Emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to accurately understand one's emotions and recognise the emotions of others. It is a soft skill that is essential for effective collaboration, interpersonal relationships and good communication in the workplace. Today, a wide range of psychologists are studying EQ in order to understand the different emotional competencies and interpersonal skills associated with it, as well as the differences between EQ and Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Not all psychologists agree on the full details of EQ, but most agree that it is a skill that can be developed with experience and training.

In this article, we will explore the key elements of EQ, the difference between EQ vs IQ, the main reasons why a high level of EQ at work is important and how to improve your EQ.  


What are the key elements of emotional intelligence (EQ)?

There are two main models of EQ. The first model, which was developed by Daniel Goleman, includes the five key characteristics of EQ whilst the second model, which was developed by John Mayer and Peter Salovey, defines four key characteristics of EQ.


· Five characteristics of EQ as proposed by Daniel Goleman

Goleman identified the following five key skills in EQ:

  1. Self-awareness: This refers to the ability to understand one's own feelings. Having self-awareness means understanding one's strengths, weaknesses, values, goals, and influence on others.
  2. Self-regulation: This refers to the ability to control one's emotions. Leaders who have good self-control can step back and observe their emotions before reacting, rather than acting on impulse.
  3. Motivation: Motivation is the reason behind your desire to succeed. When we are aware of our motivations, we can demonstrate an empathic understanding of others.
  4. Empathy: This is the ability to perceive the feelings of others. Empathy is often regarded as a fundamental part of mental intelligence, as it forms an important foundation for other emotional states.
  5. Social skills: This refers to the ability to communicate and collaborate with others. Goleman likens social skills to the ability to guide others towards the behaviour you want.


· Four characteristics of EQ as proposed by John Mayer and Peter Salovey

In the study of EQ developed by Mayer and Salovey, they have identified four characteristics such as:

  1. Emotional identification: Refers to the ability to identify the emotions felt by others. Self-awareness and the ability to recognise one's own emotions are also included in this trait.
  2. Use of emotions: Refers to the ability to make use of one's own or another's identified emotions in order to support other cognitive processes, for example problem solving and decision making.
  3. Understanding emotions: The ability to understand how different emotions relate to each other and how these emotions influence the behaviour of oneself and others.
  4. Regulating emotions: The ability to control our own and other people's emotions. Regulating one's own emotions means reducing or withdrawing them to carry out the task at hand. On the other hand, this trait also includes the ability to regulate the emotions of those around you to achieve your goals.


Emotional Intelligence (EQ) vs Intelligence Quotient (IQ)

IQ is an abbreviation for 'Intelligence Quotient'. As it is a commonly accepted term, many people assume a person with a high IQ as having a good memory and being able to study and work well.

Until now, one of the most popular indicators of a person's ability has been their educational background, such as a Master's or Bachelor's degree. For this reason, it was generally assumed that people with higher education should therefore have a higher IQ, and would be more successful in business. This is also the reason why schooling and a high level of education has always been encouraged.

However, having a high IQ does not necessarily mean that you will be successful. If you can't communicate well with others in an organisation such as in school or at your workplace, it will likely create challenges especially in your social life. In the book "Courage to be Disliked", an introduction to Adlerian psychology that has sold over 2 million copies in Japan, it is written that all human problems are interpersonal problems. No matter what kind of problems we have, there is always someone else involved.

As such, you can only make the most of your IQ if you also have a high level of EQ to make your relationships work.


Why is Emotional Intelligence (EQ) important at work?

A number of academic studies have suggested that people with a high EQ are more likely to succeed in business because you will likely be able to:

  • Collaborate effectively with teammates
  • Think first before acting or reacting
  • Reduce impulsive reactions and instinctive behaviour
  • Overcome problems both at home and at work
  • Deal with conflicts
  • Communicate well in the workplace
  • Solve problems
  • Build stronger relationships
  • Deal with emotions
  • Have empathy for others
  • Cultivate a synergy between yourself and your teammates

Below are two examples of research on the correlation between EQ and work performance.


①Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis is an author on leadership studies, having served as an advisor to former US Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. In his famous book “Becoming a Leader”, he says, "Leaders are not made by natural talent”. The book is based on the idea that anyone can become a leader if they understand their own character and values and develop their talents and qualities.

“Emotional intelligence is more important than IQ or expertise," he says. He added that more than 80% of success at work depends on EQ and that while IQ is an essential part of being a businessperson, high IQ is not a factor in social success. On the other hand, when it comes to the correlation between EQ and business, he makes a point of mentioning the importance of EQ at work, stating that people with a high EQ can often be special.


②Mark Murphy

According to leadership research expert Mark Murphy, "there is a correlation between high emotional intelligence and high work performance". He surveyed 21,008 employees for a new report, “The State Of Leadership Development In 2020” by consulting firm Leadership IQ, assessing the capabilities of leaders.

In the study, Murphy suggests a link between leadership and EQ. The analogy is that people with a high EQ are characterised by a high level of self-awareness and an accurate understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. They also have a healthy self-confidence and are not overly emotional or upset when they make mistakes. In another word, they can focus their attention objectively on what needs to be corrected. They are tolerant of other people's mistakes and differing values and are not prejudiced or negative towards others. “These traits of high emotional intelligence have contributed to their success at work”, he says.


