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Resilience: Emotional Intelligence

Harry Mills, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 4th 2016

There are real health and wellness benefits for being resilient. It's something worth striving for, if you aren't already that way. Importantly, resilience is a learnable skill. Most anyone can become more emotionally resilient if they work at it.

happy woman outsideGrowing in emotional resilience requires that you work towards greater self-knowledge. It is important, for example, that you to learn to identify how you react in emotional situations. Becoming aware of how you react when stressed helps you gain better control over those reactions. A good framework to help guide you towards becoming more aware of your emotions is something called Emotional Intelligence.

The term 'Emotional Intelligence' was coined by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey in 1990. It can be defined as your ability to use your emotions intelligently and appropriately in different situations, combined with your ability to use emotions to make yourself more intelligent overall. Emotionally intelligent people are able to accurately recognize and comprehend emotion, both in themselves and in others, to appropriately express emotion, and to be able to control their own emotion so as to facilitate their own emotional, intellectual and spiritual growth. In short, emotionally intelligent people intentionally use their thinking and behavior to guide their emotions rather than letting their emotions dictate their thinking and behavior. People who are highly emotionally intelligent tend to also be highly emotionally resilient.

In order to become more emotionally intelligent, it is necessary to develop the following five skill domains:

  • Self-awareness. Self-awareness involves your ability to recognize feelings while they are happening.
  • Emotional management. Emotional management involves your ability to control the feelings you express so that they remain appropriate to a given situation. Becoming skillful at emotional management requires that you cultivate skills such as maintaining perspective, being able to calm yourself down, and being able to shake off out-of-control grumpiness, anxiety, or sadness.
  • Self-motivation. Self-motivation involves your ability to keep your actions goal-directed even when distracted by emotions. Self-motivation necessarily includes being able to delay gratification, and avoid acting in impulsive ways.
  • Empathy. Empathy involves your ability to notice and correctly interpret the needs and wants of other people. Empathy is the characteristic that leads to altruism, which is your willingness put the needs of others ahead of your own needs.
  • Relationship Management. Relationship management involves your ability to anticipate, understand, and appropriately respond to the emotions of others. It is closely related to empathy.

These various skills work together form the basis of emotionally intelligent behavior.

People come to the challenge of emotional intelligence with different strengths and weaknesses. Where some find it easy to develop self-awareness and empathy, others have a difficult time, or don't easily recognize the need. Luckily, emotional intelligence (likewise emotional resilience) is something that can be cultivated and developed. You have the ability to learn how to better work with emotions so as to improve your mental, physical, and social health.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Francesca - Disagree - - Jan 28th 2011

I think what the author meant was, because the individual is emotional aware of their own emotions, they can stop and think(take into consideration their environment and the emotions of others) instead of a knee jerk reaction.


disagree - Francesca - Jan 4th 2011

I disagree with the idea that emotionally intelligent people allow thinking, rather than feeling, to guide their behavior. In fact, in my experience, it's the opposite:  emotional intelligence means honoring our own feelings regardless of 'shoulds' and listening to our intuition.

 This site has a strong bias toward cognitive views of 'the mind' and mental wellness that are neither reflect the reality of -- nor are helpful to-- everyone.

The Skills Required - - Nov 8th 2009

I am very convinced with the author regarding the skills can be developed. I want to know how to develop the skill of controling your emotions and not allowing them to hamper your path to progress. It becomes at times exaustive if numerous times  resilience is required.

Brief and Concise - Yogesh Batra - Apr 30th 2008

Thanks for giving a brief and easy to understand theory on Emotional intelligence. I am a Management student and found the work quite useful.

Please try to add some more references and bibliography on the topic.




Very Useful Summary & Model - Nick Robinson - Sep 26th 2006
Thanks for this article, which I found very cogent and useful. I'm a personal development practitioner and it's very helpful to see what people are writing in the field of emotional intelligence, regards, Nick

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