What is emotional intelligence? The definition and my thoughts on a common test

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How do you define emotional intelligence? Have you ever taken a test to see if you are emotionally intelligent?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, emotional intelligence is:

“…the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success.

What can we take from this definition? In order to be considered emotionally intelligent you must be:

  • Aware of your emotions. You have to be able to recognize when you are feeling things like happiness or sadness or anger.
  • In control of your emotions. You need to be able to keep your emotional state balanced, without a lot of extremes.
  • Able to express your emotions. It is important to be able to tell others (or show them) how you are feeling, ideally in an appropriate way.
  • Able to maintain interpersonal relationships well. You need to be able to keep up friendships, and relationships with colleagues and family members.

What are the 5 components of emotional intelligence?

There are 5 key aspects of emotional intelligence to be aware of. If you are lacking in any of these areas, do some research on how you can improve. I recommend a good book on the subject:

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Component 1- Self awareness

Like I mentioned above, it is important to be aware of your emotions. Something I am grateful for in my journey with mental health is that I am always aware of how I am doing. I have never lost sight of whether I am having a good day or a bad day.

If you struggle in this area, try daily journaling. It could even be as simple as writing down one positive thing you are feeling as well as one negative thing. You could free associate if the emotions are hard to identify.

If you need another way to improve in this area, you can ask a friend to serve as an accountability partner. They can tell you when you are having a “good day” or a “bad day,” in case you can’t tell for yourself.

Component 2- Self control

Once you are aware of the way you are feeling, you need to be able to do your best to control as many negative emotions as you can. Some examples of these are:

  • Anger
  • Jealousy
  • Greed
  • Regret
  • Pride (sometimes)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability

If you are finding yourself unable to control these emotions, I would make an appointment with your doctor. They might be able to recommend a better medication, or they might suggest you go to therapy more often.

This is another time when an accountability partner would come in handy. Come up with a pre-determined safe word, something the friend can say to you in public to let you know you’re losing control.

Component 3- Social skills

If you are wanting to improve your social skills consider joining a group or signing up for a class! Most major towns have local moms or dads groups that meet regularly. These would be really great ways to work on your social skills.

Here are some examples of common social skills to try and develop:

  • Empathetic listening
  • Balanced conversation (equal give and take)
  • Appropriate body language
  • Good sense of personal space

The good thing is, these are very easy to practice! Just make it a habit every time you are out and about to work on these things, and they will feel easier very soon.

Component 4- Empathy

This is a really important skill for those who want to become more emotionally intelligent. People don’t just want to talk at you when they are struggling. They want you to really listen, and respond with empathy.

How can you be more empathetic? Follow these tips below:

  • Respect people’s physical and emotional boundaries
  • When someone is speaking, use appropriate facial expressions
  • Respond the way you wish someone would respond to you
  • Practice kindness in every interaction

For example, if someone you don’t care for tells you they just lost their job, how should you react? Should you think “Aha, sucker!” and smirk? Or should you say, “I’m sorry to hear that. Good luck finding something else!” The ability to do that is a sign of an emotionally mature person.

Component 5- Motivation

Possibly the most important component of emotional intelligence is having the motivation to constantly grow and change. We should always be growing, in every aspect of life.

Sometimes, we sink back into old patterns and find ourselves being immature. This happens to the best of us, but when it does, make an effort to change your mindset. It really does make a difference!

A common emotional intelligence test

This test found on Psychology Today measures your emotional intelligence in just 45 minutes. That might sound like a long time, but they really need a lot of data to be able to accurately measure it.


Take it and let me know your score in the comments!

My thoughts on a test

I haven’t always been the most emotionally mature person. I am still a work in progress but I have come a long way.

For too long, I did not live by the 5 components of emotional intelligence.

  1. I have always been pretty self aware in the sense of recognizing when I’m having a good day or a bad day. But I often stopped being aware of the effects that my moods had on others. This is sometimes as important as being self aware: realizing how you effect other people.
  2. I very rarely employed self control. I lived in a haze of depression and anxiety. This was before I practiced daily gratitude and positive affirmations. I have to train myself to be in control of my emotions. It is something that I still struggle with, but it gets easier the more I work at it.
  3. My social skills were a little poor. In some ways, it is still something I need to work on! I tend to unintentionally interrupt others in an effort to get my thoughts out. I don’t always have good body language. What I can say about myself? I am always growing and learning.
  4. I was not empathetic when I needed to be. Instead, I thought about how situations affected me personally, rather than keeping others in mind.
  5. One thing I can say is that as of today, I am very motivated to continue to grow. As long as I can say that, than I am doing my best.

