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Emotional Intelligence: What is it and What is its Significance?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Western chapter.

In life, we are all faced with situations that can have major impacts on ourselves, those who are close to us, or even complete strangers. Whether we like it or not, we must make decisions – no matter how big or small – that can change the trajectory of our lives and the lives around us. When carefully considering all options in making a decision, a higher level of emotional intelligence is an asset that can change the game in such a positive way. Many people actually see emotional intelligence as the key to personal and professional growth and success. By being able to use emotional intelligence to your advantage, you might be able to improve your ability to make drastic decisions and handle tough situations with ease. 

So, what is emotional intelligence? Essentially, emotional intelligence consists of five characteristics: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.  By adopting these characteristics, you’ll be able to better understand your own emotions, the emotions of those around you, and how different situations may impact those emotions. Let’s take a deeper dive into understanding each of these characteristics. 

First of all, self-awareness is defined as the conscious knowledge of your own character, feelings, motives, and desires. It seems very straightforward in theory, but in reality, it can be tough to be completely self-aware. You might be faced with situations in which you can’t accurately describe how you feel, or you might do something and look back on the situation having no idea what motivated you to do it. In those situations, I find that taking the time to reflect can be a big help. Through deep reflection – whether that means journalling, or chatting with a close friend – it might become easier for you to uncover your own feelings towards a situation. The acknowledgement of how YOU feel, and how YOU perceive yourself in everyday life can make a major difference in your self-awareness. 

Now, let’s talk about self-regulation. I think the best way to describe self-regulation would be to see it as the next step after self-awareness. Self-regulation is defined as the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses. This comes from knowing why you are experiencing certain emotions and impulses, and being able to decipher if acting on them has influenced you positively or negatively in the past. Unlike self-control, which is more focused on hindering impulses, self-regulation is about being able to identify the cause of your feelings or impulses and manage them 

The next one is pretty straightforward, but as most people know, it can actually be really hard to foster. Motivation is the urge you feel to complete a certain task or a goal. Motivation drives a person in their short-term and long-term goals. Although, as I’m sure many of you know, motivation can be easily lost. Think of a New Year’s resolution, for example. Most people set a goal for the new year, and then somewhere along the way, lose that drive to complete their resolution. A really great way to combat lack of motivation is to hold yourself accountable by tracking your progress. This is a really great way to see how far you’ve come since the start, and use that progress as a push to keep going. Whether your goal involves school, career, physical health, mental health, or whatever you may choose, this is a great way to keep pushing. 

Moving on to empathy, in essence, empathy is the ability to step out of your shoes and your own perception of a scenario, and try to step into another person’s shoes. By doing so, one is able to understand how another person is feeling or what they are going through.  You can use empathy to make sense of other people’s emotions, and understand why they may be acting or reacting in a certain way. A great way to foster a sense of empathy is to listen actively to a person when they are expressing how they feel towards you or a situation. A great way to practice active listening would be to minimise interruptions,  listen without jumping to conclusions, and refraining from offering opinions or solutions right away. Further, being able to accept their feelings and perception – even if you do not agree with it yourself – is a big step in empathy. Everyone is going through something different in life, so you may not always relate to what someone is saying, but just being open to their feelings and providing validation can make that much of a difference. 

Finally, let’s talk about social skills. In terms of emotional intelligence, social skills are the skills that one utilizes to take care of and influence other people’s emotions effectively. In reality, we use social skills every day of our lives. Humans are social beings at their very core, and whether we like it or not, we need other humans to thrive. Whether this be in a family situation, with friends, or in the workplace, your social skills are constantly being put to the test. Examples of social skills could include being able to understand someone else’s perspective or making a proper apology when need be. Other examples could be accepting criticism, thinking before you speak, or respecting others’ personal space and boundaries. All of these examples can lead to better and more productive interactions with others. 

Once you are able to understand and manage yourself, you have learnt self-awareness and self-regulation. With self-awareness and regulation, you are better able to understand the emotions of others using empathy.  Given this,  you can influence a situation or a common goal with motivation and social skills. So, can you see it now? Emotional intelligence can really make a difference in any interaction you may have. Whether it is with a significant other, a family member, a friend, a boss, or a colleague, emotional intelligence is part of the foundation of all the relationships we create in our lives. Being able to use emotional intelligence in a positive way will largely benefit you, and those around you.

My name is Samantha and I am currently a student at Western. I'm studying psychology in my undergrad and hoping to pursue a career in law! I'm living in London right now for school, but my hometown is Holland Landing, Ontario. I'm a pretty active person; I love working out at the gym, playing soccer, and golf! A fun fact about me is that I have a hugeeee sweet tooth!:)