5 Basic Elements of Emotional Intelligence

We all have emotions that can be pleasant: like joy, and love, or negative: like fear, anger, shame, guilt, and jealousy. However, not everyone can recognize and name them and deal with them effectively. Emotions play an essential role in our lives, communicating our needs, rights, and frustrations, which saddens us and makes us happy.

In this article, we will identify emotions that are critical for us to make the necessary changes towards who or what makes us happier; we will also find out the elements of emotional intelligence and how they are essential to our lives.

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5 Basic Elements of Emotional Intelligence

According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize Emotional intelligence, there are five key elements to it:

1. (Emotional) Self-awareness

In Plain terms, Emotional Self-awareness can be broken down into:

  • Self = about itself;
  • Consciousness = to know or to be aware of something;
  • Emotional = about our feelings and emotions, what goes on inside us in various situations.

Emotional self-awareness is a term that defines the search for more excellent knowledge of oneself and being aware of our emotions, intending to understand what we feel and experience in everyday life.

Being the basis and first step of a broader skill, which is emotional intelligence, emotional self-consciousness involves being attentive to different aspects of our “self,” including our:

a) Temperament;

b) Our beliefs;

c) Ideas, behaviors, values, and feelings.

Reward: The person who possesses this well-developed skill knows what he feels and how these emotions affect their performance positively or negatively in a professional and personal context.

Types of Awareness

  • Social Awareness

This type arises when people are aware of how they appear to others.

Ex: Recognize how someone can be feeling happy after meeting a new college.

  • (Emotional) Self-awareness

This kind of happens when people become aware of some aspects of themselves.

Ex: Recognize the feeling of anger at a stressful time.

Tips for developing your emotional self-awareness

  • Search for information on the subject – YouTube channels, social media pages, books, courses, podcasts, etc.;
  • Identify possible patterns in your behaviors – starting by observing your mood throughout the day, the month, at work and home, when meeting certain people, etc.;
  • Answer the question “What was going through my head at the time?” at situations that you notice changes in your mood – answer most genuine and sincere (and the closer to the position, the more you help your memory to recover the right thoughts and feelings);
  • Practice activities that teach you and help you focus on the present and yourself, such as meditation – especially mindfulness practices;
  • Write down the learnings, discoveries, and answers you have about yourself – use which is more practical for you (mobile phone, post it, calendar, etc.).
Healthy self-conscious emotionsBad self-unconscious emotions
Being proud of your achievements;Respond to embarrassment with anger and hostility;
Enjoy involvement in social environments;
Apologizing for mistakes and assuming responsibility

The Importance of Self-consciousness

Self-consciousness means a deep understanding of one’s own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and impulses. People with a high level of self-awareness recognize how your feelings affect them, other people, and your professional performance.

2. Self-regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and control our behaviors, emotions, or thoughts, changing them according to the situation’s demands. 

Emotional self-regulation has been considered a component of emotional intelligence, which in turn concerns the skills that people have to identify, name and act upon one’s feelings and those of others” (Goleman, 2006).

Emotions are triggered by social environments, thoughts, memories, and even other emotional states. And how we interpret emotions affects how we think, make decisions and act daily.

Reward: By activating regulatory strategies, we can modify emotions produced by external reasons that alter our habitual mood.

Tips for developing self-regulation

To have Emotional Regulation, according to Gratz and Romer (2004), it is necessary:

  • Awareness and understanding of emotions;
  • Acceptance of emotions;
  • Ability to control impulsive behaviors;
  • Ability to use emotional regulation strategies flexibly and appropriately for every situation.

And because emotions have several components to enhance emotional self-regulation, we could:

  1. Focus on the evaluation of the situation, focus on the physical sensation, on the why of the emotion (intentionality) ;
  2. In the feeling that is arising at the very moment;
  3. What action we are thinking of taking (motor behavior).

With this exercise, we learn to manage our emotions, inhibit impulses and build adequate responses to the various situations that generate stress, anxiety, or require decision-making.

The Importance of Self-regulation

Self-regulation will help us get better at processing emotional loads when they arise. When we contact a stimulus that generates a solid emotional natural reaction, the brain activates the amygdala (which regulates the fight or flight response). This is very fast, because we often act without “thinking.”

Emotional regulation then allows us to increase response latency. It wants to say that when a stimulus provokes an emotion, we can hold on to a “time” (milliseconds or seconds) before having that automatic response guided by thrill.

3. (Self) Motivation

In its Latin origin (movere), motivation means moving, moving in a particular direction, and sense, persisting until reaching a specific objective. So motivation here would be when we know how to put emotions in favor of our goals;

People are made up of values, beliefs, desires, motivations, and individual needs. Each person has a history and perception of the world. Moreover, people are driven by emotions, skills, knowledge, and talents, which are added to organizations and interfere in their behavior as a result of their actions.

The studies on emotions refer us to the concept of Emotional Intelligence proposed by Ph. D Daniel Goleman (1995): 

“When it comes to shaping our decisions and actions, emotion weighs as much – and sometimes much more – as the reason” (p. 19). The author complements: “emotion refers to a feeling and its distinct thoughts, states psychological and biological, and a range of tendencies to act” (p. 302).

Being motivated concerns an internal drive to achieve your goals, which involves:

  • Biological factors;
  • Social factors;
  • Emotional factors.

