Emotional intelligence (EI) is a hot topic these days. But what exactly is emotional intelligence, and why is it so important? According to Daniel Goleman's groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, while intelligence quotient (IQ) is a measurement of cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence is more difficult to quantify. Goleman summarizes emotional intelligence into five major components:

1. Emotional self-awareness;
2. Management of one's own emotions;
3. Use of emotions to maximize decision-making and intellectual processes;
4. Development of empathy; and
5. Management of social relationships and the emotions of others.

What's more, according to experts, emotional intelligence--or how a person interacts with and relates to other people--may be a more accurate predictor of success than traditional intelligence. Most of us have come in contact with an extremely smart person with whom we'd rather not work or socialize due to an off-putting personality. That person may be an example of someone who has a high IQ but is low on the emotional intelligence scale.

What's Your EI Score?

To assess your own emotional intelligence, answer the following eight questions as honestly as possible. Remember, there are no wrong answers.


  • Do you make an effort to choose the best response to situations, rather than reacting impulsively?
  • Do you acknowledge that others have a right to their own thoughts and feelings, rather than feeling annoyed or threatened by them?
  • Can you communicate about emotions without getting hostile, defensive, or combative?
  • Do you feel empathetic for others facing difficult situations or circumstances?
  • Do you look beyond logic and intellect to emotions when making your decisions?
  • Are you adept at interpreting innuendo and nonverbal cues?
  • Do you practice impulse control, rather than flying off the handle?
  • When you do have an issue with someone, do you wait for an appropriate time and place to address it?

Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence

If you answered "yes" to most of the questions above, you're on the right track. If you answered mostly "no," you could benefit from an EI boost. After all, emotionally intelligent people tend to do better in social and professional situations than those who lack those key skills. So, what can you do to up your score?


  • Label feelings rather than people.

    When angry or frustrated by someone's behavior, it's easy to negatively label the offender. Instead, try to attribute the negative description to the behavior instead of completely writing off the person. For example, "Joe acted thoughtlessly this morning," instead of "Joe is a thoughtless jerk."
  • Take responsibility for your own feelings.

    It's easy to blame unwanted feelings on the actions of others (e.g., "You made me feel badly when you didn't call" or "You make me feel guilty when you do that"). Instead, try to recognize the source of the feelings and take personal responsibility. For example, "I felt badly when you didn't call because I was hoping to talk to you" or "I feel guilty when you work late because I feel like I should be helping you."
  • Validate other people's feelings.

    Most of us have been in a conversation with someone who pretends to be listening to us but who, then without any kind of response, launches into a monologue on a completely different topic. The experience can be demoralizing, causing us to feel ignored or unimportant. When talking to someone, it's vital that you validate the person's feelings. This doesn't necessarily mean agreeing with him or her; it just means hearing and respecting the other person's point of view. A simple "Is that right?" or "Oh, really?" can be effective, as well as repeating back a summary of what the person has said, such as, "It sounds like you support Jane Doe in the upcoming election."
  • Don't criticize, judge, or lecture others.

    It can be tempting to give criticism or advice to others, but unless it's requested, these types of comments are usually not welcome. Gossip should also be avoided, particularly in the workplace. While coworkers may be interested in what you have to say, they may be wondering if you gossip about them as well.
  • Avoid people who invalidate you.

    Simply put, if a person minimizes your feelings, doesn't listen, or brings a toxic aspect to your encounters, avoid him or her as much as possible. Life is too short to spend time with someone who doesn't respect you in the way you deserve.