Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is our propensity to identify emotions within ourselves and others. It is associated with empathy, self-awareness & self-regulation and enables us to improve our communications & relationships.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to one’s ability to recognize and regulate their own emotion, be aware of what the emotions mean and understand how it affects them and others. EI also involves understanding others’ emotions as well. EI requires that we differentiate between distinct emotions, label emotions accurately, monitor them and use this information to improve our thinking and decision making. Also known as emotional quotient (EQ), emotional intelligence quotient (EIQ) and emotional leadership (EL), this tendency to identify emotions appropriately enables us to control our thoughts and behaviors and adjust them according to our objectives or the environment. Ei is believed to include four basic abilities –

  • The ability to perceive emotions
  • The ability to understand emotions
  • The ability to use emotions for reasoning
  • The ability to regulate or control emotions


The experts at MindJournal explain the concept of emotional quotient as “a form of intelligence which focuses on effectively processing emotional information. This information is utilized in decision making, reasoning and various other cognitive actions.” When we can identify, manage and utilize our emotions in a positive manner, we are better able to empathize with people around us. We are also able to communicate successfully, avoid conflict, cope with challenges and reduce stress. EI can empower a person to perform better, strengthen their relationships and accomplish their personal goals. It can also help an individual to understand what is important to them and take necessary actions while staying connected with their feelings.

History Of Emotional Intelligence

Although it is considered as a modern term, the concept was originally proposed by psychologist Edward Thorndike 1 in the 1930s as “social intelligence” who described it as the ability to act wisely in human relationships and understand & manage others. However, the term “emotional intelligence” was originally used by a graduate student named Wayne Leon Payne 2 in 1985 in a doctoral dissertation. Moreover, the term “emotional quotient” was first mentioned in an article by Keith Beasley published in Mensa Magazine. These are considered to be the first use of the terms in academic research.

However, it’s believed that American psychologists John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey proposed and coined the term “Emotional Intelligence” in their article in 1990, which was published in a journal titled Imagination, Cognition, and Personality. They discovered that some individuals are better able to recognize their own and other’s emotions, when compared to others. They also appeared to deal with emotional issues better. The psychologists defined 3 EI as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” However, the concept was popularized in 1995 by author and psychologist Daniel Goleman in his book titled ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.’

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer believed that emotional intelligence can be considered as a “subset of social intelligence”. According to the model proposed by Salovey and Mayer, emotional intelligence comprised of four major elements-

  • To accurately perceive & appraise feelings in self and others
  • To access & stimulate feelings when it enables cognition
  • To understand emotional language & utilize emotional information
  • To manage emotions for overall well being and growth


A 2019 study explains “Emotional Intelligence (EI) involves two important competencies: (1) the ability to recognize feelings and emotions in oneself and others, and (2) the ability to use that information to resolve conflicts and problems to improve interactions with others.”

Characteristics Of Emotional Intelligence

According to psychologist & author Daniel Goleman, EI or emotional quotient typically involves the following five elements which help to define the concept:

1. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a crucial element of EI. Being self-aware enables us to identify our feelings and realize how our emotions, behavior, reactions and actions may affect others. Moreover, people with high EI control their emotions instead of letting their emotions control them. It is also easier for them to identify their strengths and limitations and allows them to improve their abilities and perform better. Self-awareness usually involves –

  • Appropriate self-assessment
  • Emotional awareness
  • Self-confidence


Being self-aware allows us to be open and accepting of new information, interactions, experiences and opportunities leading to learning and growth. Goleman believes that self-awareness allows us to be more confident and realize how we are perceived by others.

2. Self-Regulation

Self -awareness leads to the ability to monitor and regulate our impulses and emotions better. Self-regulation helps us to control our reactions and handle ourselves better in demanding or difficult situations, like when we feel angry. Moreover, it also helps us to make informed decisions instead of impulsive and careless ones. It also allows us to be more mindful, thoughtful, and easily adapt to change. Self-regulation makes us more assertive and express our emotions appropriately. People with high levels of self-regulation have strong conscientiousness and are accountable for their behavior. Self-regulation tends to include –

  • Self-control
  • Adaptability
  • Innovation
  • Self-management
  • Trustworthiness

