Some people have a strong innate emotional intelligence, while for others it’s a struggle to develop. If you’re in the latter category, it is possible to improve your emotional intelligence, and there are many reasons why you should do so!

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to understand the emotions of others and to regulate your own emotional state. People who are high in emotional intelligence have a good sense of how the people around them are feeling, how their own emotions may be coloring situations, and how to navigate complex emotional worlds.

A number of factors can contribute to someone’s overall level of emotional intelligence. People who grow up in a large family, for instance, may learn the skills of emotional intelligence naturally from their interactions with siblings and family members.

On the other hand, people whose parents were remote or distant may struggle with emotional intelligence. Additionally, people who develop a mental health disorder in the course of their lives may find that it impedes their ability to improve their emotional intelligence without professional support.

The Main Components of Emotional Intelligence

Before diving into the reasons to improve your emotional intelligence, it’s important to recognize what the key components of emotional intelligence are and how they affect daily life.

There are five main components of emotional intelligence. You may be higher in some aspects than others, but each component makes up an important part of the whole.


The first component of emotional intelligence is emotional self-regulation. Essentially, emotional self-regulation is your ability to control your impulses and emotions rather than letting them control you.

This doesn’t mean that people with high emotional self-regulation are cold, unfeeling, or calloused. Strong emotional experiences are an important part of living a healthy and fulfilling life and shouldn’t be repressed or avoided.

Learning to manage emotions and not let them dictate your behavior is a key sign of emotional intelligence. For example, you might get frustrated when someone cuts you off on the freeway, but it’s not healthy to fly into a rage, chase the other car down, and start a confrontation.

Similarly, it’s common for people to feel sad during a breakup. However, a person with high emotional intelligence can often regulate this emotion so that it doesn’t cause the rest of their life to come to a screeching halt. They may still be able to go to work and spend time with friends and loved ones — even if they feel sad.


Motivation plays a key role in emotional intelligence, but it typically refers to a specific type of motivation. People who are high in emotional intelligence tend to seek out intrinsic over extrinsic motivation. That is, they are motivated more by internal rewards than external rewards.

This type of motivation can come up in several different areas of life, including:

  • Creative pursuits
  • Workplace tasks
  • Physical fitness
  • Self-improvement

In general, people with high emotional intelligence tend to look at problems and see how they provide opportunities for growth, challenge, or improvement.

Rather than focusing on an external reward, such as money, praise, or recognition, they gravitate toward the ways in which completing a task enriches their life, adds to their skill set, or enhances their mental health in some way.


Critically important to emotional intelligence is self-awareness. A person who is highly emotionally intelligent has a firm grasp on what emotions they are experiencing, the differences between emotions, and how these emotions can influence their thoughts or behavior.

For example, a person with high emotional intelligence might be able to spot the signs of anger when the emotion arises. They may notice a tightness in their stomach, jaw, or other sensations as signs of this emotion.

When they notice the emotion, they can further recognize that they don’t always make good decisions when angry, so they know to wait to cool off before making a phone call they might regret or posting on social media.

The awareness of your own emotions and their effects can take some time to learn, but it is possible.


Just as people high in emotional intelligence are aware of their own emotions, they are typically acutely in tune with the emotions of others. Recognizing how someone else is feeling is often referred to as empathy – being able to “walk in another person’s shoes.”

Similar to how a person might change their own behavior if they recognize powerful emotions driving them, a person who is high in empathy can alter their behavior around someone else experiencing intense emotions.

Social Skills

Empathy feeds directly into the next major component of emotional intelligence: a strong base of social skills. Humans are social creatures, and whether you’re at work, in a relationship, or even just out and about town, strong social skills can help support you in maintaining a healthy mental state.

Social skills may be a relatively broad category but could it includes effective communication, holding healthy boundaries, and being able to make new friends.

5 Reasons to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Developing a practice of self-improvement can be exciting, as self-growth often feels fulfilling. It might seem apparent why you would want to improve your emotional intelligence in particular, but exploring the reasons in greater detail can help you develop or maintain the motivation to achieve your goal.

1. Promotes Healthier Relationships

Healthy relationships depend on many of the qualities inherent in emotional intelligence. Empathy, social skills, self-awareness, and self-regulation can all help you become a better friend, partner, lover, or spouse.

When you improve your emotional intelligence, you’ll find that it’s often much easier to understand and show compassion for other people’s feelings. You won’t fly off the handle at the slightest provocation, and you’ll have more space to communicate your needs, clarify misunderstandings, and keep your friendships and intimate relationships on the right track.

