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What Is Emotional Intelligence and How Can It Help Education and Career Success

Michael Frank, PhD
By Michael Frank, PhD

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand our feelings and those of others in social interactions and when making decisions.1 EI helps us manage stress levels, build stronger relationships, improve emotional competence, facilitate effective communication, and achieve education and career goals. Although this blog focuses on the relationship of emotional intelligence (EI) to success in school and work environments, it is helpful to understand the origins and development of emotional intelligence.

The Background of Emotional Intelligence

While Peter Salovey and John Mayer coined the term Emotional Intelligence (EI) in 1990, Harvard-trained psychologist Daniel Goleman and his groundbreaking 1995 book Emotional Intelligence established EI as a legitimate field of academic research and applied study. Since 1995, researchers, management professionals, executive coaches, and teachers from grade school through the doctorate level have published hundreds of books and articles on the subject. Goleman remains active in EI publications and has several YouTube video presentations on the various uses and importance of EI in school and workplace success and happiness. 

There is consensus2 on Goleman’s theory that EI has five dimensions:

  • Self-awareness is an understanding of one’s own emotions.

  • Self-regulation is the ability to adapt, adjust, and control one’s emotions.

  • Motivation is the drive to achieve goals in tandem with one’s inner needs.

  • Empathy is the ability to interpret the feelings of others.

  • Social Skills enable us to build harmonious relationships in environments such as school and work.

Emotional Intelligence in Everyday Life

These five dimensions work together in daily life and influence how we process and handle different situations. At the same time, these dimensions are independent, and individuals have varying amounts of each dimension. For example, some people have a lot of motivation but little empathy; while in others, the opposite is true.

Victoria Sambursky points out in her article, “How Emotional Intelligence Helps College Students Become Career Ready,” that EI is one of the fastest growing and most sought-after work skills.3 According to her research, many employers find that college students need more EI development. EI is critical to job success because it enables conflict resolution and builds cooperation and collaboration with supervisors, peers, and teams. EI equips us for leadership roles, fosters self-management, instills self-motivation, and results in higher job performance evaluations.

EI can be learned and enhanced. This article focuses on developing introspection to enhance EI using two well-known personality assessments to help us gain valuable EI insights and skills.

Introspection is the ability to look inward and examine how our actions, motivations, needs, and behaviors affect others. While some aspects of introspection are subconscious, we can still learn much about ourselves from self-reflection and psychological assessments. The more we understand ourselves, the better we can understand how we present ourselves to others and how others interact with us. Our goal is to learn to engage in work and school situations to improve our effectiveness, happiness and fulfillment. Two excellent tools for enhancing EI through introspection are the Clifton Strengths assessment and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Strengths Assessments for Emotional Intelligence

From the 34 strengths, the assessment identifies, Clifton Strengths provides students with their top five strengths. Each of the five strengths is clearly and comprehensively defined. Knowing our strengths can help us with leading and working effectively in teams. Personal strengths awareness enables us to complement and supplement our strengths by forming relationships with others who bring a diversity of strengths to support and facilitate our effort. For an additional overview of the Clifton Strengths assessment, see Jamie Johnson’s article “What is the Clifton Strengths Assessment and How Does It Work?4

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an assessment that provides four pairs of choices: Extroverted or Introverted; Intuitive (rely on theory) or Sensory (rely on application); Thinking (make decisions based on objectivity) or Feeling (make decisions on a personalize basis), and Judging (adhere to deadlines and come to closure quickly) or Perceiving (resist deadlines and like to keep options open). We select from statements associated with each pair of choices those that best fit our view of ourselves.

After making the selections, everyone is slotted into one of sixteen MBTI types. These types help us understand our preferences and why we sometimes clash with others. By gaining self-insight regarding ourselves and others, we increase understanding and become more accepting of the differences among individuals in how they complete assigned tasks and socially interact in various settings. Furthermore, we become more comfortable with ourselves through the increased emotional intelligence provided by the MBTI. For an additional overview of the MBTI, see Kendra Cherry’s article “How the Myers Briggs Type Indicator Works.5

The Real Value of Emotional Intelligence

Awareness of our emotional intelligence is a significant step toward understanding and improving how we project ourselves in our classes, careers, and everyday life. Understanding emotional intelligence can facilitate learning and academic achievement. EI plays a role in identifying, understanding, and correcting academic areas needing improvement. Enhancing emotional intelligence is a readily available path to self-improvement, which affects satisfaction with all aspects of our lives.

At University of Maryland Global Campus, students learn about emotional intelligence in various courses as they pursue a degree in business and management. Business classes cover a variety of EI topics and enhancement techniques since understanding and applying emotional intelligence can prepare students for a successful career in virtually any field.

1Emotional Intelligence.” EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE definition | Cambridge English Dictionary. Accessed October 27, 2022.

2 Courtney E. Ackerman, MA. “How to Improve Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace.”, September 27, 2022.

3 Victoria Sambursky. “How Emotional Intelligence Helps College Students Become Career Ready.” Endominance, August 6, 2021.

4 Johnson, Jamie. “What Is the CLIFTONSTRENGTHS Assessment, and How Does It Work?, July 19, 2021.

5 Cherry, Kendra. “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: The 16 Personality Types.” Verywell Mind. Verywell Mind, July 28, 2022.

Positive Psychology.

Reference on this webpage to any third-party entity or product does not constitute or imply endorsement by UMGC nor does it constitute or imply endorsement of UMGC by the third party.