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What Are the 5 Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence?

Seven years ago, I never even heard of the term of “emotional intelligence.” Now, it’s one of the most sought-after soft skills in the workplace. These days, more employers realize the key to success is hiring professionals who can not only do the job but also have a deep sense of who they are and how they interact with others.

Emotions are often times best left on a romantic date, in between the sheets, or creating art. But emotions are always showing up in the workplace and there’s no fighting it:

For an owner or founder — emotions show up when you really dive into why you started a business in the first place and what motivates you. 

For an sales/marketing professional — emotions show up when you’re trying to get into the mind of a prospect to sell something. Because buying, oftentimes, is an emotional behavior. 

For a careerist — emotions show up when you decide what job to take, what job to leave, and whether or not you’re feeling appreciated in your current position. 

To say that emotions don’t have a place at work is bullshit. We’re emotional beings. The thing is, no matter what role we’re in, we are bound to make hard decisions at work. Yet, we tend to make these decisions with our emotions taking the lead. Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to identify and manage emotions.

That way, emotions don’t take the wheel as we make everyday decisions. But the more we understand our emotions, the more effective, intuitive, empathetic, and understanding we are in this world, to ourselves, and to others — and this is just one of the many benefits of improving EI. 

That’s why EI skills are becoming just as important as technical skills, why HR teams are implementing it into their interview process, and why business owners are seeking out EI coaches to become better leaders. 

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to get in touch with your own emotions and be more aware of the emotions in others. Emotional intelligence is not about withholding your emotions or even allowing your emotions to run wild, but rather is a way to identify how they impact the way you show up in the world (what I like to call your “VibeWiFi”). 

The 5 characteristics of emotional intelligence?

There are five major characteristics of emotional intelligence. Each characteristic builds on top of one another. Many people who have started an emotional intelligence journey for the first time will identify with one or a few characteristics they feel they can improve on. 

Here is a high-level breakdown:


This is often the first step in improving emotional intelligence. After all, emotions are personal, so you have to start with you! When people are thought to be self-aware, they are able to understand how they feel and why they are feeling that way. From there, they are able to logically reflect on the current situation, respond more effectively, and not allow their feelings to control their behavior, decision-making, and thought process. 


Some people have strong self-awareness, but may lack self-management. The two characteristics often work hand-in-hand. If you think about it as if you were building a marketing campaign, self-awareness is the plan; self-management is the execution. Self-management is the act of controlling your emotions, which may lead to impulsive behavior. With self-management, you’re able to respond to a situation logically, which impacts the outcome more positively. 


Empathy is more complex than you may think. In my opinion, it is the most important EI trait to build. With deep empathy, you’re able to better identify the emotional state of others around you while putting judgement and stereotypes aside. It is not knowing how the other person is truly feeling (this is a common misconception of empathy). 


People who are goal-oriented and motivated beyond just extrinsic rewards are known to hold a higher degree of EI. They seek out challenges, new opportunities, and tend to be extremely focused on the task at hand. They are constantly looking for ways to improve and hold an open mindset. 


Having strong social-awareness is the ability to “read the room,” resolve conflict, and work well with others. Being social-aware builds greater team-building skills. People who are socially aware work well with a team, can effectively communicate with others, and better understand what’s at the core of a conflict between two people or a group. 

How emotional intelligence can be improved

Emotional intelligence is not a skill you can build overnight, and it’s not something you can learn and forget about. EI is a journey and a process. Once you start to learn the techniques of EI, you’ll be amazed by how much your life will open up just by being in tuned with your emotions and shifting your mindset. 

3 thoughts on “What Are the 5 Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence?

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