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What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence Test

Imagine this scenario. You’ve overslept and will undoubtedly be late to work. You try to make up the extra time by pushing the speed limit driving to your job. As luck would have it, you get into a fender-bender. How would your morning affect the rest of your day?

Would you snap at co-workers and your spouse as you continually condemn the driver in front of you who stopped suddenly?

Or would you realize that maybe you should go to bed earlier to avoid needlessly stressing yourself?

If you picked the second outcome, you are well on your way to cultivating a high emotional intelligence that can have profound effects on every aspect of your life. You may wonder if there is an emotional intelligence test that measures it. Learning how to bolster it can hone your leadership skills on the job and improve your relationships. Let’s begin with some background.

Defining Emotional Intelligence

The association between our emotions and actions isn’t new. Even Aristotle considered this relationship in his discussion of the scientific and the calculative faculty of the rational part of our souls. The former concerns the invariable while the latter the variable things in our lives. Philosophy paved the way for learning about ourselves and choosing appropriate responses to life’s challenges..

Emotional intelligence further describes the ability to recognize one’s emotions and steer them in a positive direction. It puts us in control to manage our feelings and reactions to solve problems and foster better relationships with all the people in our lives. It’s not about being stoic or suppressing your emotions. Instead, it’s about understanding yourself and developing your critical thinking skills. 

Emotional Intelligence vs. Empathy vs. Cognitive Intelligence

Our IQ or cognitive intelligence doesn’t explain all the differences between people. It limits itself to our mental capabilities based on our education and experiences. It involves logic and reasoning, along with our rote learning skills. Your intelligence quotient is a quantitative measure of it. 

Empathy is one aspect of emotional intelligence that considers your relationships with other people. An empathetic person endeavors to understand the needs and emotions of others in a non-judgmental way. It’s worth noting that it’s a trait that employees want in the workplace. However, only 25 percent feel their organizations meet these needs sufficiently.

Emotional intelligence takes empathy one step further.  It recognizes the fact that humans are emotional creatures that often dictate our actions. Sometimes, our logic is flawed.  Our knowledge may be limited. We may fall prey to misinformation. However, just like emotional intelligence, we can learn from our missteps. It is one of the most empowering things about improving your emotional intelligence.

It gives an individual a path for growth.

Four Branch Ability Model of Emotional Intelligence

The term emotional intelligence has existed since the 1950s. Others strived to find better ways to assess intelligence that weren’t limited to cognitive abilities. It paved the way for the creation of an emotional intelligence quotient or EIQ test.  In 1990, Doctors Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer expanded on earlier research with the aim of developing a framework for an accurate emotional intelligence test.

The result was Salovey and Mayer’s four-branch model. Each layer determines the degree of emotional intelligence as part of an individual’s psychological makeup. The four include:

  1. Perception of Emotion
  2. Use of Emotion to Facilitate Thinking
  3. Understanding of Emotion
  4. Management of Emotion

Perception of Emotion

This branch describes ways to read people’s emotions, both verbally and non-verbally. Facial expressions and body positions are vital clues that may reveal the truth that someone isn’t sharing or even aware that they feel. This ability requires soft skills, such as active listening.

Use of Emotion to Facilitate Thinking

Emotions are potent drivers of action. Learning the association between them and thinking can reveal new ways of problem-solving. You can think of it as channeling your energy toward a positive outcome. As President John Adams once said, “Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.”

Understanding of Emotion

This branch takes what you’ve learned from the previous two to put your emotions to work. It involves determining the source and trajectory of your feelings and those of others. It’s worth mentioning that emotions are often a mix and may carry baggage from past experiences. For example, you may feel angry at the guy you hit but also may feel disrespected if he cut you off before the accident.

Management of Emotion

This branch evolves over time and with experience. A lifetime of social interactions will teach you how to respond to events and people. You may realize what subjects to avoid discussing with some people because of your different outlooks. You may figure out that shouting at the server because your order was wrong isn’t what a mature adult does.

Emotional Competence Inventory (ECI)

Other ways to assess emotional intelligence use different criteria, such as the Boyatzis-Goleman model. It delves deeper into the personality of the individual by viewing emotional intelligence as a group of competencies. They include:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management


Self-awareness is the first step toward emotional intelligence. Sometimes, it’s a difficult journey to understand your strengths and weaknesses. It’ll likely stir uncomfortable feelings. However, it’s vital to learn empathy by starting with yourself. It’s also essential to recognize how your emotions affect others. It can help you with conflict resolution and creating a collaborative working environment.

Remember that no one is infallible. This path of self-discovery can help you learn how to delegate tasks better. Knowing your shortcomings can help you find others on your team to pick up the slack.


Self-management takes what you’ve learned above and puts you on a more disciplined path. Instead of overreacting to conflict, you stay calm as you seek solutions. You may have to deal with uncertainty. However, as the late Richard Feynman observed, “I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong.”

Self-management embraces a positive outlook because self-awareness teaches you the effects of your emotions on others. It adapts to change. It cultivates self-control and prevents impulsive behavior that can have negative consequences.

