Examples Of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions while acknowledging and engaging with the emotions of others (Goleman, 1996).

Emotional intelligence comprises a set of skills, including empathy, problem-solving, interpersonal skills, and the capacity to regulate our own emotions. 

It plays a significant role in the contemporary world and is regarded to be a better predictor of success, quality of relationships, and life satisfaction than intellectual intelligence (IQ) (Koubova and Buchko, 2013). 

In addition, research suggests that people with a higher emotional quotient (EQ) are more innovative and perform better in both academic and work environments (MacCann et al., 2020; Krén and Séllei, 2021). 

A man surrounded by emotive faces
Emotional intelligence involves recognizing one’s own emotions and those of others, understanding their impact, and managing emotions effectively. Examples include empathizing with a colleague’s struggle, responding calmly to criticism, understanding non-verbal cues in a conversation, and diffusing tense situations with effective communication and perspective-taking.

Components of Emotional Intelligence

According to Daniel Goleman’s model, first outlined in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ (1996), there are four main competencies of emotional intelligence (Figure 1).


Self-awareness is the ability to accurately assess our own emotions, including their origin and the external events that trigger them. It provides a useful tool for decision-making, allowing us to base our actions on true facts rather than impulsive reactions. 

It also encompasses awareness about our own capabilities – strengths and weaknesses – knowing how our emotions are brought up by specific circumstances.

This consequently leads to better self-confidence as we have the power to choose emotional responses that are more appropriate to the context. 


Self-management is the capacity to regulate emotions and impulses in a productive way and to be resilient in the face of changing circumstances. 

People with strong self-regulation skills tend to be better able to act with integrity and in line with their own values when making decisions (trustworthiness), and they take responsibility for their own actions (conscientiousness).

In addition, they engage in realistic efforts to improve their performance, trying to take the initiative to maximize their chances of success. 

Social Awareness

Social awareness entails the ability to empathize with others’ emotions, even when these are not expressed explicitly, and to comprehend the social contexts and group dynamics they occur in.

Through empathy, it is possible to create a strong emotional bond with others, showing sensitivity to their feelings and responding in ways that validate them.

Social awareness also allows an understanding of the forces and power dynamics present in relationships and influences a person’s emotions.

Relationship Management 

Relationship management is the ability to inspire, influence, and motivate others while managing hostile situations with diplomacy and strategy. 

It involves practicing active listening toward others’ needs and maintaining open and clear communication to develop strong and positive relationships.

It also includes the capacity to deal with conflict and maintain leadership skills when motivating a group to work towards a common goal.

The model, therefore, distinguishes between awareness (recognition of emotions) and management (regulation of emotions) applied to the self and others

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Figure 1. Readapted from Singh et al., 2022

Emotional Intelligence examples

Emotional Intelligence in Everyday Life

Every day, we experience various emotions that drive us to feel or behave a certain way. 

We feel before we think, and this is an adaptive mechanism designed to respond quickly to stimuli in the environment. However, our minds also evolved in a way that allows us to reflect on and regulate our emotions so that they do not control our actions (Goleman, 2001). 

The ‘pause before you act’ is an example of how we can prevent temporary emotions from overriding us.

Thinking before lashing out at someone because we feel stressed or carefully evaluating a situation before attributing one’s fault are some of the little efforts we can take to separate our emotions from our thoughts and behaviors.

Taking other people’s perspectives before judging or labeling them also facilitates the expression of empathetic behaviors, making people feel more comfortable about sharing their experiences. This, in turn, helps create deeper connections with others in the longer term.

Apologizing for our own mistakes and practicing forgiveness are also simple actions that can reinforce healthy relationships that are based on reciprocal respect. By setting aside unhelpful emotions, including pride and resentment, it is possible to prioritize our relationship over our ego.

Emotional Intelligence in Education

In education, EI is regarded as an important skill for students to develop, both for their academic performance and future career. 

Although factors such as IQ and conscientiousness are the stronger predictors of academic achievement, several studies also found a positive correlation with EI, with evidence of incremental validity over other variables (MacCann et al., 2020).

Different explanations have been provided on what factors may account for this association. 

First, students with higher EI could be better able to manage challenging emotions related to academic performance, including anxiety, boredom, and disappointment.

In addition, greater EI may promote the formation of more positive relationships with peers, teachers, and family, resulting in an enriched supportive system around the student.

Furthermore, EI might help students perform better in humanistic subjects requiring correct understanding and expression of emotions, such as arts and literature. 

As EI is becoming an increasingly important component of students’ curricula, there is a growing demand for teachers to implement behaviors informed by EI principles in classrooms (Mortiboys, 2013).

