Emotional Intelligence

What Emotional Intelligence Is: Definition

6 Mins read

What emotional intelligence is: A Definitive definition.

Emotional intelligence is simply the ability that each and everyone of us possesses, its your ability to notice your emotions and other people’s, being aware of them at each and every instance, analyzing them and being able to take the right step in addressing them.

Every person has a different level of emotional intelligence which can be measured by the very many standardized emotional quotient tests and quizzes.

– TheSchoolOfLife | Youtube

“There are certain emotions that will kill your drive; frustration and confusion. You can change these to a positive force.  Frustration means you are on the verge of a breakthrough.  Confusion can mean you are about to learn something.  Expect the breakthrough and expect to learn.” 

— Kathleen Spike, Master Certified Coach

Difference between emotional intelligence and emotional quotient

Emotional intelligence, like previously stated is the ability to notice your emotions and other people’s, being aware of them at each and every instance, analyzing them and being able to take the right step in addressing them, whereas Emotional quotient is a level or score given to an individual showing his level of emotional intelligence. This is done through a set of standardized tests and quizzes.

I will talk about these emotional intelligence tests and quizzes later on in this article, stick with me.

Types/Components of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is described by four traits/components that sum up the whole concept, that is: self awareness, social awareness, self management and relationship management. These aspects describe what emotional intelligence is and the areas in which you can improve so as to have a high Emotional intelligence and get a high score on the emotional quotient tests.

  • Self-awareness: This is the ability to identify, recognize, and understand your own emotions. Self-awareness needs us to tune into our feelings and not avoid our negative emotions such as anxiety, fear and sadness. Knowing our own emotional states and how they affect our thoughts, behaviors, and decisions is the key to cultivating self-awareness.
  • Self management: It has to do with our ability to control strong emotions by not acting on raw feelings in an impulsive or destructive manner. Mastering the ability to sit with unpleasant feelings and to give ourselves the time and space to decide how we may reduce negative feelings cultivates self-confidence. Better decision-making comes from not reacting solely from an emotionally charged state.
  • Social awareness: When you empathize with others, you develop deeper and more intimate relationships with them. Empathy is the sole identity of social management, it gives you the ability to recognize how and why people feel the way they do. Developing empathy enhances our experiences, relationships, and general understanding of ourselves, other people and the world around us.
  • Social management: This means having the ability to communicate in a clear, concise, and courteous manner. It is the ability to use your self awareness, self management and social skills to recognize, acknowledge and address other people’s feelings and emotions.

Story Time : Low emotional intelligence example

I have always been fascinated with how people “work”, I know, poor choice of words, but you get my point. I have always wondered what makes us tick, what makes us act the way we act, is there a logic or sequence to it, or are we just like animals driven by our natural instincts.

This curiosity has led me to investigate many behavioral science aspects such as self awareness, mindfulness and emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the biggest aspect that caught my attention especially when I came to realize how many people live and act on “auto-pilot” – meaning that they don’t have any control or even care to have any control over their emotions and decisions, in short, they just flow with the motions.

A while back I dated this gorgeous Kikuyu lady, she was amazing, she could cook, sing(most of the time), she could make a complete conversation with my friends without raising any red flags …..hahaha pun intended.

So it happened that I lost my sister at the beginning of last year. I was depressed, I couldn’t concentrating on anything. I held this information from her for a week or so, but when I finally told her, I was surprised at her reaction. The conversation went like this:

Me: Hey, am sorry i have been distanced of late, something happened when i was at home, long story short, I lost my sister. I have just come from attending her funeral like a week . I know I should have told you earlier but it was too much for me to believe let alone tell anyone else about it.

Her: (starts crying)

Me: (Feeling concerned about her crying), why are you crying, its okay, I know how to deal with this.

Her: Naah its not that, its just that this reminds me of what happened to me when I lost my dad. It was devastating, I was depressed too, it took me so long to find the strength to move on. That is why it makes me cry every time I think about it….


