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Growth & Self-Esteem

What Is Emotional Intelligence, And How Do You Use It?

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Think about whether you’re able to tell when a friend is feeling sad or when a colleague is angry. Psychologists refer to this capability as emotional intelligence.

The ability to display emotional intelligence allows you to build stronger relationships, achieve financial success, and pursue your personal goals. Also, you can use it to get in touch with your feelings, turn intentions into action, and make informed decisions.

In this article, we’ll discuss what emotional intelligence is and how it can be used.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) means being able to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. 

Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to recognize, control, and communicate emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships and interactions effectively. Several researchers argue we can learn and strengthen emotional intelligence, while others assert it's an inborn quality. 

To measure EI, researchers have created what’s known as an emotional quotient (EQ). Similar to an intelligence quotient or IQ, a person’s EQ can be measured through an emotional intelligence test.

According to research, there are four levels of emotional intelligence:

  1. Perceiving emotions
  2. Reasoning with emotions
  3. Understanding emotions
  4. Managing emotions

People with high emotional intelligence aren't only able to understand their own emotions but are also capable of thinking about how others might feel. 

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How to use emotional intelligence

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While it’s obvious that emotional intelligence is a secular concept, integrating psychological and biblical perspectives can help us learn about its function in Christian living.

To respond with kindness to others and meet their needs, one must first understand them. Knowing how to love your neighbor is part of the Christian responsibility to love your neighbor as yourself.

When growing up, children learn emotional intelligence through their parents' examples. To be role models to their children, parents should openly display empathy, identify feelings, be aware of the emotions of others, and get control of their emotional responses.

Man holding two children and walking in a field while another child runs ahead

If you grew up in a household where EI wasn't modeled, you might find it more difficult to develop your own. In this respect, Christians can take comfort that scripture can greatly increase EI. 

By reading scripture, we can learn firsthand what it’s like to experience others' struggles. We can also see Jesus' compassion for individuals, which enables us to live lives of humility and service to others.

In 1 Peter 4:10, the Bible says, “God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”

Good EQ and spiritual discernment are also prerequisites for effective leadership. A Christian leader is called to serve everyone. Through developing emotional intelligence, all Christians can become better models of love, kindness, and understanding.

5 characteristics of emotional intelligence

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Improving your emotional intelligence skills by having a high EQ is a great asset and can help you in all areas of your life. Let’s dive into the five characteristics of emotional intelligence and how you can improve your own EQ.

graphic of emotional intelligence: self awareness, empathy, motivation, self regulation, social skills


Self-aware people know how they feel and how their emotions and actions affect other people’s well-being. When you're in a leadership position, self-awareness also means knowing your strengths and weaknesses, along with demonstrating humility. Self-awareness naturally improves social awareness.

What can you do to improve your self-awareness?

  • Keep a journal: Journals can help you develop self-awareness and improve your mental health. Writing down your thoughts each day can help you be more aware of yourself.
  • Slow down: When you feel anger or other strong emotions, take time to stop and examine why they occur. Never forget that you always have a choice of how to react to any situation. 


Keeping yourself in check is what self-regulation is all about. Those who are effective at self-regulation rarely verbally attack others, make hasty or emotional decisions, stereotype people, or compromise their values. 

Daniel Goleman, a pioneer researcher and psychologist of emotional intelligence, explains that EI also includes flexibility and commitment to personal accountability.

How can you improve your ability to self-regulate?

  • Hold yourself accountable: Stop blaming others when something goes wrong. Accept the consequences of your mistakes and take responsibility for your decision-making. 
  • Practice being calm: Be very conscious of your actions the next time you're in a challenging situation. When you're stressed, do you yell at others? Calm yourself by doing deep breathing exercises or mindfulness practices to regain self-control. 


Motivated individuals work consistently to achieve their goals, have self-confidence, and have high standards regarding performance at work, in church, and in their families.

How can you improve your motivation?

  • Think about why you do what you do: It is easy to forget the motivations behind your actions. What are your reasons for going to church? What are they for working at the job you have? You should also make sure that your goals in these places are realistic and energizing. 
  • Find out what motivates you: To remain motivated, you need to understand what motivates you in the first place. One way to do this is by asking others how they stay motivated. You could ask co-workers, family members, or even friends.


Being empathic is important in any situation, but this is especially true when you’re working with others. Empathy is also a key trait that Christians should strive to develop. 

person lays their head on someone else's shoulder

Empathic leaders develop others, challenge people who act unfairly, give constructive feedback, and listen to those who need it. By empathizing with the people in your life, you'll win their respect and loyalty.

How can you improve your empathy?

  • Remember that body language is important: Learning to read someone's body language and facial expressions will make you more in tune with their true feelings.
  • Respond to feelings: If someone tells you they feel unhappy about something, respond to them with kindness instead of annoyance. Consider giving someone sympathy rather than challenging them if they're angry. Always try to be kind, regardless of the occasion.

Social skills

Individuals who excel in the social skills element of emotional intelligence are excellent communicators. Good social skills also make good leaders and diplomatic conflict solvers. 

How can you build social skills?

  • Learn conflict resolution: A great skill for everyone to learn is how to resolve conflicts. Learning conflict resolution skills is vital if you want to succeed in any aspect of your life.
  • Develop your communication skills: Are you good at communicating? Whether it’s with co-workers, your spouse, or fellow Christians, communication is imperative. Developing communication skills can only help your relationships.

Be in touch with your emotions

Any person can learn the skills that make up emotional intelligence. 

Learning these skills, along with studying scripture, is crucial to living a good Christian life. However, it's essential to remember that learning about emotional intelligence isn’t the same as applying it in your life.

The ability to control your behavior under pressure requires you to learn how to handle stressful situations, both in the moment and in your daily relationships.

For more about emotional intelligence, download the app in the iOS App Store or Google Play

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