That is, the motivation is influenced by our body, by whom we relate, by our thoughts, and the way we’re feeling.

Reward: When we develop self-motivation, we discover that not always need external hype to be happy with what we do.

Tips for developing (Self) Motivation

Find your purpose in life

Ikigai is a Japanese term that describes why someone gets out of bed every day. That is, our motivation to live, or, in the words of Francesc Miralles, co-author of the work “Ikigai: The secrets of the Japanese, a long and happy life.”

When we find something that gives our life meaning, then we know what keeps us motivated. To discover our ikigai, we need to answer four questions, seemingly simple but that requires a degree of self-knowledge and may require some time of reflection, and they are:

  • What do you love?
  • What do you do well?
  • What are you/can you be paid to do?
  • What does the world need?

Watch the video in this link and see how Tim Tamashiro discovered his Ikigai. He also lets some tips for you to discover yours.

Learn to recognize small victories

Our life is made up of small joys and achievements. We must realize them and value stopping to celebrate them. Thus, we develop a cycle of gratitude and rewards for our efforts – which will keep us in a good mood to face life’s challenges.

Take breaks

Knowing how to rest and recognize the importance of rest moments can increase our motivation, as it avoids unnecessary and exaggerated wear. Knowing how to take breaks is vital to maintain high levels of energy and excitement with our activities.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed the “Pyramid of Needs” model in his “The Theory of Human Motivation.” For Maslow, we feel motivated to supply our own internal needs, which it organizes in the pyramid below, depending on the other to pass to the next.

For example, You cannot feel the motivation to gain esteem or recognition if your physiological needs such as hunger and sleep are not fulfilled.

The Importance of Self-motivation

Motivation is a fundamental element for our growth; without it, we do not have a reason or force to study, exercise, work, etc. Therefore, we must always seek it in all areas of our life if we aim to develop ourselves as a person.

Empathy is the emotional ability to perceive and understand how to see the world of someone else. It’s a way to get out of your borders and expand your way of feeling.

Let go of the need to judge the emotions of others and generate a deep and genuine connection.

4. Social Skills

Social skills are a set of behaviors that favor a healthy and productive relationship with other people. This category of emotional intelligence involves the application of empathy and the negotiation of others’ needs. 

This can include finding something in common with others, managing others in a work environment, and being persuasive; here, we need to know how to relate to other people, taking into account all involved emotions.

Tips for developing social skills

  1. Identify and deal with your emotions.

 Whenever we argue with someone else, things can warm up. If someone involved is emotionally shaken, remember this problem first. Take some time to breathe and only then go back to the problem. In a work environment, this can mean talking to a friend before answering your boss.

  1. Answer real problems when you calm down

 Once you calm down, identify what the conflict is. Before we go to the solutions, we need to make sure the other person and we agree on the real problems. Propose mutually beneficial solutions.

  1. Think harmoniously

Whether it’s business or pleasure, relationships work best when everyone involved knows they’re on the same page. Even if we can’t end up with a solution that benefits everyone, make sure that the last intention you communicate is harmonious. Make it clear that our goal is to find a common goal, even if you have different points of view.

The importance of Social Skills

Social skills are fundamental because they help people express their desires, feelings, and attitudes appropriately at all times of their life. Whether we like it or not, everyone needs to communicate, make friends, start conversations or make decisions, especially when they have a leadership position in the company.

5. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand another person emotionally; it’s being able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and feel what he/she might be feeling in a particular situation. It’s being willing and allowing yourself to come into contact with a feeling that’s not ours.

There are three types of empathy:

1. Cognitive Empathy

Understanding other people’s point of view.

2. Emotional Empathy

Sharing other people’s feelings.

3. Compassionate/Solidarity Empathy

Realizing the other person’s needs for help and making oneself available to help.

In this article, for issues of relevance, we addressed emotional empathy. Emotional Empathy is evidenced when, beyond understanding the way of thinking, we feel (almost physically!) the emotions of other people as if those feelings were contagious.

We are emotionally empathic when we can recognize other people’s emotions and put ourselves in their place.

Tips for developing (Emotional) Empathy

Embrace other people’s feelings

To show some we care about their problem; sometimes we should tell how we understand what is transmitted, through expressions such as: “I understand you,” “I imagine how difficult it must be.”

Grow curiosity about strangers

Empathic people are curious about the unknown; any time and place are good for making new connections, just out of curiosity. They are endowed with an insatiable curiosity about strangers.

Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, finding lives and world views very different from ours.

Challenge yourself and be an empathetic person

Perform challenging experiences that take us out of our comfort zone. Learn a new skill, such as a musical instrument, hobby, or foreign language. Develop a new professional competence. 

Doing things like this will increase our resilience and humility. The latter is a crucial element of empathy.

The Importance of (Emotional) Empathy

Empathy is an emotional sensitivity with the power to change our lives’ history and promote profound social transformations. It is the art of seeing oneself in the other’s position, using that understanding to guide the interactions and handle conflicts, or any social matter.


The emotions experienced are of various kinds, and we deal with them effectively or ineffectively. 

Emotional competence appears as the ability learned based on emotional intelligence, resulting in the excellence of performance at work. Allows to understand and describe how the individual manages and manages their relationships, such as working in a team, and their ability to lead and be led (LANER; JÚNIOR, 2008).

References and Further Reading

Gross, J. J. (2007). Handbook of emotional regulation. The Guilford Press. New York, London.

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