This can pay dividends for your mental health in the long term. Rather than getting frustrated with relationships that don’t go your way or struggling with the consequences of emotional fallout, you can navigate your relationships with ease and enjoy the benefits of social support and connection.

2. Teaches Stress Management

People who struggle with emotional intelligence often allow their emotions to be the driving forces in their lives. This can quickly lead to a buildup of stress, which can, in turn, increase their risk of developing mental health challenges, such as depression, burnout, or anxiety.

By making a concerted effort to improve your emotional intelligence, you can mitigate a great deal of the stress caused by these emotions. When you feel anxious, sad, or angry, you can learn healthier ways of coping with these emotions and not let them dictate your actions.

Learning to manage stress is essentially the process of learning self-regulation skills. A number of different evidence-based therapies emphasize tools for self-regulation, with some common approaches including:

  • Mindfulness practices
  • Breathing exercises
  • Physical exercises
  • Challenging maladaptive thoughts

Skills like these are taught in talk therapy approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and much more. All can be implemented into your daily life and help you learn to manage stress and daily challenges with ease.

3. Improves Mental Health

Emotional intelligence isn’t a cure for mental health disorders, but it can be a strong protective factor. When you improve your emotional intelligence, you can find that stressful situations become more manageable, difficult relationships become easier, and you aren’t pulled in several different directions by competing emotions.

This can help break the patterns of thinking and behavior that often result in a mental health diagnosis. For example, people who have depression often experience negative thought spirals caused by a specific emotional reaction. A single event can have a domino effect of negative thoughts spiraling into each other, leaving them feeling sad, depressed, lonely, and unmotivated.

A person with a high emotional intelligence may recognize that the precipitating event wasn’t as serious as they first thought. They may use their skills in self-regulation to stop their emotions from getting out of control, their communication skills to clarify the intent of others, or their powers of empathy to recognize that someone else lashed out only because they were hurting.

By taking a step back and examining a situation from others’ perspectives and with their own emotions regulated, they can prevent the spiral from happening in the first place.

4. Supports Better Communication

Communication barriers are present in nearly every aspect of life. From work to school to intimate relationships, people often struggle to differentiate the words someone says from the intent the words carry.

Emotional intelligence can help facilitate the communication process. Empathy can provide insight into what another person needs, and self-awareness can help determine whether your interpretation is guided by bias or conjecture.

Similarly, people high in emotional intelligence may have stronger communication skills, which give them the tools to clarify intent and meaning when communicating with others.

5. Facilitates Conflict Management

Conflict happens in life. It’s an unfortunate reality that personalities will often clash, that miscommunication leads to arguments, and that expectations and assumptions will often lead to interpersonal disputes.

A strong sense of emotional intelligence can go a long way toward mitigating the harms of these conflicts and helping people work together to come to solutions.

For example, if your boss comes to you at work angry that you misunderstood a project that was assigned to you, one reaction might be to get frustrated with your boss for not spelling out their needs clearly.

Yet, the emotionally intelligent person would understand that getting angry with your angry boss might only lead to more conflict, more challenges, and more strained communications in the future.

By improving your emotional intelligence, you gain the skills to handle conflict without exacerbating the situation, letting your emotions fly off the handle, or saying things you might regret.

Get Professional Support at Plus by APN

Improving your emotional intelligence is typically a worthy goal for anyone. Yet many people find it difficult to understand how to make the improvements needed for better mental health and will often need the support of a team of dedicated mental health professionals in order to see the improvement they desire.

At Plus by APN, our comprehensive mental health treatment center has an abundance of tools available to help you improve your emotional intelligence, work through mental health challenges, and live a better, more fulfilling life.

From in-person and virtual therapy options to advanced mental health treatment technologies, at Plus by APN you have every opportunity available to help you achieve your goals.

To learn more about our comprehensive mental health treatment options, reach out to our team using the online form on our website or by calling our team directly at 424.644.6486.


  • Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., Caruso, D. R., & Sitarenios, G. (2001). Emotional intelligence as a standard intelligence. Emotion, 1(3), 232–242.
  • Mayer, John D., and Peter Salovey. “Emotional Intelligence and the Construction and Regulation of Feelings.” Applied and Preventive Psychology, vol. 4, no. 3, 1995, pp. 197-208, Accessed 25 May 2024.