5 Elements of Emotional Intelligence

Every emotion is a reaction. Choose how you react because you are in control.

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. Some researchers believe it could be learned and strengthened like any other skill whereas other researchers believe it’s innate.

Emotional intelligence is attributed to success in all areas of life whether it’s in our social life with family and friends, or in our work life when dealing with difficult colleagues. Managing your emotional reactions to external stressors is key to living a stress-free life because once those emotions are managed you are able to think clearer allowing yourself to problem solve.

You manage your emotional reactions by choosing how and when to express your feelings. This allows you to react to difficult situations more productively.

Choosing how and when to express your feelings allows you to react to difficult situations more productively.

How to Manage Your Emotions

Take a moment to step back and take a breather in the seconds before you are about to react. Make a conscious effort to choose your reaction to a situation to prevent yourself from saying or doing things that you may regret later on. It’s in your control and most times at emotional highs and lows we don’t realize this.

Have a sense of when to listen and when to speak since your reaction will influence what happens next. Analyze the situation and know when it is best to wait before reacting to a situation emotionally. Your reaction will influence what happens next such as how other people respond to you or how they will feel about themselves after.

We have all been in situations where someone reacted in a way that was too emotional making that situation both awkward and cringeworthy for everyone. Not being able to manage one’s feelings or reactions will lead to this.

Learning how to work with our anxiety, anger, or frustration is crucial. Sometimes knowing when to contain positive emotions is also important. For instance, we want to be able to contain our excitement over our new promotion at a best friend’s great-grandmother’s funeral.

It all comes down to reading the air, adjusting our reaction accordingly and changing our thought patterns about a situation before emotion strikes whether it’s good or bad.

5 Elements of Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman an American psychologist popularized emotional intelligence. According to Goleman, there are 5 key elements to EI:

  1. Self-awareness.
  2. Self-regulation.
  3. Motivation.
  4. Empathy.
  5. Social skills.
Photo by Brock Wegner on Unsplash

(1) Self-awareness

Self-awareness is to be comfortable with your own thoughts and emotions. It’s to understand what you feel and what your feelings mean. Having complete knowledge of your emotions, feelings, behavior, morals, strengths, and weaknesses and realizing how it all affects others around you helps bring out the best in you and others. Think logically about every situation before reacting.

(2) Self-regulation

This next step after understanding your emotions is to be in control of them through self-regulation. Express your emotions appropriately by being thoughtful of how you influence others. Take responsibility for your reactions and feelings.

Self-regulate to control and manage yourself and your emotions, inner resources, and abilities.

Acting on impulse and self-control fall under this key element of EI. When we have self-control by self-regulating our emotions we effectively analyze the situation to make better choices for ourselves instead of making rash decisions.

Turn the negatives into positives with self-regulation. Logically dealing with negative emotions and using them to constructively solve problems is key here. We all know yelling when angry gets us nowhere.

Reframe your mindset from “I’m such an idiot. It’s all my fault,” to “I will learn from this experience and do better next time.”

Implement reflective practice in your daily life as a form of self-regulation. This is when we reflect back on difficult situations with a positive mindset to analyze and understand our emotions.

Think back over situations and realize why you acted the way you did. Reframe your mindset from “I’m such an idiot. It’s all my fault,” to “I will learn from this experience and do better next time.” This will help you respond more calmly or intelligently to a similar situation in the future.

(3) Motivation

Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash

Do you have intrinsic motivation? When you have high emotional intelligence you will be able to motivate yourself without needing external support. Emotionally intelligent people are not motivated by external rewards like money, fame, recognition, and acclaim. They know all that is fleeting or temporary.

According to Goleman those who have an inner passion for what they do are able to sustain motivation which will lead to clearer decision making and understanding of different situational states. Set goals and motivate yourself to reach those goals.

(4) Empathy

Empathy, the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand them, to feel and experience what they are feeling, is important when handling conflict.

Sharing the feelings of the people around us will help us better react and manage our own emotions. People who are empathetic are better at understanding how to respond to others.

When you sense that someone is feeling sad or hopeless, do you treat them with extra care and concern, or make an effort to uplift their spirits? Some empaths may forget to self-regulate and be self-aware of their own emotions due to being overwhelmed by other peoples’ emotions. For an empath, the first two elements of EI are really important.

(5) Social Skills

When you build meaningful relationships with others you achieve a stronger understanding of not just others but also yourself.

So far we discussed why it’s important to be aware of your own emotions and others’ emotions through self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy. We also discussed the importance of intrinsic motivation to know what truly motivates us. Only through social skills can we put it all together.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Social skills are defined as capabilities or aptitudes employed by an individual when interacting with other people on an interpersonal level. This plays an important role in individualization because socializing helps us understand ourselves better which contributes to our self-concept.

We live in a social world in which feedback from others supports our own self-control and the self-regulation of our own behavior. Why? Because our social circle acts as control agents by punishing or reinforcing certain behaviors.

The ability to pick up on jokes, sarcasm, customer service, maintain friendships and relationships are all part of social skills. Emotional maturity is when we have good communication skills and can manage different types of personalities.


Our emotions are essentially the inner changes in the state of our mind and body from a reaction we have to our external world. They give our life meaning. Knowing how to successfully deal with our own emotions in order to deal with other people is emotional intelligence. By understanding your own feelings you can understand and evaluate others and we can do this by incorporating and improving on the five elements of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store