What Are 5 Components of Emotional Intelligence & How Do They Shape Your Future?

UPDATED: September 19, 2023
PUBLISHED: September 19, 2023
Photograph of 4 people working together and smiling to represent the components of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) plays a pivotal role in shaping our futures. Mastering the components of emotional intelligence makes relationship-building easier, both personally and professionally, and is critical to developing effective leadership skills. It even plays a role in boosting your personal motivation.

While your intelligence quotient (IQ) may help you navigate problems and find solutions, EQ provides professionals with the talent to build communities willing to carry out those solutions. The five components of emotional intelligence as uncovered by groundbreaking author and psychologist Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., include:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Internal motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Together, these attributes enhance your ability to create strategic partnerships, make better decisions, lead more effectively and build a safe and thriving work culture. They provide your gateway to overall lasting success and greater well-being.

Are there weaknesses to EQ?

The benefits of high emotional intelligence are inarguable. Yet, high EQ has both its strengths and weaknesses. Those exhibiting above average EQ may be predisposed to focus on building relationships and “getting along” to a fault.

As noted by Harvard Business Review, individuals with inherently high emotional intelligence may exhibit lower levels of creativity and tendencies toward risk aversion—in other words, an overall disinclination to “ruffle other people’s feathers” even when bold changes or innovations are necessary. 

That is why it is essential to build a strong awareness of the five components of emotional intelligence. With this deeper understanding, you can increase your EQ while navigating the complex terrain of relationship-building, innovation, motivation, leadership and alliance-building

What are the 5 components of emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is a skill. As such, it can be learned over time to unleash the power of your own personal development. Understanding the five components of emotional intelligence assists you in this process. One aspect builds on another, interacting in a way that helps you develop communication skills quickly and master them over your lifetime. These components are:

1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness describes the act of recognizing, understanding and working through your emotions, motivations and behaviors. Being self-aware allows you to navigate your emotional responses and better understand yourself. It serves as the foundation for robust emotional intelligence by establishing a strong understanding of your inner world.

For instance, consider a team leader experiencing difficulties at home such as financial strain, romantic issues or the loss of a family member. If this leader is not self-aware, they may make decisions based on emotions of anger, fear, sadness or frustration. Greater self-awareness helps professionals understand that these emotions have temporarily distorted their views when clear decision-making is vital. In this way, self awareness helps you step back and reassess your current situation with clarity.

2. Self-regulation

Self-awareness leads directly to self-regulation. While self-awareness is the understanding of your emotions and behaviors, self-regulation embodies the act of managing your emotions and modifying your actions. Difficult and stressful situations in particular require adept self-regulation. This component of emotional intelligence includes being more adaptable to dynamic situations, maintaining control over impulsive feelings and behaviors and managing emotional reactions toward others.

Consider, for instance, an entrepreneur who has a great relationship with an essential supplier. The product, price and speed of delivery are each excellent, yet their customer service could use some improvement. After a stressful day for this entrepreneur, one particular customer service representative behaves rudely. Rather than becoming angry, hanging up the phone or ending the business relationship on impulse, the self-regulated entrepreneur controls their emotional impulses and approaches the situation more strategically.

3. Internal motivation

Internal motivation (or intrinsic motivation) refers to the desire to pursue your goals for personal satisfaction rather than immediate rewards. It reflects your inner drive as well as your passions. As a key component of the emotional intelligence framework, internal motivation serves as a measure of your ability to channel your emotions toward meaningful, long-term goals. In fact, those with high EQ are more apt to use goal-setting strategies.

I experienced a typical example of this sort of internal motivation in a postsecondary education program for people diagnosed with autism. We hired one young man part time to manage our website. After hours, he stuck around to help mentor students in robotics. His positive outlook, internal motivation and camaraderie with the students proved so valuable that within three months, we adjusted our budgets to bring him on full time as a project manager.

4. Empathy

Connecting well with others is a talent. Like any talent, ranging from graphic design to carpentry, it relies on unique yet complementary skills. Empathy involves recognizing, understanding and appreciating how other people feel—each crucial for effective interpersonal relationships. The skill sets can be learned and vary from recognizing facial expressions, body language and voice tones to open-ended questioning and active listening. Together, they help you not only better read people’s emotions, but see yourself in their place for better understanding.

As you develop your emotional intelligence, empathy will help you to understand that not everyone around you has yet attained your level of self-awareness, self-regulation or internal motivation. You will understand that you work in a diverse organization where other cultures or people with dissimilar interests may have a different understanding of communication than you do. That is not to say that emotional outbursts should be tolerated. Rather, with greater empathy, you will understand that electrical engineers and marketing teams frequently communicate differently. 

5. Social skills

Taken together, the aforementioned components of emotional intelligence form the basis that, with just a little additional work, leads to greater social skills. This is where all your work in personal development truly pays off. Social skill development involves greater social awareness and relationship management so effective for leaders and entrepreneurs. Effective communication, conflict management, collaboration and building and maintaining healthy relationships all stem from improved social skills.

Whether you are an entrepreneur, team leader, staff member or someone going to your first job interview, personability and related soft skills will fortify every aspect of your education and work experience. In fact, in the mix of IQ vs. EQ, the five components of emotional intelligence serve you better in most situations. Plus, it is the aspect of intelligence ripe for continual growth and development.

Photo by Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.com

Bryan Lindenberger

Bryan enjoys the digital space where arts and technology meet. As a writer, he has worked in education, health and wellbeing, and manufacturing. He also assists smaller businesses in web development including accessibility and content development. In his free time, he hikes trails in central Florida.