What Is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)? (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 19, 2021
Skills Based Articles

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Skills Based Articles

These days, employers don’t just care about how fast you can type, how great you are with Excel, or how sleek your website design is.

While hard skills are still necessary to acquire and perfect, employers are also looking for people who have excellent soft skills, like time management, teamwork, and creativity.

One of the biggest things at the top of recruiters’ lists is emotional intelligence, or EQ.

Like any other skill, emotional intelligence is something that you can learn and improve, but it can be hard to understand at first. Employers like to know that potential employees are emotionally intelligent because people with a high EQ tend to manage relationships more effectively.

While this might sound like a small skill, it has endless benefits, from helping create a more collaborative workplace to boosting company sales.

No matter what industries or jobs you’re looking at, having emotional intelligence will help you stand out from the rest of the applicant pool. In this article, we’ll go over what EQ really means and how you can improve yours to land job offers.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

At the most basic, emotional intelligence is your ability to identify and understand your emotions as well as those of the people around you. Having a high EQ can help you with all kinds of tasks because you tend to relate to people better and understand what motivates them.

This can help in every situation, from sending an email to closing a business deal, so it’s no wonder why employers are after candidates with these skills.

People with emotional intelligence tend to be motivated, self-aware, empathetic, and manage relationships well. It all comes down to having a good awareness of emotions and acting on your perception of a situation.

There are many different ways that EQ can manifest itself, so even if you don’t think you have an impressive emotional intelligence, you can always improve.

It’s important to remember that EQ is half of an equation that also includes intelligence quotient (IQ) and the best employees find a balance between the two. In the past, people have focused on finding the smartest candidates possible with high IQs.

As teams become more collaborative and communication becomes key to success in all areas, EQ is emerging as an equally important skill to have.

Being the smartest person in the room is a great feeling, but if you can’t effectively communicate, manage relationships, and work with others, some of your brilliant ideas can get lost in translation.

Having a good balance of IQ and EQ is a way to stand out from the applicant pool. You’ll show that you’re great at problem-solving and the required technical skills for your field, but you can also be a great team player and relationship manager.

Improving Emotional Intelligence

No matter where you’re starting, whether you just learned about emotional intelligence or you’re trying to build upon your existing EQ, it’s important to remember the four foundational qualities of emotional intelligence.

Before you start implementing our tips, take a moment to take stock of your skills and qualities, especially when it comes to the key four of self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management.

Understanding your competencies before you start is an excellent way to see where you are and how you’ve improved after you’ve worked on your emotional intelligence.

Once you’ve got a handle on your skills now, look at these tips to improve your EQ. Everybody has different competencies, and you don’t need to master each of these to have impressive emotional intelligence.

It’s always a good idea to master a few skills rather than be a beginner in many. You can also prioritize which EQ skills you want to gain depending on what’s relevant to your field, job, or industry.

  • Check your reactions. One of the best ways to start paying attention to your emotions is to see how you react to different situations. Are you quick to anger when you receive criticism? Are you happy when someone challenges your ideas?

    Knowing how you respond to certain situations and remembering that for the future can help you anticipate your reactions to future conditions.

    For example, if you know you get stressed in demanding environments or roles where you need to multitask, it can help you decide whether a job will be the right fit for you or not.

  • Keep a positive attitude. We can all get focused on the negatives sometimes, but keeping an open mind and a positive attitude can not only make our days better but those of our coworkers too.

    Emotionally intelligent people are good at reading the mood of a room, so paying attention to the general attitude and coming in with a bright demeanor can really make a difference.

  • Manage your stress. Everyone gets stressed, but how you respond to your stress can set you apart.

    Some people will try to just plow through their stress without acknowledging that they’re reaching their limit, but emotionally intelligent people know when to step back and take stock.

    Knowing when it’s time to press pause and reset yourself will help you in the long run since you won’t get burnt out or act impulsively. Managing yourself in stressful situations is key to showing your emotional intelligence.

  • Understand your emotions. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in life and work, so you forget to take stock of how you’re feeling. Emotional intelligence is all about being in touch with your emotions and knowing how to deal with them.

    Ensure you’re self-aware and know what emotional or physical signs to look for that might impact how you interact with others or make decisions.

  • Be empathetic. A good way to learn how to judge the emotions of others is to be empathetic and compassionate. Whenever you have a conversation with someone, try to put yourself in their shoes and see how they’re feeling and thinking.

    This will open the door to a positive relationship rooted in trust and respect. No matter what your relationship is, it will only help you to have a strong tie like this.

  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your surroundings and emotions to be fully present in a moment. Being mindful can help you get in touch with your emotions and better understand the entire context of a situation.

    It’s a chance to pause and reset so you can approach any situation with more thought, care, and patience.

  • Check your communication. Everyone communicates differently, but emotionally intelligent people are always making sure their communication skills are sharp. Think about how you communicate, from nonverbal cues to the tone you use when you speak.

    How does your communication style come off to whoever is listening or receiving your message? Being cognizant of these things can help you build strong relationships and connect emotionally with others.

    Don’t forget that humor can be a great tool to add to your communication style, both for yourself and others.

  • Own up to your mistakes. Knowing when to accept responsibility for errors is essential to emotional intelligence.

    It can be hard to own up to a mistake or miscommunication, so practice taking responsibility when you’re in the wrong. This is especially important when it comes to dealing with other people.

  • Observe your actions. As important as it is to understand yourself, your emotions, and your responses, emotionally intelligent people also have a good grasp on how their actions affect others.

    Considering other people in your decision-making process is crucial to boosting your EQ. Start by considering how your actions affect those around you.

    How do your decisions impact your coworkers? Did anyone have any negative reactions to your actions?

    Once you understand how people react to you, you can anticipate peoples’ reactions and make considering others part of your decision-making process.

  • Be an active listener. Emotional intelligence is all about understanding yourself and others, so make sure that you’re completely engaged when you’re talking to someone.

    Look at their body language, think about their word choice, try to understand their thoughts. Being an active listener is a skill that people with a high EQ have and excel at.

  • Motivate yourself. Emotionally intelligent people tend to be ambitious and have a go-getter attitude. While we can’t all become motivated and ambitious overnight, there are ways you can get started on being self-motivated.

    Try challenging yourself to new projects or taking the lead of a team at work. You’ll find that being motivated can set a good example and rub off on your coworkers.

  • Tackle criticism. It’s always good to get feedback from your boss and your coworkers so you can improve, but how you receive the criticism is important.

    You want to make sure you handle any criticism with grace and take the time to understand why you’re getting the feedback that you’re getting.

    Taking feedback and criticism to heart, then acting on it is a hallmark of an emotionally intelligent person.

  • Act sociable. You want to make sure that you come off as approachable and friendly. People tend to gravitate toward emotionally intelligent people because of their great conversation skills, so try to be more open and inviting.

    Start a conversation with your new coworker or ask about your office mate’s weekend. Building little ties like this can end up having a considerable impact and result in a strong working relationship.

  • Sharpen your management skills. Because high emotional intelligence usually leads to developing strong relationships, many top leaders in companies have high EQ scores.

    They have the relationship building and empathy skills to be effective managers, so try testing out your leadership and management skills when you can.

  • Take a quiz. Sometimes it can be hard to be an impartial judge of your emotions and EQ.

    There are plenty of online tests and quizzes that you can take for a more broad and unbiased view of your skills. Try taking a few if you’re stuck on where to improve or want to know what you’re already good at.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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