3. Motivation

High EI is also closely associated with intrinsic motivation. Emotionally intelligent people are highly self-motivated and seek long-term success over immediate results. They are highly passionate individuals who pursue their goals and needs, seek challenges and are exceptionally effective and productive. Instead of external rewards like money, fame and power, they seek internal rewards like inner peace, satisfaction, pride with their work and personal growth. They never hesitate from taking initiatives and are committed to accomplishing the goals they set. Self-motivation involves the following elements:

  • Optimism
  • Need for personal development
  • Strong desire for achievement
  • Commitment to goals
  • Keen on taking initiatives
  • Ready to take action on opportunities
  • Resilience

4. Empathy

The ability to relate to the emotional states of others is one of the most important features of EI. However, empathy involves a lot more than understanding others’ feelings. Empathy includes how we respond to others based on the available emotional information. Empathy also enables us to analyze the power dynamics which direct interactions and relationships in social settings. Being empathetic helps us to be aware of the different perspectives, needs and wants of others and identify hidden emotions as well. Emotionally intelligent people with a high degree of empathy can relate with the people around them without being judgmental.

5. Social Skills

Individuals with strong social skills are more approachable and easier to like. This is another crucial element of EI. Social skills enable us to focus on collective goals rather than individual goals and helps us become team players. People with high EI and social skills can become exceptional communicators and mediators. It also helps them to effectively handle disputes and build stronger relationships. Social skills can also be helpful for managers in organizations for building connections with workers. Core social skills include verbal communication, body language, active listening, persuasiveness and leadership skills. It usually involves the following:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Relationship skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Persuasiveness
  • Being trustworthy


Social skills help to boost self-confidence and self-esteem leading to positive inner dialogue and a better understanding & acceptance of emotions.

Signs Of Emotional Intelligence

We can often have a difficult time identifying whether we are emotionally intelligent or not. Here are a few signs that can help us to recognize this ability and/or trait within us and others:

  • Considered empathic by others
  • Exceptional listening skills
  • Self-motivated and goal-oriented
  • Ability to take appropriate decisions and solve problems that helps everyone
  • Does not judge others
  • Highly sociable and pleasing to be around
  • Ability to get over bad experiences and move forward
  • Easily accepts constructive criticism and responsibility
  • Asks open-ended questions
  • Does not make excuses or blame others for their mistakes
  • Open to share feelings and being emotionally vulnerable with others
  • Establishes strong personal boundaries and not hesitant to say “no”
  • Does not hesitate to apologize or admit their faults
  • Understands others’ perspectives and why they behave in a certain way
  • Excellent leadership skills


However, if someone lacks emotional quotient, then they may exhibit the following signs:

  • Feels overwhelmed by emotions
  • Highly judgmental of others
  • Feels jealous and holds grudges for a long time
  • Incapable of accepting their own mistakes or moving on
  • Inability to take charge in a situation or be assertive
  • Difficulty accepting feedback and criticism from others, even if constructive criticism
  • Feel misunderstood, easily offended and lonely
  • Inability to understand the viewpoints or emotions of others
  • Difficulty maintaining close and healthy relationships
  • Gets upset easily

Levels Of Emotional Intelligence

Research 4 reveals that emotional intelligence or emotional quotient has four separate levels which are explained below:

1. Emotional perception

Perceiving emotions is one of the most basic elements of EI. It is only by understanding their and others’ emotions accurately, one can perceive feelings within them and other people around them. Perceiving emotions effectively requires that we understand both verbal signals and nonverbal communication, like facial expressions, gestures and body language.

2. Reason using emotions

Another crucial aspect of emotional intelligence is the ability for reasoning with emotions. It requires that we utilize emotions to encourage and control our thoughts, behaviors and cognitive activities. Understanding emotions can help us realize what is important to us and prioritize our attention towards it. EI can also help us to respond and react to situations and things that attract our attention.

3. Understanding emotions

Emotions can convey an array of subtle meanings and messages and so feelings must be perceived accurately. If someone portrays feelings of sadness, we must interpret the emotion as sadness and not as disappointment or depression for instance. Moreover, we must also understand what their emotions are trying to express and analyze the cause of their emotions. Misinterpreting emotions can not only lead to problems in the relationship, it can also adversely affect certains tasks, activities and situations.

