Intelligence in its basic form is the ability to reason, comprehend and learn. While some people are born with an innate mental acuity, most of us become more intelligent and act more intelligently as we grow older and experience different things. This type of cognitive intelligence might create a genius, but it does not always invest heavily in the feelings or motives of others.

Emotional intelligence focuses less on the external world and more on psychology. It’s introspective, and it examines the effect our words and actions have on other people. In many ways, it’s a more admirable trait than mere intelligence. People who are emotionally intelligent think in the moment and respond dynamically during interactions with other people.

Without being too yielding or saccharine, emotionally intelligent people are invariably likeable. And they’re successful. Others want to work with them and work well for them. The good news is, this is something that can be learnt. Anyone can take an emotional intelligence test or improve themselves with emotional intelligence training. So, what are the key areas to work on?

Key Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence consists chiefly of two aspects; self-awareness and awareness of others.


It’s easy to go about day-to-day life without really seeing how our behaviour affects others. Most people have that “blind spot” in their character to some extent. Self-awareness means being attuned to your own emotions so you can keep them under control and behave calmly and rationally. It also means recognising our own strengths and weaknesses. In businesses, this latter ability to self-assess helps managers to make informed choices in the work they do or delegate to others.

Closely linked to self-awareness is self-regulation. This is where knowledge of oneself is put to good use. Many undesirable traits are impulsive ones that manifest themselves when we’re stressed or under pressure. Those people who are self-aware can control these impulses and act with humility, which in turn leads to greater respect and trust from employees or colleagues. Ultimately, that’s good for productivity and performance.

There are several ways of increasing self-awareness. One method is to write things down, such as how you reacted or what you were feeling during specific situations. After a while, this helps people predict their emotions before a situation arises and adjust accordingly for a better outcome. Behaving proactively rather than reactively is generally a good thing.

Awareness of Others

Awareness of others is a skill that has to be developed to be emotionally intelligent. And it doesn’t mean awareness of their presence, though that is a start. Instead, it refers to an ability to read people’s emotions and be cognisant of the effect your words and actions have upon them. To achieve this also requires humility. It’s not possible to be emotionally intelligent while belittling, dismissing or negatively judging others’ feelings or responses.

To improve empathy for others, there are several possible techniques. It helps to put yourself in their position and try to understand how they might feel in a given situation. DISC assessments improve empathy since they reveal personal characteristics and how people are likely to respond in various circumstances. Listening carefully and watching for visual signs of emotion are also part of this process.

The antithesis of empathy is evident in many areas of life. When driving, for instance, it’s easy to curse other drivers for their lack of attention or courtesy. Still, we usually haven’t a clue what external factors may be affecting their behaviour. This type of stressful everyday occurrence is helped by emotional intelligence. The same is true of events in the workplace. Relationships and results become more positive when people are more rational and less impulsive or judgemental.

An emotional intelligence assessment sets people on the road to improving themselves as well as their effectiveness inside a company or business. Managers or HR professionals who know how to communicate with staff and gain their respect are an asset to a company, able to increase performance and reduce employee turnover.

Other Facets of Emotional Intelligence

Other elements contribute to emotional intelligence, such as self-motivation and social skills. These are interrelated with self-awareness and awareness of others. Motivation often starts from within, but there are various ways to spark it. And it’s contagious; it inspires employees and colleagues to strive for their best. Social skills may improve through exterior training, but they’ll also evolve naturally by employing the necessary methodology for self-awareness and empathy.

Emotional intelligence helps people achieve personal and professional contentment. It’s a valuable add-on to cognitive intelligence that may make the difference between failure and success, whether at work or in life.