Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize, understand, use, and manage emotionsmoods, feelings, and attitudes. It should come as no surprise that your emotional intelligence is related to how resilient you are, and it affects your ability to stay motivated and committed to your goals. As we said earlier in the chapter, how you think and feel will make all the difference in whether you succeed or give up. Developing an awareness of emotions allows you to use your feelings to improve your thinking. If you are feeling sad, for instance, you might view the world in a negative way, while if you feel happy, you are likely to view the same events differently. Once you start paying attention to emotions, you can learn not only how to cope with life’s pressures and demands but also how to use your knowledge of the way you feel for more effective problem solving, decision making, and creativity. This is all part of developing your emotional intelligence, and as your ability to deal with life’s challenges is based on your emotional intelligence, it’s critical to understand this concept.

Particularly in the first year of college, many students have difficulty establishing positive relationships with others, dealing with pressure, or making wise decisions. Other students are optimistic and happy and seem to adapt to their new environment without any trouble. Being optimistic doesn’t mean that you ignore your problems or pretend that they will go away, but optimistic people believe in their own abilities to address problems successfully as they arise. You’ll recall the discussion earlier in this chapter of the impact that attitude has on college success and success in life.

Emotions are a big part of who you are; you should not ignore them. Being aware of your own and others’ feelings helps you gather correct information about the world around you and allows you to respond in appropriate ways. If you are a returning student, you probably have a great deal of life experience in dealing with tough times, and you can draw on this experience in college.

As you read this section and the next, think about the behaviors that help people, including yourself, do well and the behaviors that interfere with success. Get to know yourself better, and take the time to examine your feelings and the impact they have on the way you act. You can’t always control the challenges of life, but with practice you can control how you respond to them. Remember that emotions are real, can be changed for the better, and significantly affect whether a person is successful.




With a classmate, make a list (first names only) of people you know who don’t have good people skills. What kinds of challenges do these people face? Be prepared to share your thoughts.

Perceiving and Managing Emotions

Perceiving emotions involves the ability to monitor and identify feelings correctly (nervous, happy, angry, relieved, and so forth) and to determine why you feel the way you do. It also involves predicting how others might feel in a given situation. Emotions contain information, and the ability to understand and think about that information plays an important role in behavior.

Managing emotions is based on the belief that feelings can be modified, even improved. At times, you need to stay open to your feelings, learn from them, and use them to take appropriate actions. Other times, it is better to disengage from an emotion and return to it later. Anger, for example, can blind you and lead you to act in negative or antisocial ways; used positively, however, anger can help you take a stand against bias or injustice. Learning how to put yourself in the right mood to handle different situations is important.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Everyday Life

Emotional intelligence may be a new term for you, but your emotions have guided your behavior throughout your life, even if you did not realize it. For example, whether you just graduated from high school or have worked for several years, you have now decided to pursue higher education. This decision might have been based on your family’s encouragement, your career goals, or changes in your current job. Maybe you wanted to go to a different college but found out that you and your family could not afford to do that now. In that case, how do you think your emotions affected your final decision about college?

Don’t Roll the Dice As you learn to identify and manage your emotions, you won’t be rolling the dice when it comes to responding to the challenges of everyday life and establishing positive relationships with others.

Naming and labeling emotions, in addition to focusing on related experiences, improves emotional intelligence. For example, new college students often fear social rejection. Did you think that you would see lots of people from your neighborhood but have found that you don’t know anyone? If you are an older student, are your classes filled with younger students with whom you have nothing in common? When you acknowledge and name your feelings, they are less likely to control you. You will be in a better place to confront certain fears by walking up to other students, even those of a different age, introducing yourself, and perhaps asking to join their discussions. As you work to develop your emotional intelligence, consider how to use logic rather than your own emotional reactions to evaluate a situation and help yourself and others.


Your daily life gives you many opportunities to take a hard look at how you handle emotions. Take the Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire to begin thinking about your own EI.

Anger Management. Humans experience a wide range of emotions and moods. On the one hand, we can be very generous and positive, and on the other hand, we can lash out in anger. Anger management is an EI skill that is important to develop. Anger can hurt others and can harm your mental and physical health. You may even know someone who uses his or her anger to manipulate and control others.


In spite of the problems it creates, anger does not always lead to negative results. Psychologists see anger as a primary and natural emotion that has value for human survival because it can help us to stand up for what is right.



How do you use anger? Are you in control of how you express this emotion, or does your anger occasionally control you?

Managing Priorities. Using healthy emotional intelligence to prioritize involves deciding what’s most important to you and then allocating your time and energy according to these priorities. For example, if exercise, a healthy diet, friends, and studying are most important to you, then you must make time for them all. When you successfully make time in your days and weeks for what is most important to you, your emotional health benefits. You feel more confident, more in control, and more capable of handling your life with a positive attitude and others with patience. On the other hand, if you cannot keep what is most important to you at the top of your list of priorities, your attitude becomes more negative, you feel stressed out, and you have less patience for other people. Part of developing a strong emotional intelligence involves paying attention to your priorities and making adjustments when needed.

Improving Emotional Intelligence

As you reflect more on your own attitudes and behavior and learn why you have the emotions that you do, you’ll improve your emotional intelligence. Studying unfamiliar subjects and interacting with new and diverse people will challenge your EI skills and force you to step outside of your comfort zone. Your first year of college is especially critical and gives you a significant opportunity to grow as a person.

Emotional intelligence includes many capabilities and skills that influence a person’s ability to cope with life’s pressures and demands. Researcher Reuven Bar-On4 developed the model that is adapted in Table 2.2. This model shows how categories of emotional intelligence directly affect general mood and lead to effective performance.

Skills Competencies Rank
Intrapersonal Emotional self-awareness. Knowing how and why you feel the way you do.
Assertiveness. Standing up for yourself when you need to without being too aggressive.
Independence. Making important decisions on your own without having to get everyone’s opinion.
Self-regard. Liking yourself in spite of your flaws (and we all have them).
Self-actualization. Being satisfied and comfortable with what you have achieved in school, work, and your personal life.
Interpersonal Empathy. Making an effort to understand another person’s situation or point of view.
Social responsibility. Establishing a personal link with a group or community and cooperating with other members in working toward shared goals.
Interpersonal relationships. Seeking out healthy and mutually beneficial relationships such as friendships, professional networks, family connections, mentoring, and romantic partnershipsand making a persistent effort to maintain them.
Stress Management Stress tolerance. Recognizing the causes of stress, responding in appropriate ways, and staying strong under pressure.
Impulse control. Thinking carefully about potential consequences before you act and delaying gratification for the sake of achieving long-term goals.
Adaptability Reality testing. Ensuring that your feelings are appropriate by checking them against external, objective criteria.
Flexibility. Adapting and adjusting your emotions, viewpoints, and actions as situations change.
Problem solving. Approaching challenges step-by-step and not giving up in the face of obstacles.
Resilience. The ability to bounce back after a setback.
General Mood Optimism. Looking for the bright side of any problem or difficulty and being confident that things will work out for the best.
Happiness. Being satisfied with yourself, with others, and with your situation in general.
Table 2.4: Table 2.2 > Emotional Skills and Competencies

Identifying Your EI Skills and Competencies

Table 2.2, which is based on Bar-On’s work, lists skills that influence a person’s ability to cope with life’s pressures and demands. Which skills do you think you already have? Which ones do you need to improve? Which ones do you lack? Consider the emotional intelligence skills and competencies listed and rank them accordingly:


A = Skills I already have B = Skills I need to improve C = Skills I lack

Then go back and rank each one in terms of the priority you assign it right now to your challenges of being a successful college student.