What is Emotional Intelligence and How to Build it in Your Own Life

by | Sep 20, 2023 | Mental Health, Well-being | 0 comments

If you have ever wondered why some people excel in their personal and professional lives while others struggle to find their footing, you are not alone. The answer lies in a remarkable trait known as emotional intelligence. Unlike intellectual intelligence, emotional intelligence focuses on understanding and managing our own emotions and those of others. It is a skill that can be cultivated and honed, leading to better relationships and improved decision-making. Below, we will explore the concept of emotional intelligence and its key components, and provide practical tips on how to develop it in your own life.

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is made up of five different components: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Each of these is equally important and all serve a different purpose.

  • Self-awareness involves recognizing our own emotions and understanding how they impact our thoughts and behaviors. 
  • Self-regulation is the ability to manage and control our emotions, particularly in challenging situations. 
  • Motivation is what drives us to set and achieve meaningful goals. 
  • Empathy allows us to understand and share the feelings of others, fostering deeper connections. 
  • Social skills enable effective communication, conflict resolution, and collaboration.
The History of Emotional Intelligence

Although the term “Emotional Intelligence” was first coined in the 90s, its origins stretch much further back in time. Ancient philosophical traditions from Greece and the East laid the groundwork for the concept of emotional intelligence. Socrates and Confucius brought awareness to concepts like self-awareness, self-control, and empathy, recognizing the profound influence of emotions on human behavior and relationships.

Later, psychologists like Edward Thorndike and David Wechsler introduced the idea of “social intelligence,” focusing on non-cognitive skills in navigating social interactions. Their work paved the way for understanding the importance of emotional competence in human behavior.

Ultimately, though, it was the research of psychologist John D. Mayer in the 90s that solidified the idea of emotional intelligence. He defined it as a set of abilities that enable individuals to recognize, understand, and manage emotions in themselves and others. His findings shed light on the practical applications of emotional intelligence in personal and professional success.

The book, “Emotional Intelligence,” brought the concept to life in 1995. Daniel Goleman, the author, promoted the idea that emotional intelligence could be a more significant predictor of success than the traditional measures of intelligence. His work underscored the relevance of emotional awareness and competence in diverse domains, sparking a global fascination with the field. 

Since then, research on emotional intelligence has expanded exponentially, exploring its impact on mental health, decision-making, and organizational effectiveness. It has revolutionized educational curricula, workplace training programs, and personal development approaches.

How Does Emotional Intelligence Benefit Us?

Having emotional intelligence is incredibly beneficial as it allows us to improve our relationships with others. This can lead to a wide range of benefits, including growing in our careers, finding healthy romantic relationships, and building a large community of friends. When we are emotionally intelligent, other people may be naturally drawn to us. People who have high emotional intelligence are better equipped to be good friends, significant others, and leaders.

Are Some People Born with Emotional Intelligence?

Some people might have a higher natural disposition for emotional intelligence compared to others, but this is hard to confirm. While everyone has the capacity to develop emotional intelligence, individuals inevitably vary in their innate abilities to recognize and manage their own emotions as well as the emotions of others. 

More than likely, genetics play less of a role in the development of emotional intelligence than environmental factors do. Experiences that teach us empathy at a young age are more likely a contributor. Additionally, people who actively work on their interpersonal skills are going to have higher emotional intelligence levels than those who do not.

How To Build Emotional Intelligence

If you have found yourself on a mission to increase your own emotional intelligence, there are quite a few different ways that you can go about this. Consider the following in order to begin improving your emotional intelligence.

Developing Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. To develop this skill, practice mindfulness, take time for self-reflection, and seek honest feedback from trusted individuals. By becoming more attuned to our emotions and patterns of behavior, we can make conscious choices that align with our values and aspirations.

Mastering Self-Regulation

Self-regulation provides us with the power to manage our emotions in a healthy and productive manner. When we are inevitably faced with stress or adversity, we can practice deep breathing exercises, challenge negative thoughts, and work on improving our patience. Developing self-regulation allows us to respond rather than react, leading to improved decision-making and better overall emotional well-being. This is beneficial for a multitude of reasons and can help us avoid conflict.

Cultivating Empathy

To put it simply, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. To foster empathy, practice active listening, put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and show compassion. Cultivating empathy not only strengthens relationships but also promotes a deeper understanding of diverse perspectives, which is especially important in the world today. Empathy is arguably one of the most important traits a person can have and even if it does not come naturally, it can be built.

Nurturing Motivation

Motivation plays a huge role in achieving our goals and sustaining our drive. In order to improve motivation, set clear and objective goals and find purpose in your actions. Without understanding why you are doing something, it can be hard to experience high levels of motivation. For example, if you are working out but are not sure whether you want to lose weight or build muscle, you might not be able to stay consistent. 

Uncovering the ‘why’ behind what you are doing is incredibly helpful when it comes to staying on track. Also, building resilience and maintaining a positive mindset are key factors in staying motivated during challenging times.

Enhancing Social Skills

Strong social skills are the foundation of our ability to build and maintain healthy relationships. Without them, you are likely to experience higher levels of conflict and lower levels of social satisfaction. You might find yourself butting heads with coworkers, fighting with loved ones, or spending more time alone. 

Effective communication and conflict resolution are two key components of social intelligence, so building these skills are essential. Seek to understand the perspective of others and practice expressing yourself assertively. As a result, you will experience stronger connections and increased success in personal and professional domains.

If you feel that your emotional intelligence could stand to be improved, rest assured that you are more than able to do this on your own. With the help of the strategies above, you can increase your ability to understand and help the people around you. Over time, you will likely find that more people are drawn to you and your personal relationships are flourishing.

We Can Help!

MHThrive provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit to learn more.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any mental health or substance abuse issues, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Online Treatment Programs provides Teletherapy Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Programs allowing participants to receive intensive therapy with our licensed therapists and psychiatrists without having to leave home.  If you or someone you know is struggling to overcome depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, trauma, panic attacks, PTSD, alcoholism, drug abuse, or other mental health or addiction issues, we can help.  To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our teletherapy programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.