This means promoting collaboration between students, creating opportunities for reflection and metacognition, and encouraging assertive communication to meet students’ needs and values.

Emotional Intelligence in Relationships

Since EI also includes the ability to understand and empathize with the emotions of others, it is crucial for developing strong and good-quality relationships. 

In a research study, EI was positively related to higher scores on empathetic perspective-taking and self-monitoring in social situations, meaning that people with higher EI were better able to understand social contexts and adjust their self-presentation accordingly (Schutte et al., 2001). 

In addition, EI predicted the level of cooperation and affection in romantic relationships. In couples where one partner had high EI, they demonstrated overall better relationship satisfaction. 

The possible underlying reasons are that EI can help lead more productive conversations allowing for better intimacy in relationships. At the same time, it is a useful tool for managing conflicts constructively, understanding others’ negative emotions, and being more open to negotiation (Schutte et al., 2001). 

Some practical behaviors that can help build emotionally intelligent relationships are taking care and developing strategies to support each other, practicing transparent communication without making assumptions to be able to attune to others’ feelings, and using changes in circumstances as an opportunity to redefine and revitalize our relationships (Zeidner, Matthews and Roberts, 2012).

Emotional Intelligence at Work

EI in the workplace has been associated with a greater likelihood of professional growth, both for the individual and for companies. 

A boost in overall productivity at work has been observed in employees that are emotionally intelligent and seem to be more committed to their careers and organization (Miao, Humphrey, and Qian, 2017). 

In addition, the interpersonal aspects of EI can facilitate work interactions by allowing a greater degree of openness to other people’s perspectives, which can, in turn, enhance the success of leadership (Fianko, Jnr, and Dzogbewu, 2020).

For example, practicing active listening during meetings and showing appreciation for the initiatives of others can foster trust and cooperation between co-workers.

As companies now tend to rely more on effective teamwork, the ability to clearly communicate tasks and objectives also plays a pivotal role (Krén and Séllei, 2021). Being aware of our communication skills as well as the listener’s level of comprehension can prevent misunderstandings and uncertainty about the most effective course of action. 

In addition, the ability of leaders to communicate the purpose and values of an organization can help develop a collective sense of goals, generating greater enthusiasm and commitment.

Being open to and providing constructive feedback while avoiding criticism is also an important element for professional development in employees, who can work on becoming a better version of themselves without feeling demotivated.

This can be promoted by clearly identifying areas of improvement while providing new learning opportunities and rewarding excellent work (Chernis et al., 1998).

Examples of low emotional intelligence 

Low EI is characterized by the inability to perceive emotions accurately and maintain meaningful social interactions (Goleman, 1996)

There are various ways in which this can manifest. People with low EI may struggle to listen to others’ perspectives and have difficulty acknowledging their own mistakes, with the risk of provoking argumentative conversations. 

They may also have little insight into how their emotions drive inappropriate behaviors, failing to understand when something they say is insensitive or tending to blame others for their problems.

Low EI may also present with frequent emotional outbursts or changes in mood, which reflects a reduced ability to control emotions.

Finally, people with low EI may have a very limited social circle due to reduced empathy and connectedness in relationships and difficulty maintaining an equal balance between give and take. 

How can emotional intelligence be increased?

Despite EI being correlated with personality traits, there is also evidence of it being a skill that can be improved with time and as our social interactions evolve (Nelis et al., 2009; Serrat, 2017). 

Below are some ways in which emotional intelligence can be increased:

Develop emotional awareness

  • Acknowledging, identifying, and naming our feelings can increase emotional awareness. 
  • A simple way to do this is by exploring our emotional reactions to life events with curiosity to validate feelings rather than avoiding them. 
  • Practicing mindfulness is also a proven method of gaining perspective on our feelings. 
  • Once we gain self-awareness, we also become more resilient to challenges, as we are better able not to feel overcome by adversity.

Practice active listening

  • Practicing attentive listening to attune to other people’s feelings can help develop empathy. 
  • While talking to others, it is important to avoid interrupting them or relating the conversation to ourselves, noticing the signals that indicate how the other person is feeling. 
  • This can increase our ability to understand their emotional needs and identify ways to offer help. 

Assertive communication

  • Assertive communication, which involves clearly expressing our perspectives, desires, and needs, can enhance our relationship with others as they can better understand our point of view. 
  • To increase assertiveness, we can try and identify which emotions are more difficult for us to share and rehearse ways to express them.

Acknowledge others’ emotions

  • When dealing with personal or job-related conflicts, it is important to acknowledge first the emotions that the counterpart is expressing. 
  • This can help reduce stress levels and gives space to resolve the problem more objectively. 

