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As a psychologist, a topic I’ve always wondered about is “emotional intelligence”, or EI. What is it? Does it carry any weight? There are lots of thoughts about the robustness of the concept of emotional intelligence, largely because emotions are harder to measure than cognitive ability.

Technically, EI refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions, both in yourself and in others. Emotional intelligence is generally said to include a few skills: emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem-solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.

Overall, I often think about EI as someone’s “bedside manner” or how someone is able to “read a room.” A person can be remarkably cognitively bright but have no clue how to navigate the emotions necessary in relationships.

Emotional intelligence is a set of skills and behaviors. While some people will be naturally more adept at certain aspects, EI is most certainly something we can practice. And, I think it’s something we can all learn about as we develop our own capacity for emotional language.

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