4. Emotional management

Our ability to manage our own emotions is perhaps the most important level of emotional intelligence. Regulating and controlling our emotions can help us respond properly to situations and to others’ emotions. Managing emotions can help to express ourselves better, improve communication and strengthen relationships.

These four levels of EI are organized based on their difficulty and complexity. Basic and easier levels are considered as lower levels, while complex processes are considered as higher levels. Emotional management is regarded as the highest level of EI as it requires serious conscious involvement.

Models Of Emotional Intelligence

Researchers have proposed different models of EI to better understand the concept. According to existing scientific understanding, the primary models of emotional intelligence include –

  • The ability model
  • The trait model
  • The mixed model


Let us take a closer look at each of these specific models and understand how they can help us gain a better idea about emotional quotient.

1. The ability model

A 2013 study 5 explains that “The ability model focuses on the individual’s ability to process emotional information and use it to navigate the social environment.” It was developed by John Mayer of University of New Hampshire and Peter Salovey of Yale University. This model 6 of EI primarily deals with information processing and other associated competencies. Mayer and Salovey consider EI as a form of social intelligence which allows one to understand and manage emotions. Hence, emotional intelligence also involves the ability to employ emotional information for directing thoughts, behavior and action in an adaptive way. According to the ability model, EI typically involves the following four abilities:

  • Perceiving emotions: One’s ability to recognize own feelings and decipher meaning from facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, pictures etc.
  • Using emotions: One’s ability to employ emotions promote thinking, problem-solving and other cognitive activities.
  • Understanding emotions: One’s ability to interpret emotional language and understand the complex associations between emotions.
  • Managing emotions: One’s ability to control emotions, whether positive or negative, in themselves and others.

2. The trait model

The 2013 study explains the trait model of emotional intelligence as “encompasses behavioral dispositions and self-perceived abilities and is measured through self-report.” This model was devised by psychologist Konstantin Vasily Petrides. This approach observes emotional quotient as “emotion-related information”. According to a 2007 study 7 , “The construct of trait emotional intelligence (trait EI or trait emotional self-efficacy) provides a comprehensive operationalization of emotion-related self-perceptions and dispositions.” The trait model believes EI is related to dispositions and perceptions of the self which can be integrated into the “fundamental taxonomies of personality.”

Research 8 reveals that trait EI is determined, to an extent, by different aspects of personality and may be located in the “lower levels of personality hierarchies.” But it is separate from other personality constructs. Moreover, it is proposed that trait EI involves self-perceived components of ability EI, social intelligence and personal intelligence, along with different personality dispositions. The construct of trait EI tends to include the following elements –

  • Emotion perception
  • Emotion expression
  • Emotion management and regulation
  • Assertiveness
  • Adaptability
  • Optimism
  • Impulsiveness
  • Trait empathy
  • Self-esteem
  • Social awareness
  • Happiness
  • Self-motivation
  • Stress management
  • Relationships

3. The mixed model

This model was devised by author Daniel Goleman. According to this notion, EI is considered as an amalgamation of personality dimensions and emotional skills. “The mixed model is a combination of both ability and trait EI. It defines EI as an array of skills and characteristics that drive leadership performance, as proposed by Goleman,” explains the 2013 study. The mixed model involves five crucial elements of emotional intelligence:

  • Self-awareness: One’s ability to identify emotions, values, drives, strengths & weaknesses and realize their effect on others around them utilizing their instincts to make decisions.
  • Self-regulation: Redirecting or regulating one’s difficult impulses, instincts & emotions as well as adjusting to changing situations.
  • Social skills: Managing emotions to strengthen relationships with others.
  • Empathy: Being aware of and understanding emotions of others and making informed decisions
  • Motivation: Understanding what exactly motivates one.


Hence, as per the Bar-On model 9 , emotional-social intelligence refers to a multifarious set of skills, abilities and facilitators which direct how individuals understand & express themselves and relate & respond to others.

Emotional Intelligence & Leadership

Research 10 shows that EI is an important factor in successful leadership. It has been observed that individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence, who are sensitive to their own feelings and how their emotions impact others, tend to be more successful as leaders. According to a 2018 study, EI affects the leadership skills of different professionals in an organizational setting. The researchers state “The ability to be perceptively in tune with yourself and your emotions, as well as having sound situational awareness can be a powerful tool for leading a team.” One 1998 study 11 suggests that supervisors and managers can develop a healthier and productive workplace for the employees simply by “becoming more aware of their own emotional intelligence.”