Reframe the situation

  • The second step is trying to reframe a problematic situation in a positive way, suggesting possible ways to help or finding a compromise to move toward conflict resolution.

Set goals

  • Setting concrete goals to promote emotionally intelligent behaviors in everyday life may involve being more present for others and engaging in more meaningful conversations. 
  • To track our progress, we can ask our close ones for feedback and constantly identify areas of improvement.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is emotional intelligence important?

Possessing strong EI skills can have an overall positive impact on our life. It brings better awareness of our own feelings, allowing us to handle challenging situations with greater control and flexibility.

In addition, it helps create deeper connections with other people, strengthening the social support system around us and improving our mental well-being. People with high EI also seem to report better work-life balance as they can reconcile their roles in different aspects of their life.

When is emotional intelligence important?

EI is particularly important when dealing with everyday stressful situations. Preventing the escalation of negative emotions allows the introduction of more positive emotional states, protecting our general mental health and well-being. 

EI also plays a pivotal role in our ability to make objective decisions. Through EI skills, it is possible to be aware of superfluous emotions that can negatively influence the decision-making process and disregard them to enhance our ability to reach the final outcome. 

Finally, through greater emotional awareness, we can understand more clearly what our goals are and identify the motivations to accomplish them.

How does emotional intelligence make a good leader?

EI has proven to be a significant predictor of effective leadership and trust development in leader-employee interactions. 

Leaders with high EI can integrate the view of others when developing strategic plans directed towards a common goal and are committed to fostering a sense of purpose in their employees (Kennedy, Campis, and Leclerc, 2020). 

In addition, they prioritize the developmental needs of others, providing opportunities for professional development and reinforcing learning behaviors.

In general, with leadership tasks in an organization involving more complex and collaborative work, practicing relationship management skills becomes increasingly important.


Cherniss, C., Goleman, D., Emmerling, R., Cowan, K., & Adler, M. (1998). Bringing emotional intelligence to the workplace. New Brunswick, NJ: Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, Rutgers University, 1-34.

Fianko, S. K., Jnr, S. A. J. S. A., & Dzogbewu, T. C. (2020). Does the interpersonal dimension of Goleman’s emotional intelligence model predict effective leadership?. African Journal of Business and Economic Research15(4), 221.

Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Goleman, D. (2001). An EI-based theory of performance. The emotionally intelligent workplace: How to select for, measure, and improve emotional intelligence in individuals, groups, and organizations1(1), 27-44.

Kennedy, K., Campis, S., & Leclerc, L. (2020). Human-Centered Leadership: Creating Change From the Inside Out. Nurse Leader18(3), 227-231.

Koubova, V., & Buchko, A. A. (2013). Life‐work balance: Emotional intelligence as a crucial component of achieving both personal life and work performance. Management Research Review.

Krén, H., & Séllei, B. (2021). The role of emotional intelligence in organizational performance. Periodica Polytechnica Social and Management Sciences29(1), 1-9.

MacCann, C., Jiang, Y., Brown, L. E., Double, K. S., Bucich, M., & Minbashian, A. (2020). Emotional intelligence predicts academic performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin146(2), 150.

Miao, C., Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2017). A meta‐analysis of emotional intelligence and work attitudes. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology90(2), 177-202.

Mortiboys, A. (2013). Teaching with emotional intelligence: A step-by-step guide for higher and further education professionals. Routledge.

Nelis, D., Quoidbach, J., Mikolajczak, M., & Hansenne, M. (2009). Increasing emotional intelligence:(How) is it possible?. Personality and individual differences47(1), 36-41.

Schutte, N. S., Malouff, J. M., Bobik, C., Coston, T. D., Greeson, C., Jedlicka, C., Rhodes, E. & Wendorf, G. (2001). Emotional intelligence and interpersonal relations. The Journal of social psychology141(4), 523-536.

Serrat, O. (2017). Understanding and developing emotional intelligence. In Knowledge solutions (pp. 329-339). Springer, Singapore.

Singh, A., Prabhakar, R., & Kiran, J. S. (2022). Emotional Intelligence: A Literature Review Of Its Concept, Models, And Measures. Journal of Positive School Psychology6(10), 2254-2275.

Zeidner, M., Matthews, G., & Roberts, R. D. (2012). What we know about emotional intelligence: How it affects learning, work, relationships, and our mental health. MIT press.

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

Saul Mcleod, PhD

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Educator, Researcher

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Sara Viezzer

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc in Applied Neuropsychology

Sara Viezzer is a graduate of psychological studies at the University of Bristol and Padova. She has worked as an Assistant Psychologist in the NHS for the past two years in neuroscience and health psychology. Sara is presently pursuing a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.