How to improve your Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

Fortunately, EQ is a set of soft skills that can be taught and developed to improve you or your team’s performance. There are four quadrants to implement EQ in the workplace. This will help you in an environment you may not have experienced before.


First quadrant of EQ: Be aware of your feelings and values

The first quadrant of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. This involves being aware of your emotions and their impact as well as understanding your strengths and limitations. Especially at times when we are experiencing very high levels of stress, it is even more important to stop and develop self-awareness.

You also need to be honest with yourself about how you feel and spend some time reflecting on the values that are most important to you. Perhaps you've done something similar before and if you have, a crisis like this is a good time to re-evaluate what is important to you. Think about your core values. Have they evolved over time? Which ones resonate with you at the moment? Write them down to help you remember what's most important to you. When you feel overwhelmed by too many things at once, having a strong set of core values to refer to will help you prioritise where to spend your time and energy.


Second quadrant of EQ: Practice mindfulness when dealing with strong emotions

Self-management, the second quadrant of EQ, can be practiced by striving for a positive response when faced with an event that causes strong emotions. Think about a time when you experienced overwhelming emotions. For example, a colleague may give you harsh feedback that makes you feel angry or upset. To learn to react positively in these situations, first stop and take a moment to identify how you are feeling. Only after recognising your feelings will it enable you to look at the situation calmly to deal with it.

Once you have identified your feelings, take a few deep breaths and reset. Once you feel calmer, you will be clearer about the best way to deal with the situation. It sounds so simple, but managing strong emotional reactions takes practice. It is perfectly normal to have a range of emotions during difficult times.


Third quadrant of EQ: Connect with your team on a regular basis

Do you often check in with your team to ask, "How are you doing? How can I help you?"

Social awareness, the third quadrant of EQ, is our ability to handle relationships and empathise with the needs and feelings of others. Kind, caring and honest words can be powerful tools for building relationships and practising social awareness.

Now that many of us work remotely, we need to think even deeper about how we communicate with our teammates. Talk to your colleagues individually to understand how they are feeling, if there is anything you can do to help, and listen intently to their answers. We use online tools to encourage team members to develop connections, increase their sense of belonging and build resilience. Colleagues who understand each other better are more likely to empathise with each other.


Fourth quadrant of EQ: Remember to empathise with the team, especially when there is conflict

The fourth quadrant is relationship management, which indicates your skills and proficiency in guiding others to the desired response, encouraging change and negotiating conflict. When trying to resolve conflicts in stressful situations, there is always the possibility of overreacting when emotions run high. It takes training to be able to think clearly and maintain a calm demeanour.

Think back to a time when you were in a stressful situation. For example, you may have been working hard to meet a deadline, yet a colleague turned in your assignment late. Thinking back on your own experience, what was your reflex response? What do you think was the best response at that time? In today's environment, it is especially important to have open and honest conversations with your colleagues. This will help to diffuse tensions and resolve conflicts. It also allows us to productively brainstorm solutions when we need to adapt to changing situations. Regardless of the situation, practising empathy is key to overcoming interpersonal conflict and building stronger relationships. All of these will help you to build your EQ in the workplace.


Online tests for Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

EQ is a relatively new concept and is still being studied by a number of psychologists. As a result, unlike IQ, there is no one best way to measure it. However, there are now free diagnostic tools available online that allow you to measure your EQ by answering a series of questions such as:


Emotional intelligence jobs

If you have a high EQ, that’s a plus but not every job may require the same level of EQ. For example, if you’re an engineer whose main job is writing codes, EQ is not as important as if you’re in sales or marketing. Forbes mentioned that emotional intelligence jobs are those that require a lot of emotional labour. Coaches or nurses, for example, have a lot of interpersonal interactions and need a high level of empathy.

What are some of the best careers for emotional intelligent people especially with in-demand IT skill sets?


  • Sales – Salespeople are required to manage their reactions to repeated “no”. If they’re too empathetic, they may not be able to push prospects to close the deal. In addition, sales professionals with strong social skills are likely to be successful at prospecting as they’re able to maintain a larger and stronger network. They also know how to “read a room” and adjust their own behavior to get outcomes they desire to get.


  • MarketingMuseum Hack sees marketing as an ideal field for people with high EQ. Stacy Caprio, founder of Accelerated Growth Marketing, too agrees that marketing needs more empathetic people, saying that “Empaths are often able to think about what’s best for others”. Therefore, if you’re an empath, marketing is one of the best options as they are typically good at predicting responses to a campaign, which puts them in a good position when considering how to promote their products or services.


  • UX (User Experience) Design – UX designers are responsible for curating the experience you have when you interact with a website, an app, a video game etc. This is an excellent option for any empathetic person with an eye for strong design.


  • Team Manager – Team managers need the mental composure to lead a team confidently while balancing all other numerous responsibilities that form management. It’s a job which requires patience, composure, and an understanding of how to encourage and inspire the team. Managers also need to be aware of how they are viewed by others and how to relate to their subordinates to earn their respect.


  • Customer Service – People with high EQ don’t let themselves get easily stressed or frustrated, which is a desirable trait for those working in customer service, where tensions can run high in dealing with dissatisfied customers.


Unsurprisingly, the careers for emotionally intelligent people are jobs which involve dealing with people in a respectful and considerate manner. If you’re a person with high EQ, it’s worth considering how you can best apply your special skills at work.

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