Mind & Body

These Are the 12 Elements of Emotional Intelligence

People talk a lot about book smarts and street smarts, but they're forgetting a big one: emotional smarts. Long considered an important quality for maintaining strong personal relationships and being an effective leader, emotional intelligence is really many skills all rolled up into one. It's a lot more than just being nice.

Related Video: Can Reading Boost Emotional Intelligence?

Getting Emotional

When you think of emotional intelligence, you probably associate it with empathy. But the two aren't synonymous (if you want to know how empathetic you are, you can take an empathy quotient quiz). Though being able to understand the feelings of others is part of emotional intelligence, it is by no means the whole picture.

The term emotional intelligence — also referred to as EQ — was coined by John Mayer of the University of New Hampshire and Peter Salovey of Yale. The then-New York Times science reporter Dan Goleman picked up this phrase from a small academic journal in 1990 and popularized it with his 1996 book of the same name. As described by Psychology Today, EQ "is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others." It's commonly separated into three buckets: the ability to recognize emotions; the ability to harness and apply your emotions; and the ability to manage your emotions and those of the people close to you.

However, for an article in the Harvard Business Review, Goleman and fellow business school professor Richard E. Boyatzis broke that down even further. The team has been researching EQ — well, they prefer calling it EI — for decades. In their February 2017 HBR post, the two identified 12 elements that make up emotional intelligence. By just focusing on the "sociability, sensitivity, and likability" parts of EI, people can blow right past "critical elements of emotional intelligence that could make [...] a stronger, more effective leader," Goleman and Boyatzis note. Here are the 12 components they settled on:

  1. Emotional self-awareness
  2. Emotional self-control
  3. Adaptability
  4. Achievement orientation
  5. Positive outlook
  6. Empathy
  7. Organizational awareness
  8. Influence
  9. Coach and mentor
  10. Conflict management
  11. Teamwork
  12. Inspirational leadership

Up Your EQ

The authors note that by even just reading this list of 12 items — ta-da! — you're doing a lot to boost your emotional intelligence. Go you! "Simply reviewing the 12 competencies in your mind can give you a sense of where you might need some development," they write. If you want to give your EI a bigger boost than you're getting by just reading this list, we've got you. Neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett laid out three steps to boosting your intelligence in her book "How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain." Summarized, they are: recognize a wide array of emotions, learn new words for specific emotions, and create new emotions.

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Get more from Goleman in his book "Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ." The audiobook is free with a trial of Audible. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto May 10, 2018

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