Moreover, recent research 12 shows that individuals who possess high levels of EI tend to have higher abilities to cope with work stress 13 which is one of the most important traits necessary for organizational leadership. It has also been observed that EI competencies can also help leaders in the following areas:

  • Selecting organizational objectives
  • Planning and managing work activities
  • Sustaining interdependent interpersonal relationships
  • Providing and acquiring support needed for achieving organizational goals


Hence, it has been established that emotional intelligence is positively associated with effective leadership, job performance and desired organizational attitude. A 2015 study 14 states “Managers high on EI can foster their employees’ creativity through interaction with them and via the creation of a work climate supportive of creativity.” It adds that leaders with high levels of EI “can create positive interactions between employees that leads to better cooperation, coordination, and organizational behavior.”

How Emotional Intelligence Affects Us?

Although our intelligence quotient (IQ) is crucial for being successful in life, emotional quotient enables us to be successful in our social and personal relationships. Our emotional intelligence allows us to manage our thoughts and feelings, relieve stress and work effectively with others. EI can substantially affect the following aspects of our life:

1. Academic or work performance

High levels of emotional intelligence can help us deal with different social complexities in school, university and the workplace. It can enable someone to lead others better and identify talented individuals. According to a 2017 study 15 , EI was found to be closely linked with academic as well as professional success. The researchers state “academic performance was better in those who were more emotionally intelligent.” However, one 2015 study found that performance of managers was not necessarily linked with higher levels of EI. Moreover, higher EI is also positively associated with performance in competitive sports. “Higher EI has been linked to higher sports performance. For athletes in competitive sports a high EI could, hence, be beneficial,” found a 2018 study 16 .

Another 2019 study 17 found that emotional intelligence is also associated with job satisfaction. The researchers reveal that their “findings provide preliminary evidence that emotional intelligence is a relevant addition to guide the achievement of career success.”

2. Physical health

When we are better able to manage our emotions, we are more capable of coping with difficult emotions, such as anxiety and stress, as well. Low emotional intelligence can lead to a number of health issues such as –

  • Higher levels of stress
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Lower the immune system
  • Higher risk of heart attacks & strokes
  • Increases infertility
  • Accelerates the aging process

3. Mental health

Our mental health can be severely affected due to uncontrolled difficult emotions which can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Being able to identify, understand and manage our emotions empowers us to build a stronger sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Moreover, emotional intelligence also allows us to build healthier relationships which prevents us from experiencing loneliness, rejection, abandonment and social isolation. Research 18 has found that higher EI is closely linked with resilience 19 as well as reduced stress, anxiety & depression. According to a 2019 study 20 , the ability to understand and manage emotions can also help in increasing happiness as well. The researchers state the EI can significantly “increase their happiness and emotional well-being.”

4. Social intelligence

Emotional quotient allows us to connect with our environment and other people around us in a much more meaningful way. Social intelligence helps us identify our well wishers and friends, analyze if someone likes us and improves social communication. It also helps us to experience love and happiness.

5. Interpersonal relationships

Emotional perception and regulation helps us to better identify and understand the emotions of others. Moreover, EI also enables us to express ourselves more clearly and improves communication which positively affects personal and social relationships. A 2001 study 21 found that emotional intelligence is closely associated with better interpersonal relations. The researchers found that higher EI leads to better –

  • Social skills
  • Empathic perspective taking & self-monitoring in social settings
  • Cooperative responses toward partners
  • Affectionate, closer and stronger relationships
  • Higher satisfaction in relationships with romantic partners
  • Marital satisfaction

6. Empathy

Emotional intelligence involves not only understanding our own emotions, but also the feelings of others. Our ability to relate and empathize with others enables us to regulate emotions in ourselves and the people around us. This improves our communication skills, social skills and how we respond to others. Empathy enables us to realize why people behave and react the way they do. EI is closely associated with empathic understanding, perspective-taking, empathic joy and empathic stress. A recent 2020 study 22 explains “The empathic ability is a construct strongly related to EI, as empathy is one of the skills closely associated with the understanding and use of emotions.”

Another 2018 research paper 23 has found that EI and empathy are closely associated as emotional intelligence is “a measure of emotional awareness and ability to respond to emotion in oneself and others.”

