What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions. It has become increasingly important in recent years as the world has become more complex and interconnected. Emotional intelligence skills can help individuals navigate social and emotional situations. More and more educators are starting to recognize and advocate for the importance of social and emotional learning to improve emotional intelligence in their students. By teaching students how to identify and manage their emotions, educators can help build a culture of dignity and help young people learn the skills they need to succeed in school and life.
Emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient (EQ), is made up of several competencies or levels, including:
Perceiving emotions. Emotional intelligence allows us to pick up on social and emotional queues from others to understand what emotions they are portraying. For example, this might include external awareness, where we can recognize facial expressions, posture, or tone of voice that indicate that someone is feeling a particular emotion. Perceiving emotions using emotional intelligence also consists of internal awareness, or the ability to notice our thoughts and feelings and reflect on our actions based on those thoughts and feelings.
Understanding emotions. Once we can perceive emotions effectively, emotional intelligence helps us understand how those emotions affect us or others. Students with high emotional intelligence can pick up on how others are feeling and may be able to unpack and understand what led to those feelings. For example, students with high emotional intelligence could realize that a friend or classmate is being outwardly angry or lashing out at others; and could empathize with them as they recently had trouble at home or performed poorly on a test. Understanding emotions via emotional intelligence allows students not to be as affected by the words and actions of others and can help resolve conflict or help the student avoid giving others harmful labels that hurt their feelings.
Managing emotions. Self-regulation and managing how we feel are crucial to emotional intelligence. Students with high emotional intelligence/EQ can practice better self-regulation, which is the ability to reflect inwardly and outwardly, controlling how they react to emotions that arise from everyday situations. Higher emotional intelligence leads to a better understanding of why people feel the way they do, allowing students to practice empathy for others and think critically about their emotions before acting. Managing emotions using emotional intelligence skills better enables students to treat each other with dignity in the classroom, even if difficult situations arise. For example, managing emotions with emotional intelligence can help students avoid reproaching themselves over poor performance, can help students resolve conflict or confront bullying in their friend groups, and can help students overcome mental health challenges. Emotional intelligence helps students understand the appropriate times to act on their emotions and when to take a second to think about what they are feeling, providing inward and outward stability that can help them navigate school and life at home and beyond.
Reasoning with emotions. We often think of emotions as interfering with rational thought or reason. However, emotions can help us prioritize what we care about and where we spend our time and effort. We can use emotions to become more in tune with thoughts about specific situations or issues in the world around us. Emotional intelligence can help us think with our feelings and become motivated to learn certain subjects (i.e., being passionate about climate change). It can also help us think about a scenario or context in a certain way and allow us to predict how someone may feel or be affected by their present circumstances. Predicting others’ emotions using emotional intelligence is particularly important in the classroom. A student can gauge how others will react before speaking or acting a certain way that could offend or upset a classmate or colleague.
Importance Of Emotional Intelligence
Together, perceiving, understanding, managing, and reasoning with emotions empower students to regulate their emotions, control their impulses, and manage stress effectively. When combined, these different types of emotional intelligence allow students to become more well-rounded individuals and improve their social skills. High emotional intelligence has been linked to various benefits by researchers, including mental health and wellbeing1-4. For students, developing emotional intelligence can help them to succeed in school and life. Emotional intelligence skills can be taught and learned, making it an essential asset for individuals of all ages. When it comes to helping students achieve success and happiness, teaching emotional intelligence is a critical factor.
Emotional Intelligence: Why Can It Matter More Than IQ?
Intelligence can be defined in many different ways, but broadly speaking, according to experts in emotional intelligence:
Psychology experts and educators have commonly used Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, to measure the intelligence of students and young people. IQ attempts to tap at the standardized measure of human intelligence and typically represents the ability to do well in academic work (e.g., quantitative reasoning, knowledge of facts about the world, and pattern recognition). It is generally not representative of other cognitive processes such as visual and spatial processing, working memory, and short-term memory. While IQ can measure aspects of intelligence, it doesn’t provide a great overall picture of how a student or child will perform in a wide array of unique and diverse situations that they go through in daily life. For example, someone with a high IQ may get high test scores and solve certain types of visual pattern problems more quickly. However, they may not be as proficient in resolving conflict, managing their emotions, or understanding how others feel around them. When we place too much value on standardized test scores and certain types of intelligence around quantitative results and rigid rules, we may be undervaluing the social and emotional aspects of the world.
