emotional quotient in higher education

To Learn and Lead: The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Higher Education

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be conscious of, control, and communicate emotions while handling interpersonal relationships with good judgment and empathy.

Emotional intelligence, also called Emotional Quotient, or EQ, is the neural pathway where cognition and emotion meet for personal happiness and professional success.

Two American social psychologists, Peter Salavey and John D. Mayer, coined the term EI in their article “Emotional Intelligence,” published in Imagination, Cognition, and Personality in 1990.

Author and science journalist Daniel Goleman later popularized EI in his 1996 book, Emotional Intelligence. In the book, Goleman cites various research, including a Harvard Business School study that concluded emotional intelligence matters twice as much as IQ and technical skills when determining who will be successful in life (Institute for Health and Human Potential, 2021).

Emotional intelligence is essential for everyone, but significant for leaders and learners alike. Superiors and students dealing with challenging feedback, tight deadlines, relationship management, navigating change, and working through setbacks and failures could all benefit from establishing core emotional intelligence competencies.

Components that count: Five features of emotional intelligence 

According to Daniel Goleman’s work, the five imperative characteristics of EI are:

  1. Self-awareness
  • People with emotional intelligence typically take an introspective approach to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. People with high EQ also realize when their pride, ego, and emotions may influence their thinking and then identify targets for change. By getting to the root of negative feelings through reflection, those individuals strong in EI also make more rational and impartial decisions (Houston, 2021).
  • People with EQ are more conscious of their nonverbal communication, particularly signals expressed through their body language — for instance, muscles around the eyes, nose, mouth, and forehead.
  • It is also proposed that if people cannot identify emotions in themselves, they will be unable to live fulfilling and enthusiastically rewarding lives (Salovey & Mayer, 1990).
  1. Self-regulation 
  • People with high emotional intelligence have a more manageable time adapting to changing circumstances, and they control impulse-driven reactions and behaviors. With the freedom to choose their responses, EI helps people stay calm, cope with challenges, and think logically.
  • Self-regulation is imperative for students. This aspect of emotional intelligence helps learners cope in the academic environment and, consequently, encourages scholars to achieve.
  • Those with EQ also recognize that emotional restraint and preventing escalation are often necessary for a far more significant objective.
  1. Motivation
  • People with higher emotional intelligence take the initiative, turn intention into action, and make more informed decisions.
  • People with high EI are also keenly aware that their emotions can drive behaviors and impact others. Emotional intelligence enhances efficient engagement, and those with EI can coach others with ease while achieving their career and personal goals.
  • Those with high EQ also often see the “positive spin” and “silver-linings” in most situations. Subsequently, those with EQ understand the deeper meaning of their aspirations and the self-motivation needed to achieve them.
  1. Empathy
  • People with empathy and emotional intelligence understand the feelings, needs, and concerns of others. They can pick up and interpret even the smallest of emotional cues (verbal and non-verbal) that signal how others are feeling, what is most important to them, and their changing emotional state.
  • EQ and empathy require people to step out of their heads, put prevailing thoughts aside, and be present in the moment. Listening to others and noting how you react in real-time also highlights who you are and your core values.
  • Leaders with EI also recognize and address the concerns and stressors in others. By building psychological safety within teams, leaders conjure a culture of collaboration, advance altruistic behavior, and inspire and influence others for the greater good.
  1. Social Skills
  • People with high EQ have an easier time anticipating and responding to others’ sentiments. People with emotional intelligence communicate clearly, follow through on commitments, feel comfortable socially, and pinpoint the power dynamics in a group or organization.
  • EQ also helps to distinguish friends from foes and to measure another’s motives. Those with EQ can have uncomfortable social conversations without hurt feelings. People with high EQ also see conflict as a constructive opportunity to grow closer to others without confrontation. Those with apt social skills also typically develop, maintain, and improve meaningful relationships with careful consideration.
  • Curious in nature, people with emotional intelligence tend to be “interested” in others, not preoccupied with being “interesting,” and they take time to connect with those around them.

EQ: Essential for student success

Accessing emotional intelligence is one of the primary steps for students to achieve their true potential. Since IQ isn’t enough on its own, EQ skills must intertwine with education for optimal success.

For students, emotional intelligence is crucial for social situations and humanities subjects like literature, history, and courses rich with themes centered around universal motifs, character development, and human motivations. EI is also a helpful tool among virtual students and teams and a vital prerequisite in emotive work like nursing, human services, management, and leadership roles.

Goodwin University’s Business Administration program director, Dr. Matt Connell, who studied group emotional intelligence during his doctorate research, notes, “EI is critical to the success of all teams. From leadership to all team members, groups that actively build and foster emotional intelligence have far greater success rates and are better equipped to handle setbacks and obstacles than groups that have not worked to build EI.”

When it comes to student achievement and satisfaction with the college experience, EQ levels also affect learners. For example, students higher in EQ are habitually more engaged and show extensive resistance to burnout (Houston, 2021).

Impacts of ignoring EI

Emotions can precede thought, and when our emotions run high, our brains function differently — diminishing our cognitive abilities, decision-making powers, and interpersonal skills.

Left unchecked, emotions can generate stress, which quickly affects physical health by:

  • Amplifying the aging process, the risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes, hypertension, (and more),
  • Delaying the healing of wounds and injuries,
  • Increasing the susceptibility to viruses and infections,
  • Raising blood pressure, and
  • Suppressing the immune system.

Uncontrolled emotions also affect mental health, making people more vulnerable to anxiety and depression and inept to form strong relationships. (HELPGUIDEORG INTERNATIONAL, 2021), (Houston, 2021).

Tips to improve emotional intelligence 

Unlike IQ, EQ is flexible and highly responsive to change.

Those who want to develop their emotional intelligence should consider increasing their sleep quality by waking up consistently, staying away from sleep aids, caffeine in the afternoon, and blue light that interferes with circadian rhythms.

People who want to advance their EI should also check in with their emotions often, keep stress under control and acknowledge, accept, analyze, and appreciate their emotions as valuable.

Enhancing your EI takes desire, patience, and practice. According to Northeastern psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett, EQ allows people to “be the architect of their own experience.” So, whether you’re looking to lead a team or learn a new skill set by going back to school, look inward and examine your emotional intelligence to help light the way on your next new adventure.

Looking to hone your emotional intelligence in a higher education setting? Learn more today!



HELPGUIDEORG INTERNATIONAL, Segal, Ph.D., J., Smith, M.A., M., Robinson, L., & Shubin, J. (2021, July 19). Improving Emotional Intelligence (EQ). HelpGuide.Org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/emotional-intelligence-eq.htm#

Houston, E. B. (2021, February 12). The Importance of Emotional Intelligence. PositivePsychology.Com. https://positivepsychology.com/importance-of-emotional-intelligence/

Institute for Health and Human Potential. (2021, February 1). What Is Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman. IHHP. https://www.ihhp.com/meaning-of-emotional-intelligence/

MacCann Ph.D., C. (2020, June 13). Why You Need Emotional Intelligence to Succeed at School. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dealing-emotions/202006/why-you-need-emotional-intelligence-succeed-school

Morrison, N. (2019, December 12). Emotional Intelligence Translates Into Better Grades For Students. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorrison/2019/12/12/emotional-intelligence-translates-into-better-grades-for-students/?sh=45bfb5d81c01

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. PSU.EDU. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=