What Is Emotional Intelligence? - Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:01 Defining Emotional…
  • 0:31 Levels of Emotional…
  • 2:49 Can EI Be Learned?
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Manuela Heberle

Manuela has master's degree in counseling and has taught psychology, social psychology, and a tests and measurements course.

Do you know people who have difficulty getting along with others and a great deal of conflict in their lives? It's probably linked to their level of emotional intelligence. Learn what emotional intelligence is and how it is important in everyday life.

Defining Emotional Intelligence

There are countless definitions of emotional intelligence (EI) , but most agree that it involves perceiving, understanding, and regulating emotions. Emotional intelligence (EI) is also about the ability to reason and solve problems based on the emotions we experience. In other words, an emotionally intelligent person is aware of emotions in him/herself and others and uses reason to identify, understand, and deal with the emotions effectively.

Levels of Emotional Intelligence

So what is the difference between someone with a high level of emotional intelligence and someone who falls lower on the scale? Do you think you possess a high emotional intelligence? How can that emotional intelligence be useful in daily life? Let's take a look at some of the characteristics of a person with high emotional intelligence. Typically, those with high EI:

  • Recognize both subtle and overt emotions easily in the self and others
  • Use the emotional information wisely
  • Establish positive social relationships with others
  • Avoid problems and altercations
  • Tend to further harmony and cooperation

Here's an example of how someone with high EI might handle a situation. Let's say you are having a discussion about your political beliefs with a classmate. As the other person expresses her opinions, you hear a tone of anger in her voice. Because you are tuned in to her emotions, and you reason that this is a sensitive topic for most people, you diffuse the anger by acknowledging her perspective with respect. While this is not the same as agreeing with her, you have acknowledged her point of view. Since you were in tune to and thoughtful about the anger in your classmate's voice, you were able to end the encounter on a positive note.

How would you handle the same situation if you had low emotional intelligence? First off, you may not notice that your classmate has a slight tone of anger in her voice. Overlooking that clue to her emotions, you may think how ignorant you classmate is and that you really need to set her straight about her misguided political views. Or you may recognize the emotion behind her tone and interpret it as a threat; as a result, you too might get angry. The end result could be that you end up in a shouting match or never talk again. In either case, the encounter would end on a negative note for both of you.

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