There’s a new term that’s surfacing in conversations at work a lot these days and even in HR – emotional intelligence (EQ or EI).

The term itself is not that new as two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer came up with it in their article, “Emotional Intelligence,” in the journal Imagination, Cognition, and Personality in 1990. Six years later, author Dal Goleman popularized the term in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Emotional intelligence has helped individuals, organizations and companies recognize that there is more to individual and group achievement than mere IQ or talent alone.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. This consists of several skills: perception, reasoning with emotion, understanding emotion and managing emotion.

1.    Perceiving Emotion:

This is the first step in understanding emotions – perceiving and identifying emotions accurately. This can range from speech to nonverbal signs such as facial expressions and body language. This skill involves both perceiving and identifying your own emotion as well as those of people around you.

2. Reasoning with Emotion:

The next step is having the ability to reason with emotion to prioritize attention and response. By reasoning using emotion, you can figure out what is important and requires immediate attention and reaction. Here you have the ability to harness your emotion and apply it to your thinking (cognitive abilities) and how you solve problems.

3. Understanding Emotion:

The third step is the ability to understand emotion and associated meanings. For example, if a person shows angry emotions, you can interpret this as anger. Being able to recognize the cause of the emotion and what that means for that individual is important. This can range from being able to discern both the frustration of the person in the moment as well as any underlying causes prior to their expression of anger. In this example, a person could get furious at work about an employee being late, which is the immediate reason, but also be angry already from a prior argument with a spouse before coming to work.

4. Managing Emotion:

This is the fourth and highest skill level within an individual’s emotional intelligence quotient. This is the ability to manage emotions efficiently from regulating your response to responding to the emotions of others.

The ability to manage emotions is a huge skill as this involves self-control, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, as well as the ability to impact others positively, whether you are cheering up or calming down another person.

Basically, having emotional intelligence helps you recognize that emotions drive behavior and learning how to manage emotions is essential. This skill set is vital in situations of pressure, emergency and stress. It also can make the difference in a daily conversation with a peer, employer, employee or client.

There are tests available to measure EI such as the Multifactor Emotional Intelligence Scale (MEIS), which is a test designed to assess a person’s ability to perceive, identify, understand, and utilize emotions.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?

Emotional intelligence requires awareness of both yourself and people around you. Having emotional intelligence directly impacts your physical health, mental well being, relationships, ability to resolve conflicts and your own success.

Physical Health

Your ability to take good care of your physical health is tied to stress and that is affected by your emotional intelligence. Being aware of your emotional state and how you react to stress in your life can help you manage your stress and maintain good health.

Mental Well-Being

Having high emotional intelligence affects your attitude as it reduces anxiety, depression and mood swings, while also increasing your sense of optimism and happier perspective on life.


The ability to understand and manage emotions helps you communicate better, understand other people better and relate to others. It strengthens relationships and leads to greater understanding and fulfillment. This also helps you develop better networks for support.

Resolving Conflicts

Being able to understand other people’s emotions makes it easier to be empathetic. It helps resolve conflicts and avoid them as well. High emotional intelligence helps people negotiate better because you are able to understand what people need and thus meet that need.


Emotional intelligence is tied to self-awareness, driving greater internal motivation. This lowers procrastination and boosts self-confidence. It also helps you focus on goals and achieve them. Having the ability to persevere despite setbacks, postpone gratification and work for the long-term require fortitude and internal motivation. These abilities in turn drive success.

Applying Emotional Intelligence to Work

“Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finally, emotional intelligence contributes greatly to leadership, both in yourself and in working with others. Effective leadership draws upon skills such as relationship-building, conflict resolution and self-awareness and internal motivation. People with higher emotional intelligence become better leaders.

This also impacts the workplace significantly as a leader with high emotional intelligence recognizes what the needs of people are and aims to meet them while achieving workplace goals. This leads to higher morale and higher performance.

As a CPA, you interact with clients and people within your company on a daily basis. Being able to apply the skill set of emotional intelligence can have a very positive effect on your relationships and success at work, both individually and for your company as a whole.

Being equipped with high emotional intelligence enables you to better understand people and situations. You are able to learn, manage and master your own emotions. You can lead others to make better decisions and help alleviate stress in pressure-filled environments or unexpected events. You are able to boost morale while recognizing immediate needs and then working with others to overcome conflicts and improve team performance. This in turn, leads to stronger teams, better client interactions and overall output and performance – all of which contribute to greater success.



photo credit: EQ via photopin (license)