EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE was a term coined by psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in 1990.  By bringing together the two concepts, they redefined emotions as useful sources of information that help people to make sense of and navigate their social environment.  

Emotional intelligence is defined more specifically as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one's thinking and action”.

Salovey and Mayer characterized emotional intelligence as a set of four abilities:

  • Perceiving: The first and most basic step to understanding emotions is to perceive them.  This occurs through detecting and deciphering them in faces, images, voices, and artifacts. It also includes the ability to understand and identify our own emotions.   
  • Reasoning: This step includes the ability to use our emotions to support our thinking, planning, problem solving, and other cognitive activities.
  • Understanding: This step refers to the ability to comprehend the slight nuances between emotions (for instance being happy vs ecstatic) and the sometimes complicated relationship between emotions.  It also includes the ability to recognize how emotions can evolve over time, like how grief can turn into anger.
  • Managing: This step is learning how to regulate our emotions and the emotions of others.  When we better regulate our emotions, we less easily lose control over them. We can also use our emotions to create emotional responses within others, such as an emotionally intelligent leader who placates to his / her people’s emotions through his manner of speech and conduct.

  • In the same way that regular intelligence is used in society to process important information for survival, emotional intelligence allows people to process emotionally relevant information efficiently and accurately.  In simpler terms, it helps people process their emotions effectively and creates knowledge about emotion-related information that is important to making effective decisions, behaving appropriately, and living a fulfilled and meaningful life.  

    According to scientific studies, emotional intelligence overlaps slightly with certain personality traits, but more than this it is a set of mental skills or competencies that can be learned and developed overtime.  

    Some of the measurable and scientific findings on emotional intelligence indicate that greater emotional health has been documented to have positive outcomes against a range of academic, social, psychological, and career domains.    It is also positively associated with a variety of individual and social skills and resources, such as resilience, positive self-evaluation, and social support. Positive emotions can lead to creative thinking and problem solving, and when negative emotions are processed healthfully, such as the closure of a traumatic experience, it can lead to greater physical health.  

    Studies show that emotional intelligence measurably reduces deviant behavior, strengthens social and romantic relationships, enhances career success and performance, and equips one with the ability to cope with stress appropriately and cultivate leadership skills.  It also enhances personal fulfillment and well-being, and leads to connection with one’s purpose. As described, it positively benefits our relationships with ourselves as well as our relationships with others and governs our ability to navigate the world with the general experience of success, health, and well-being.  

    Researchers suggest that emotional intelligence promotes positive “social well-being” for various reasons.  Firstly, because of how it lends to adaptive behaviors for coping with social challenges, social stress, and the development of positive social networks.  Also, because it reduces negative emotions and increases positive ones and results in emotional regulation, making relationships more stable.

    Emotion is scientifically understood to be inseparable from reason and is therefore essential to making rational decisions that are ultimately in our best interest.  Our ability to process and organize our emotions is required for truly clear thinking and rational action. Therefore, emotional intelligence helps us set priorities, orient our actions towards future endeavors, and repair and control negative moods before they spiral into mental illness.  Most importantly, emotional intelligence is suggested to enhance true life satisfaction through strengthening mastery over one’s environment that allows for personal growth, cultivating a sense of meaning in life, and feelings of self-actualization.