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Emotional Intelligence: A Growing Need In Our Communities

In a time of COVID-19 and civil unrest, it is more important than ever to foster emotional intelligence. What exactly is emotional intelligence? This concept has been defined to encompass four areas of emotional functioning: emotion perception, emotion expression, emotion cognitions, emotion problem solving, and emotional regulation (Elfenbein & MacCann, 2017). In order for individuals to make emotionally intelligent decisions, emotions must be perceived from human interactions, thoughts must be created to understand, and problem solve through emotions, and emotional expression must be managed (Elfenbein & MacCann, 2017).

Emotional intelligence has been divided into two subtypes: ability emotional intelligence and trait emotional intelligence. Ability emotional intelligence refers to emotional intelligence as an ability that can be developed while trait emotional intelligence consists of personality traits that lend themselves to behaviors consistent with emotional intelligence (Elfenbein & MacCann, 2017). Emotional intelligence is considered a mental ability and a broad form of intelligence. Problem solving which is intelligent may not necessarily lead to behavior which is intelligent. Furthermore, emotional intelligence focuses on hot information processing which consists of reasoning and problem solving related to information that is of great importance to the individual (Mayer et al., 2016).

The literature has suggested that increased emotional intelligence is associated with improvements in physical and mental health, psychological well-being and life satisfaction, academic and work performance, and relationship satisfaction (Sarkar & Oberoi, 2018). Women tend to exhibit higher ability emotional intelligence compared to men (Cabello et al., 2016). Younger and older adults tend to exhibit lower levels of ability emotional intelligence compared to middle-aged adults (Cabello et al., 2016). Individuals with high emotional intelligence exhibit increased life satisfaction as they possess greater capabilities to experience positive emotions and regulate negative emotions at an increased rate (Sarkar & Oberoi, 2018).

Problems related to emotion perception and emotion regulation can become obstacles to developing increased emotional intelligence (Sarkar & Oberoi, 2018). Decreased emotional intelligence has been associated with poor coping abilities and coping style selection among parents and caregivers (Saeed et al., 2019). Decreased emotional intelligence among caregivers has been suggested to lead to less empathy and poor communication skills and resiliency (Saeed et al., 2019). Physiologically, emotional intelligence has been associated with cardiac vagal control and reactivity and its relationship with the central and autonomic nervous system (Vanuk, Alkozei, Raikes, Allen, & Killgore, 2019). Cardiac vagal control has been identified as an indicator of emotional regulation through measurements such as heart rate variability (Vanuk et al., 2019). High heart rate variability has been demonstrated to be an indicator of adaptive emotional responses and physical and psychological regulation (Vanuk et al., 2019). The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are working optimally together in response to stressors from the environment in states where high heart rate variability is present (Vanuk et al., 2019). Low heart rate variability has been found to be an indicator of dysregulation, increased stress, and internalizing or externalizing psychopathology (Vanuk et al., 2019).

How can we begin to develop more emotional intelligence? Focusing on emotional self-awareness, social awareness, self-regulation, relationships skills, and healthy decision making is a good first step. By developing these skills it increases our protection to addiction and other mental health disorders and more importantly can help us increase our resilience in a world that is ever-changing.


Cabello, R., Sorrel, M. A., Fernandez-Pinto, I., Extremera, N., & Fernandez-Berrocal, P. (2016). Age and gender differences in ability emotional intelligence in adults: A cross-sectional study. Developmental Psychology, 52, 1486-1492. doi:10.1037/dev0000191

Elfenbein, H. A., & MacCann, C. (2017). A closer look at ability emotional intelligence (EI): What are its component parts, and how do they relate to each other? Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 11, e12324-12347. doi:10.1111/spc3.12324

Mayer, J. D., Caruso, D. R., & Salovey, P. (2016). The ability model of emotional intelligence: Principles and updates. Emotion Review, 8, 290-300. doi: 10.1177/1754073916639667

Saeed, A., Kiani, S., & Javed, S. (2019). Caregivers of mentally ill patient: Role of coping style and emotional intelligence. Pakistan Armed Forces Medical Journal, 69, 665-670. Retrieved from

Sarkar, M. P., & Oberoi, S. (2018). Emotional intelligence: An extensive literature review. Global Journal of Enterprise Information System, 10, 1-11. doi:10.18311/gjeis/2018

Vanuk, J. R., Alkozei, A., Raikes, A. C., Allen, J. J. B., & Killgore, W. D. S. (2019). Ability-based emotional intelligence is associated with greater cardiac vagal control and reactivity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 13, 1-14. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00181