the reasons why having a high EQ is important, let us turn our attention to some of the steps that you can take to develop your own emotional intelligence.

Improve Your Self-Awareness. You cannot change what you don’t know, so the first step as you improve your EQ is to increase your self-awareness. Start by being mindful about everything you do and all the decisions you make (as opposed to running on autopilot). Next, determine how you feel about the things you do or the decisions you make. As you become more self-aware, you will know your limitations and your strengths, and this will put you on a path to improving your EQ.

Channel Your Emotions. As you become more aware of your emotions, begin directing or channeling them in ways that serve you. For example, you may have noticed that you get angry each time you find your house disorganized. Rather than lashing out at your kids and other family members, you can channel that anger into showing how you would like different rooms to be organized, and then give a compliment to each person who follows your instructions.

Learn How to Motivate Yourself. Motivation is about emotions, and one way to develop your EQ is to find ways to motivate yourself so that you don’t rely on external factors to drive you. For example, if you discover that one of your biggest values is being of service to the community around you, let that love for serving others be your driving force to look for opportunities to volunteer or serve society in other ways. Don’t wait for motivation, act and grow the motivation along the way.

Understand the Emotions of Others. Make a conscious effort to identify and understand how the people around you feel, listen deeply, ask good questions and then use this newfound understanding to tweak how you relate with them. For example, if you notice that someone is feeling down, hold off on making a sarcastic comment about their attire since their emotional state makes such a sarcastic comment to be out of line.

Connect Your Emotions to Values. How happy you are will depend on how everything around you is in alignment with your deep-rooted values. Developing emotional intelligence therefore has a component of linking your emotions to the values that you live by so that all your actions and decisions are selected based on how aligned they are with who you are at a deeper level.

As you can see, emotional intelligence (EQ) is an important aspect in our lives and it isn’t farfetched to use it as a predictor of how successful one may be in life. Fortunately, you can begin now to improve your emotional intelligence today. Use the recommendations above to begin this journey and watch the quality of your life improve!


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