Emotional intelligence or EQ, despite being different than IQ, still involves mental capabilities to solve problems and handle specific tasks with accuracy and speed; a more precise definition was given by researcher John D. Mayer and team in 2008 (founders of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso emotional intelligence test)3:
Emotional intelligence or EQ can often better predict successful everyday interpersonal interactions than IQ because it plays a role in success across various contexts, including academics, work, and relationships.3 For example, studies have shown that students with higher emotional intelligence tend to get better grades and are more likely to be successful in college4. Emotional intelligence is also essential for managing difficult situations at work and maintaining positive relationships2,3. Colleagues and management often describe people with high emotional intelligence as more “well-rounded” than those with a high IQ but low EQ. It’s important to note that we can improve our EQ and IQ with intentional practice and learning, so it’s crucial to have educators that understand the difference between the two and the importance of each for predicting certain types of outcomes in students2,3. Emotional intelligence can majorly impact success in life, making it an important quality to cultivate in children and adults.
How Can Emotional Intelligence Help Improve Social And Emotional Learning?
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which students acquire the skills to navigate life’s social and emotional challenges. SEL highlights the importance of emotional intelligence as it can play a crucial role in helping students develop the self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship skills needed to succeed in school and life. By integrating SEL and emotional intelligence into the classroom, teachers create a positive feedback loop to teach essential concepts to students and create a culture of dignity.
Examples Of Emotional Intelligence In The Classroom
There are several ways that teachers can integrate emotional intelligence into their social and emotional learning lesson plans. For example, they can provide emotional intelligence activities for students to practice identifying and expressing their emotions through writing or speaking. They can also create opportunities for students to work on collaborative problem-solving tasks, such as group projects or simulations. Learning the difference between inherent dignity and earned respect can be a lesson in emotional intelligence. Students must differentiate and understand complex dynamic concepts like self-worth, empathy, and critical thinking about emotions. By incorporating emotional intelligence into social and emotional learning, teachers can help students develop the skills they need to thrive in school and life.
In addition to including SEL in lesson plans, teachers can create teachable moments during which students can practice emotional intelligence skills. These moments can occur spontaneously, or teachers can plan them, but they should always allow students to put what they’ve learned into practice. For example, a teacher might ask a student to role-play resolving a conflict with a classmate. By providing these practice opportunities, teachers can help their students solidify their understanding of emotional intelligence and build the skills they need to succeed.
How Does Emotional Intelligence Help Teachers And Educators?
The role of a teacher or educator in promoting emotional intelligence goes beyond teaching young people; it involves practicing and embodying emotional intelligence skills outside of school. In leadership roles, emotional intelligence can help you better understand and motivate those you are on your colleagues and team. If you can read the emotions of your team members, you can better provide the support they need to succeed. Emotional intelligence can help you build strong relationships with co-workers, customers, and clients; by understanding their emotions, you will be better able to communicate with them and meet their needs. And at home, emotional intelligence can help you to create a more harmonious household. By attuning to the emotions of your spouse or partner, and children, you will be better able to resolve conflicts and create a more positive family environment. As these examples illustrate, emotional intelligence training can profoundly impact every area of your life.
By learning more about emotional intelligence, SEL, and dignity, we also set a positive example for our students and community. Learning more about these concepts through our blog or lesson plans for middle school or upper elementary can be a great way to continue your education and enable the young people you interact with to better understand these concepts from the perspective of a trusted adult. Emotional intelligence improves outcomes for students, teachers, administrators, families, and community leaders1-4. Cultures of Dignity is here to support your learning journey!
- Extremera, N., & Rey, L. (2016). Ability emotional intelligence and life satisfaction: Positive and negative affect as mediators. Personality and Individual Differences, 102, 98–101.
- Mavroveli, S., Petrides, K. V., Sangareau, Y., & Furnham, A. (2009). Exploring the relationships between trait emotional intelligence and objective socio-emotional outcomes in childhood. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79(2), 259–272.
- Mayer, J., Roberts, R., & Barsade, S. (2008). Human Abilities: Emotional Intelligence. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 507–536.
- Parker, J. D. A., Summerfeldt, L. J., Hogan, M. J., & Majeski, S. A. (2004). Emotional intelligence and academic success: Examining the transition from high school to university. Personality and Individual Differences, 36(1), 163–172.