Should you take it or not?

Do I think emotional intelligence tests are important? Yes and no. I think it is important to be aware of how “feelings savvy” we are. We need to be aware of how we feel, and of how we make others feel.

I also think putting a number on it can be damaging. If you receive a negative score, I think that can lead to feelings of guilt and depression that will not serve you. On the flip aide, if you get a great score, it might make you lose your commitment to growth and working on yourself.

So take the emotional intelligence test, by all means. But take the results with a grain of salt. After all, no one knows you better than you, right?

What is emotional intelligence, emotional intelligence definition

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What score would YOU give your emotional intelligence? Which of the 5 components do you most need to work on?

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58 thoughts on “What is emotional intelligence? The definition and my thoughts on a common test”

  1. It’s nice to learn a bit more about this. I’m so glad you were able to share this with us. I think it’s so important to be in control of your emotions. Try not to let them get in the way.

  2. One of the best article that I’ve read today. I have learned a lot from this article and to be honest I always work on my self control. Thanks for the tips.

  3. I guess that emotional intelligence can be improved with practice/therapy etc. It would be interesting to take the test and get the full results to see what areas I could improve in.

    1. Hey Beth, definitely! I have gotten better with it with age, but I definitely work on it in therapy as well. It’s a constant journey! Thanks for reading ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hey Michelle, that is a smart way to go about it. My husband has come a long way in his own emotional intelligence, and it certainly makes things a lot easier. Thanks for reading!

  4. Learning about emotional intelligence is very important especially in the workspace and in our general lives. It allows us to know how best to relate with people and understand our own emotions. A great read here

    1. Hey Louisa, for sure. It helps you understand not just yourself but others. We could definitely use a little more understanding in today’s world. Thanks for reading!

    1. Hey Sarah, it is great that you are trying to learn! I am very lucky that I have grown more self aware with age because my early 20 something Jen was a MESS. LOL. It just takes time, and effort, of trying to know yourself. Hang in there, and thanks for reading!

  5. This is a great article! I read through the components thinking โ€œyep, Iโ€™m good. I have knowledge and control of those thingsโ€ BUT then my (former) counselor brain said โ€œbut sometimes we think weโ€™re self-aware and weโ€™re really not. Sometimes we have a completely different idea of ourselves than what others see. So, now excuse me while I go reevaluate my whole self! Lol. No kidding though, great read! Thank you for this. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Being a female, we tend to be more emotional when it comes to making decisions for sure. I due use my emotional Spidey senses to feel people out. Great post.

    1. Hey Amber, guilty as charged with a quick temper too! Right now I can blame it on hormones, but truthfully I’m just kind of like that anyway. As long as you recognize it, and are trying to work on it, that is great! Thanks for reading ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I wish I had 45 minutes right now, cause I really would like to take that test, ha ha. I believe I’ve become someone with high emotional intelligence, but what helped with that was the therapist I went to for years after college. I cringe when I think of my younger self, completely un self-aware and taking out her emotional frustrations on others. I’ve grown a lot since then. Also, being an actor, I have a very fleshed out emotional vocabulary from working in the theatre for so long. It’s why exposing small kids to theatre at a young age has such positive outcomes: better social skills, more empathy, and better academic performance in school. More emotional intelligence means better outcomes for young people. Who’d have thought? Anyway, my long-winded point is that emotional intelligence is so much more important than we give it credit for, and I wish we cared more about it and prioritized it more as a society! Great post!

    1. Hey Carolyn, thanks! I definitely have evolved emotionally as the years pass too. I also cringe thinking about some of my behavior 10 years ago! As far as theater, that makes sense. I would love to get my kids involved with something like that. My oldest is 5 and a little performer naturally LOL. She would love it. Thanks for the idea, and for reading!

  8. Pam Wattenbarger

    I think I am doing okay on emotional intelligence. I’ve been told I’m a good listener. I’m still going to set aside a time to take the test though. I’d be interested in the results.

  9. What an incredible post! I wonder how many people in our own individual lives have a good solid sense of their emotional state and how their emotions are effecting those around them. I imagine in my life I have more unaware than aware. I love how this was broken down. I think I’ll dare myself to take the test!

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