Most people are familiar with general intelligence, which is an ability to learn, apply knowledge, and solve problems. But this isn’t the only type of intelligence. Some people also possess emotional intelligence.

For many, emotional intelligence is a new concept. Read on to learn more about this trait, including its definition and ways to achieve it.

Emotional intelligence is a term or concept popularized by researchers in the 1990s. This concept differs from general intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions. People who possess this trait also have the ability to understand and influence the emotions and behavior of others.

And with this understanding, some are able to enjoy greater success in life.

Five elements define emotional intelligence. These components include:

Self-awarenessSelf-awareness is being conscious of your own feelings and motives. Emotionally intelligent people often demonstrate a high level of self-awareness. You know how your emotions affect yourself and others, and you don’t allow your emotions to control you.
Self-regulationPeople with the ability to self-regulate don’t make impulsive decisions. You pause and think about the consequences of an action before proceeding.
MotivationPeople with emotional intelligence are productive and driven. You think about the big picture and assess how your actions will contribute to long-term success.
EmpathyEmotionally intelligent people are less likely to be self-centered. Instead, you empathize with others and your situations. You tend to be a good listener, slow to judge, and understanding of the needs and wants of others. For this reason, an emotionally intelligent person is often seen as a loyal, compassionate friend.
Social skillsIt’s easier for you to collaborate and work in teams. You tend to be an excellent leader because of your strong communication skills and ability to manage relationships.

Some emotionally intelligent people don’t realize this trait in themselves. So, a question remains: What does emotional intelligence look like?

Here are a few signs that could indicate emotional intelligence:

  • viewed as an empathetic person by others
  • excellent problem solver
  • not afraid to be vulnerable and share your feelings
  • set boundaries and aren’t afraid to say “no”
  • can get along with people in different situations
  • able to shrug off a bad moment and move on
  • ask open-ended questions
  • can accept constructive criticism without making excuses or blaming others
  • outstanding listener
  • not afraid to admit your mistakes and apologize
  • self-motivated
  • understand your actions and behaviors

Additionally, a few signs can indicate a lack of emotional intelligence:

  • trouble being assertive or taking charge
  • don’t handle feedback well
  • hold grudges
  • can’t move past your mistakes
  • feel misunderstood
  • judgmental, easily offended, and have difficulty maintaining relationships
  • don’t understand your emotions

Some people with emotional intelligence are born that way. For those who aren’t, this trait can be learned with practice.

Improving your interactions with others is one way to learn emotional intelligence. Being empathetic doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Make a concerted effort to put yourself in other’s shoes. By doing so, it’ll be easier to empathize with their situations and understand why they respond in certain ways.

Another way to build emotional intelligence is to practice humility and let others have a chance to shine for their accomplishments. Learn how to achieve your goals without attention or praise.

Additionally, work on improving how you handle difficult situations.

If you often become upset, stressed, or angry, practice staying calm. Ask yourself a few questions to understand the root of your emotions. Remaining calm might necessitate walking away from a situation or taking deep breaths.

The key is learning how to control your emotions, and not let your emotions control you.

Also, take responsibility for your actions and behavior. Constructive criticism and feedback are a part of life. Rather than blame or make excuses, listen to feedback. Acknowledge the other person’s point of view, and then make the necessary improvements or adjustments.

In many instances, constructive criticism isn’t personal. It’s meant to help you grow as an individual.

Enhancing your social skills can also help you become more emotionally intelligent. If you’re a heavy social media user, take a break from social media for one or two weeks and focus on face-to-face interactions.

Emotional intelligence benefits various areas of life, but it's particularly important in the workplace. In fact, possessing this trait might take you further in your career.

The ability to accept constructive criticism without blame can help you grow as an employee and thrive in your field. Emotional intelligence is also beneficial at work because you’re less likely to make impulse or poor decisions that could affect performance.

Instead, you’ll use logic and reasoning to think about consequences of a decision before reacting.

Emotional intelligence is integral to workplace success. These people have a greater ability to manage stress, solve complex problems, and cooperate with others.

Emotional intelligence is also useful in leadership positions. On the job, leaders oversee and manage people, and this trait contributes to them being approachable, influential, and decisive.

Emotional intelligence in leadership often means an ability to tackle stressful situations and address problems without yelling or blaming others. The goal is to foster an environment that encourages others to succeed.

Emotionally intelligent leaders know how to deal with conflict in a manner that motivates their team, rather than dishearten it. They’re also aware of why their team players respond in a particular manner.

Performance is sometimes tied to emotion, and emotionally intelligent leaders have the ability to discern what makes their team happy. Encouraging a happy environment can improve productivity.

Some people are born with the gift of emotional intelligence, but others have to learn it. Either way, the ability to know yourself and understand the emotions of others can have a positive impact on your relationships and help you succeed in every area of life.