You know those people who seem to be really good at talking to others and making everyone feel comfortable? Maybe you’ve seen them on TV or know someone like that. It’s like they have a special ability to understand how people are feeling. They can handle tough situations without getting upset. In relationships, they’re the calm in the middle of a storm. Mere mortals like us might wonder if they were born with some kind of superpower. Well, the good news is, they weren’t. What they have is called “emotional intelligence,” and it’s something we can learn to improve our own relationships.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage our own emotions.1 It’s also noticing and understanding the emotions of others.1 People with high emotional intelligence can do things like:1

  • Know what they’re feeling and can name those emotions
  • Study their emotions and use them to solve problems
  • Manage their emotions and help others do the same

Having emotional intelligence can really help when life gets tough.2 It usually helps a person motivate to plan and take action.2 People with emotional intelligence are aware of personal strengths and limitations and tend to do well in work and life.2

How does managing emotions connect to emotional intelligence?

People who are conscious of their emotions can reduce how intense an emotion feels.1 They can notice their intense emotions and step them back to prevent escalation.1 This way, they stay calm when they’re feeling upset or stressed.1 It gives them time to stop and think before they react.1

Why is emotional intelligence important?

People with high emotional intelligence tend to be happier in life. Many do well in their jobs and are motivated and productive.3,4 They often act with integrity and are sensitive to others.3

On the other hand, if a person is not tuned in to or unable to process their emotions, they might have a tough time with interpersonal relationships. Distancing from our feelings can lead to using unhealthy defenses to avoid feelings, like addiction, overworking or isolating.4 It can also cause physical problems like stomachaches or back pain.4 It can also cause mental health issues from feeling disconnected from ourselves and others.4

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The good news is that we can all learn to improve our emotional intelligence, no matter our age. Understanding our emotions can make them less scary.4 We can figure out how they feel in our bodies, which can help us feel better overall.4 When we understand our emotions, we’re less likely to push them away.4 Here are some ways to build skills for better emotional intelligence:

Strategies to improve emotional wellness

The first step is to get in touch with what you’re feeling:

  • Recognize. Identify the feeling, assess how strong it is and see if it is pleasant or unpleasant.
  • Understand. Figure out the reason for the feeling.
  • Label. Name or describe the feeling.

Once you are able to identify your feelings, their causes and their effects, you can decide what to do with them. Then, you can learn how to express and cope with your feelings in a healthy way. When you do this, you can better label and manage your own emotions and help others do the same.

Remember, it takes time and practice to change our habits. Look for moments to pause and consider a different approach with people. Every interaction is a chance to develop your people skills. Over time, the practice with emotional intelligence adds up, and you can enjoy better relationships with your family, friends and neighbors.

Online mental health resources

Want to learn more about adding emotional intelligence skills to your relationship toolkit? We can help. At Teladoc Health, we’ve made mental healthcare more accessible so that you don’t have to wait weeks for an appointment. With a virtual appointment, you can speak with a mental health counselor right from your home, your office or wherever you’re most comfortable. We’re here to help you get started today!

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Published October 5, 2023


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