What Is Emotional Intelligence? 5 Signs You Have High Emotional Intelligence

“Emotional intelligence, more than any other factor, more than I.Q. or expertise, accounts for 85% to 90% of success at work… I.Q. is a threshold competence. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star. Emotional intelligence can.” ~ Warren Bennis


What is emotional intelligence (EI)/emotional quotient (EQ) and what does it entail? It begins on an individual level with self perception/awareness, understanding, and management of one’s own emotions and the ability to identify and differentiate between them. It is also the ability to recognize emotions in others and how they differ. Most importantly, it affects and guides thinking as well as behavior.  

The term surfaced in the mid 1960’s in various scientific papers. Daniel Goleman – an American psychologist, author, and science journalist – is credited with bringing this unique intelligence to the forefront with his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (1995), which is a definite must-read if you want to delve further into this topic.

Goleman purports that Emotional intelligence is one of the keys to successful social, interpersonal, professional & academic skills, and, as the title suggests, his premise puts it on an equal playing field with intelligence quotient (IQ), going on to argue why it can indeed be even more important than IQ.  

So how to know what yours is? What are the signs? Let’s take a look at the 5 most telling.

1) Self-Awareness/Self-Honesty

The first process of emotional intelligence is recognizing and understanding your own emotions. This is the self-awareness, “know thyself,” “self-mastery” process — the foundational element of emotional intelligence. We are active participants in everyday life, constantly interacting with people, places, things, and situations.

Self awareness is the ability to maintain our individualism, consciously separate from our environment, and introspect as well as retrospect. During introspection and retrospection, you can recognize or claim the emotion and its source, then categorize it. Most importantly, self-honesty also enters because you can assess your strengths and weaknesses.

2) Intuitive/Intuition 

Let’s begin this sign with a story. Remember Binta Jua, the gorilla at Brookfield Zoo (Chicago)?   She became internationally famous in the summer of 1996 for saving the life of a three year old boy who accidentally fell into the gorilla pit (20 feet). She brought the little boy under her protective wing until zoo officials rescued him. Her instinct intuition (motherhood instinct) sensed something was wrong, that the child was in danger.

This is a perfect example of trusting your gut. That spiritual guide, inner sense, inner voice, instinct, sixth sense – whatever you want to call it — it comes down to intuition. Intuition requires very little reasoning or visible evidence. It’s spontaneous thinking. It’s a knowing. A surety. Something either feels right or it doesn’t. Intuition gives emotional intelligence that “higher consciousness” element, or at least helps develop it.  

3) Holistic/Integrated Self 

Life is a multi-layered and holistic experience because it is physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual. Emotional intelligence fuses these elements together, creating an integrated self.  They all are equally important, no matter the order, and they cannot be separated. The emotionally intelligent know that the integrated self is what helps you to live a truly healthy, whole life.  

4) Excellent Listeners, Not just “Hearers”

Moving from the individual/inner, to the outer/people, the emotionally intelligent strive to recognize the emotions in others and what the cause may be. They are curious about people– what makes them the way they are or why they do what they do. One way to do this is to listen, not just hear.

Hearing is involuntary. It involves sounds and vibrations traveling from the ear to the brain. Listening begins when the sound/vibration gets to the brain. It is voluntary, and requires understanding, attention, and memory. It is a refined, or “deep” listening and a truly mental + gut level activity, allowing emotionally intelligent people to perceive on a number of different levels at once.  

5) Balanced Life (Self, Family, etc.)

Making the transition from listening/hearing, did you know that the ear controls balance?  Balance, meaning an even distribution, or being level, is vital to the body and life. A few quotes should give you a clear idea:

  • “Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create.”
  • “Life is all about balance.”
  • “The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you’ve lost it.”


Everybody wants a successful, prosperous and fulfilling life, but what about a balanced one? Emotionally intelligent people seek a balanced life (self, family, work, relationships, etc.) internally and externally. A balanced life is in tune with the integrated self.   Fun, challenge, activity, excitement are all a part a balanced life, but so are rest, relaxation, and renewal.

So there you have it: emotional intelligence. The main thing to remember? By remaining intimately in touch with their emotions and thoughts, the emotionally intelligent person learns to master them, instead of being ruled by them.

Now, isn’t that the key to a balanced life?

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This is an article from contributing writer Jill Felix.