Did you just see what happened?

In a matter of a second the conversation and emotional turmoil changed from being about me and what I went through to her and what she went through, she felt sad and depressed not because of what I was going through but because of what it reminded her of.

I know what you are thinking, that it was my fault for choosing the wrong kind of person or am just overthinking this…..that may be the case, but the fact is that most of the people around you are like that.

It has become apparently clear in the society that what doesn’t affect people directly is almost oblivious to them. One may say that people only care about themselves. This is based on a famous Swahili saying, “Mzigo wa mwenziwo ni kanda la usufi.”, Basically it means that you can’t understand or relate to someone else’s problems. And if you do, its only because you went through a similar experience.

This is where emotional intelligence comes in, emotional intelligence helps us understand our own feelings and other people’s feelings through self-awareness, social awareness, self management and relationship management. Thus improving your emotional intelligence will improve your general awareness and general happiness. 1

This is achieved through the observation of the many non-verbal cues that everyone shows at all times. Emotional intelligence is when you are able to look for these non-verbal cues, understand them and be able to act in a way that may address the issue without an it escalating or causing stress.

Why Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

My mother once told me, “Your brain(IQ) will take you to many places but it is your (EQ) that is going to make you happy.” Emotional intelligence is basically the recipe for a stress free and stable life given the fact that failure, heartbreak, regrets and disappointments are a part of life.

Emotional intelligence helps you; 2

  • To improve your physical health through managing your stress that can lead to serious health issues.
  • To take care of your mental health. Uncontrolled emotions and stress over a long duration has been seen to result in serious mental breakdowns and disorders. It helps you manage these emotions and make meaningful relationships.
  • To develop high social intelligence to recognize friend from foe, measure another person’s interest in you, reduce stress, balance your nervous system through social communication, and feel loved and happy.
  • To forge great relationships by understanding your emotions and how to control them, you’re better able to express how you feel and understand how others are feeling.
  • To navigate the social complexities of the workplace, lead and motivate others, and excel in your career.When it comes to gauging important job candidates, many companies now rate emotional intelligence as important as technical ability and employ EQ testing before hiring. 3

Emotional Intelligence Tests/Quizzes

Researchers have proven that some of the people with the most fabulous IQ scores are doing poorly in life. They are wasting their potential by thinking, behaving and communicating in a way that hinders their chances to succeed.

Emotional intelligence was made popular by a best selling book by Daniel Goleman: Emotional Intelligence: Why it is more important than IQ. Its based on years of research by various scientists such as Howard Gardner, Robert Sternberg, Peter Salovey, John Meyer, Jack Block e.t.c .

The book went to show how emotional quotient is way more important than the intelligence quotient because of the wide range of abilities involved. Therefore, people with high emotional intelligence tend to be more successful in life than those with lower EQ even if their classical IQ is average. (Psycology Today, 2018)

This is why very many emotional intelligence tests have been formulated to help people understand their level of emotional intelligence. These tests give an insight into who you are but are by no means meant to define you. EQ can be improved through mindful practices and exercising self awareness.

Many websites offer these emotional intelligence tests for free, all of them have a standard format and for this case I will recommend the most widely used; from Psychology Today.

NB// The accuracy of this emotional intelligence test is based on your honesty and accuracy. If you are unsure of yourself I recommend you take it at least 3 times for a clear answer.


  1. Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jennifer Shubin(October 2019). Improving emotional intelligence(EQ), Helpguide.org
  2. Paula Durlofsky, PhD, (July 2018). Benefits of Emotional Intelligence, Psychcentral.com
  3. Global leadership
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About author
I'm a psychology enthusiast and a fried chicken lover. I write bite sized articles unpacking the complexities of the human mind. The mission is to advocate for what's more important in life - the pursuit of the truth and the highest good one can do with that truth - for themselves, the people around them and the society as a whole.
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