Why is Emotional Intelligence Important? 4 Key Considerations

Last Updated: June 1, 2019

Does high Emotional Intelligence (EI) make you more likely to succeed? Not conclusively, but in the past two decades there has been a tendency to reduce EI to a thing that can be boosted into a kind of weapon to help you conquer the world. But what exactly is EI, and can it be enhanced or improved to help you lead a happy and successful life?

    by Agent Staff
why is emotional intelligence important - 4 Key Points About Emotional Intelligence
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Why is emotional intelligence important? The question of whether EI is more important than IQ has prompted huge differences of opinion. But even the fiercest critics of populist and non-scientific claims about the power of EI admit that it is a potent force, which can be used for good. In considering the question of why is emotional intelligence important, there are at least four main factors that have to be considered.


1. EI is Not Positivity



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“EI is not optimism. It is not happiness. It is not calmness. It is not motivation.”

There is no person more qualified to talk about what EI is and what it isn’t, than John D Mayer. Mayer is one of two Yale psychologists — the other being Peter Salovey – who coined the term “emotional intelligence” in 1990.

For Mayer and Salovey, emotional intelligence is a form of social intelligence involving the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.

Mayer is famously witheringly dismissive about some of the articles written about EI in the mainstream journalism of the mid- to late-1990s. He accused some journalists — and, indeed, some trained psychologists — of confusing emotional intelligence with particular personality traits.

Perhaps for this very reason, if Mayer was ever asked to define emotional intelligence, he would also provide a list of everything EI is not. “Emotional intelligence… is not agreeableness,” he writes. “It is not optimism. It is not happiness. It is not calmness. It is not motivation.”

Mayer defines EI in very simple terms; as “the capacity to reason about emotions and emotional information, and of emotions to enhance thought”. So, if you are interested in talking about emotional intelligence and rating yours, it’s useful to start by knowing what you’re talking about.

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2. Does High or Low EI Really Matter?



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The big question for many people more familiar with the IQ measure of success is: to what extent does high or low really matter? For academics such as Daniel Coleman (see above), it is certainly significant, but does not necessarily indicate that life will be a success for those with high EI.

Mayer believes EI to be “quite important”, and he believes it can help predict important life outcomes, and be used to help people find the right work and relationship for themselves.

For instance, he writes, “those high in EI have more rewarding relationships with friends, and more successful relationships at work”.

However, he flatly rejects the view that EI is “the best predictor of success in life”.

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3. Can EI be Enhanced?

Norman Rosenthal MD is convinced that EI can be improved, and the first and most important step is developing an ability to tune into your emotions, and he shows how it can be improved in his book, The Emotional Revolution: Harnessing the Power of Your Emotions for a More Positive Life.



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Mayer is undecided on whether EI can be enhanced. While he says it is surely worth acquiring knowledge about emotions, he is less certain as to whether such learning would improve someone’s social relationships to the degree obtained by those higher in EI. But it is certainly useful to investigate Rosenthal’s research, and visit his website for pointers based on the research in The Emotional Revolution…

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4. EI and ‘Success’

In this powerful TED Talk, Michael Benner, attempts to demonstrate how EI can be used and enhanced, in order to debunk the pervasive idea that success leads to happiness and love.

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For Benner, the belief that success leads to happiness and love means that happiness is always deferred, and those who believe it will never be happy

“Happiness is not a function of success: happiness and love are the way to success.”

Asking us to consider how many successful people do we know who are miserable, Benner says: “Let’s drop the meme that happiness is a function of success, and turn it around, and understand that happiness and love are the way to success.”

Benner shows how to develop EI through two sets of two steps: firstly, inward—being aware of yourself and managing your feelings; and, secondly, outward—being socially aware and managing relationships, in other words being empathic and caring about other people.

He contends that by using EI to take ownership of and manage your feelings—and understand that they are your response to the world, and not what is being done to you—you are empowering yourself to achieve and succeed.

The most popular leaders certainly exhibit this quality of empathy. Empathy is positive, and so it’s more likely that people will want to follow someone who will probably care about how they feel.

An excellent case study is legendary US television broadcaster Oprah Winfrey, who was beloved by millions, whether as a guest on her show, in her studio audience, or on television everywhere in the world.

One of the words most frequently associated with Winfrey is “empathy”.



Does this mean that Oprah Winfrey has a high degree of EI? Possibly, but not necessarily. What it means is that she has acute and effective listening skills, a generally sincere approach, and an ability to put herself in the shoes of another person, even those with whom she disagreed, and treat them with grace and respect.

In address the question, why is emotional intelligence important, Winfrey’s simple Tweet shows the true power of EI. There is an old expression, “it’s nice to be nice”, which sums up the process at work. EI is not a secret weapon. But we can at least make our own personal & professional worlds better, more positive places, by modelling our behaviour after that of people with high EI. And if the people we come into contact with do likewise, and their extended contacts do likewise in turn, what more powerful recipe for positive change could there be?


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