Social Awareness

Social awareness brings several soft skills to the table. It draws heavily on empathy to understand your employees’ perspectives. Too often, managers fall into the curse of knowledge trap. They see their vision and fail on the clarity front. Workers want clear expectations from their employers. Likewise, leaders must be able to recognize the emotions of others with organizational awareness.

Relationship Management

Relationship management is more important than ever in these post-pandemic days and with the evolution of the hybrid workplace. Trust is the cornerstone and lays the foundation for a healthy work culture. An emotionally intelligent leader realizes that it’s a two-way street. Trust isn’t a given. It’s earned. 

This layer teaches managers to drive action by motivation not demands and ultimatums. 

The Five Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence

Another model of emotional intelligence builds on many of the previous ones, recognizing the need to start with yourself and a self-assessment. Another popular approach includes the following with one interesting addition:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills.

Motivation is a vital skill in the workplace. It separates the leaders from the followers. These individuals keep projects on track. They are productive and don’t view challenges as obstacles. This aspect of emotional intelligence is a boon for an organization. The self-motivated individual can inspire others to action.

Self-Assessment of Emotional Intelligence

Taking an emotional intelligence quiz is an excellent place to start for determining where you stand. People don’t always take the time to think about thinking or metacognition. Therefore, you may find some questions startling because they may not have crossed your mind or they’re not a part of your everyday thoughts. That’s what makes an EIQ test so enlightening.

A self-assessment report such as the Australian Council for Educational Research’s EQI test looks at your work and life emotional skills. A search for emotional intelligence test free will provide other ways to get started. Each one approaches this task from a different point of view.  You may see questions like:

  • Do I say I'm sorry?
  • Do I think before speaking?
  • How do I handle conflict?
  • Do I know my strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do you know when to say no?
  • Do you burn bridges?
  • Do I handle negative feedback well?
  • Am I an emphatic person?

Some may ask true-false questions that focus on various aspects of emotional intelligence. No matter which one you take, it’s essential to be honest with yourself. You needn’t share your answers or feel compelled to conform to what you think you should answer. Try taking an EQ test free and see what you learn about yourself.

Learning to Embrace Emotional Intelligence

Self-awareness makes what you’ve learned through an emotional intelligence test to provide a blueprint for the changes you should make. It will also help you structure your teams for optimal performance. It begins with pausing and listening to your co-workers. Read between the lines to uncover the message behind the words. Remember that being in work mode often cloaks our real emotions. 

It’s only through active listening can we learn.

Another helpful technique is something you’ve probably heard from your mom growing up whenever a fight was brewing. Stop and count to 10 before you speak. Your mother was right then, and she’s still right now. Perhaps more relationships are hurt by the words that should never have been said than anything else.

The emotionally intelligent person owns up to their mistakes. They say they’re sorry and try to get a resolution. They don’t apologize, saying they’re sorry you were upset. They forgive and forget if they're on the opposite side of the court. Part of this trait is sticking to your commitments, even the emotional ones.

Likewise, empathy requires practice and careful observation. Don’t assume you understand how someone is feeling, especially if they’re struggling. We all know the signs and emotional toll of stress. The pandemic made it evident that mental health is a valid concern. 

You can find ways to encourage empathy all around you. If someone at the grocery store can’t reach an item on a high shelf, offer to get it for them. If you see someone crying, give them a tissue. Put your arm around the shoulder of a co-worker who lost a family member. We may handle situations differently, but we all know embarrassment, happiness, and sadness. The smallest gestures are often the most powerful.

Putting Emotional Intelligence to Work

Emotional intelligence isn’t just business-speak. It’s putting wisdom into action, whether it’s your significant other, your kids, or your friends. Honing your emotional intelligence skills can also have far-reaching effects on that workplace. 

It can improve communication to bolster productivity.

It can help build trust.

It can increase employee engagement for a better work culture.

Understanding your emotional triggers through self-assessment can make you a stronger leader and one who inspires others. It can be something as seemingly minor as complimenting an employee on their work and telling them you appreciate them. Sadly, according to the 2021 Gallup State of the Workplace Report, only 30 percent of team members said they were praised in the last seven days.

Developing and nurturing emotional intelligence in your leaders will benefit the staff and the organization. A study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found a positive correlation between this quality and performance. People want to do their best in their jobs. Emotional intelligence is one of the most powerful ways to achieve work and life success.

Final Thoughts

People look toward leaders for guidance and wisdom, perhaps as you found these traits in your parents and grandparents. Experience is an excellent teacher if you heed its lessons. Self-awareness is the first step toward understanding others. It helps you to be humble and kind. It allows you to see the world from someone else’s point of view.

An organization is only as successful as the people within it. Cultivating emotional intelligence in your leaders is the best way to harness your company’s potential and stability. As President John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

If you want more information on similar topics, sign up for the Kutsko Report Email Newsletter. To learn more about realizing your team’s potential, contact Kutsko Consulting today. We can help you assess your team’s health for achieving your organization’s goals.

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