7. Self-Awareness

A 2014 study 24 explains “EI is awareness of self and others, and empathy.” Individuals with high levels EI are highly capable of understanding themselves, their needs, emotions, strengths and drawbacks. Self-awareness enables us to pause and consider our emotions before reacting or responding to certain situations. When we are better able to understand and control our emotions, we can better deal with emotionally charged situations and reduce stress.

Apart from these, individuals who are highly emotionally intelligent are typically perceived as more positive, relaxed, empathic, socially skilled and pleasant.

Measuring Emotional Intelligence

Emotional quotient can be measured using specifically developed assessments and tests. These can include ability tests or self-report tests. Ability tests require an individual responding to certain situations which is then used to measure and assess their skills. The process necessitates that the person taking the test illustrates their abilities to be rated by a neutral third person. Self-report tests, however, can be analyzed by the individual themselves. These types of EI measuring tests are more common as they are easy to use and score. In these self-assessment tests, people rate their own responses and behaviors to statements or questions in the test.

According to a 2019 study 25 , the following professional scales are widely used by mental health experts for measuring emotional intelligence and different aspects of EI, such as perceiving emotions, regulating emotions and utilizing emotions:

  • Self-report Emotional Intelligence Test (SREIT)
  • Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Tests (MSCEIT)
  • Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i)
  • Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue)
  • Emotional and Social competence Inventory (ESCI)
  • The Situational Test of Emotional Management (STEM 26 ) & The Situational Test of Emotional Understanding (STEU)


Among these scales, the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) is perhaps the most used ability-based test which measures the different elements of the EI model developed by Mayer and Salovey. Respondents perform different tasks that analyze their capability to perceive, identify, understand, and manage emotions. The researchers recommend that individuals “should use single, complete tests where possible and choose measures of EI most suitable for their purpose (i.e., choose ability EI when maximal performance is important and trait EI when typical performance is important).”

Can Emotional Intelligence Be Learned?

Emotional quotient is our ability to perceive, regulate and analyze feelings. A study 27 conducted in 2020 explains EI as owning self-knowledge skills and knowing about one’s own thoughts, feelings, identity and personal traits. It states “Emotional intelligence is, in fact, a skill that changes humans’ abilities to evolve, develop, and have a positive feeling about life.” Like any other skill, EI can also be learned. Although some experts believe that EI is an inborn trait, certain researchers 28 argue that it can be learned and improved with practice.

According to a 2019 study, training can greatly help in improving EI in managers, employees and students. The study found that “EI training significantly improved emotion regulation and comprehension and general emotional skills. It also had a positive impact on psychological well being, subjective perceptions of health, quality of social relations, and employability.” Another 2018 study 29 on university students also found that emotional intelligence can be taught using different methodologies.

How To Improve Emotional Intelligence?

One of the best ways to learn to be more emotionally intelligent is to be more humble, empathic and understand why people respond in the way they do. Moreover, preventing oneself from constantly seeking attention, admiration, validation and praise is also important. Taking responsibility for your behavior and learning to control your own emotions is vital for learning to be more emotionally intelligent.

Here are a few quick ways to build and improve your emotional quotient:

  • Notice how your behavior affects others
  • Use active listening
  • Practice self-awareness
  • Empathize with other people
  • Take responsibility for your words & actions
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Seek feedback and accept criticism
  • Be assertive while communicating
  • Learn to respond to conflict, instead of reacting
  • Learn to motivate yourself
  • Identify & acknowledge emotional triggers
  • Implement leadership skills
  • Appreciate positive thoughts and actions
  • Acknowledge negative thoughts and emotions
  • Be sociable and approachable
  • Learn to manage stress
  • Learn to be objective about your opinions & question yourself
  • Set realistic goals
  • Leave your comfort zone

Read more: Improving Emotional Intelligence

Cultivate Emotional Intelligence

Although some individuals can be born with high degrees of emotional quotient, we can learn to develop and strengthen our emotional intelligence with practice, determination and patience. Developing EI is perhaps the most crucial element of personal development. It can also enable us to improve our social skills and create closer, healthier relationships. EI is important for helping us understand our inner selves, the emotions of others and how our emotions can impact others. Developing high levels of EI is the key to success in professional and personal life.

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