Emotional Intelligence

Human Emotional Needs

All humans have basic emotional needs. These needs can be expressed as feelings, for example the need to feel accepted, respected and important. While all humans share these needs, each differs in the strength of the need, just as some of us need more water, more food or more sleep. One person may need more freedom and independence, another may need more security and social connections. One may have a greater curiosity and a greater need for understanding, while another is content to accept whatever he has been told.

Primary and secondary emotions

Some authors use the terms primary and secondary emotions. This distinction is quite helpful. A primary emotion is what we feel first. The secondary emotion is what primary emotion leads to.

Anger is a good example of a secondary emotion. There are many possible primary emotions which, when they are intense enough, can lead to anger. We might feel insulted, pressured, cheated, etc. If these feelings are at a low level we are not likely to say we feel angry. But if they are intense, we commonly say we feel "angry."

Depression is another example of a secondary emotion. Depression can include feeling discouraged, hopeless, lonely, isolated, misunderstood, overwhelmed, attacked, invalidated, unsupported, etc. Normally it includes several feelings. These more specific feelings are primary emotions.

Importance of Emotions


Nature developed our emotions over millions of years of evolution. As a result, our emotions have the potential to serve us today as a delicate and sophisticated internal guidance system. Our emotions alert us when natural human need is not being met. For example, when we feel lonely, our need for connection with other people is unmet. When we feel afraid, our need for safety is unmet. When we feel rejected, it is our need for acceptance which is unmet.

Decision Making

Our emotions are a valuable source of information. Our emotions help us make decisions. Studies show that when a person's emotional connections are severed in the brain, he can not make even simple decisions. Why? Because he doesn't know how he will feel about his choices.

Boundary Setting

When we feel uncomfortable with a person's behavior, our emotions alert us. If we learn to trust our emotions and feel confident expressing ourselves we can let the person know we feel uncomfortable as soon as we are aware of our feeling. This will help us set our boundaries which are necessary to protect our physical and mental health.


Our emotions help us communicate with others. Our facial expressions, for example, can convey a wide range of emotions. If we look sad or hurt, we are signalling to others that we need their help. If we are verbally skilled we will be able to express more of our emotional needs and thereby have a better chance of filling them. If we are effective at listening to the emotional troubles of others, we are better able to help them feel understood, important and cared about.


Our emotions are perhaps the greatest potential source of uniting all members of the human species. Clearly, our various religious, cultural and political beliefs have not united us. Far too often, in fact, they have tragically and even fatally divided us. Emotions, on the other hand, are universal. Charles Darwin wrote about this years ago in one of his lesser-known books called "The Expression of Emotion In Man and Animal". The emotions of empathy, compassion, cooperation, and forgiveness, for instance, all have the potential to unite us as a species. It seem fair to say that, generally speaking: Beliefs divide us. Emotions unite us.

1. Emotional identification, perception and expression

  • The ability to perceive and identify emotions in faces, tone of voice, body language
  • The capacity for self-awareness: being aware of your own feelings as they are occurring
  • The capacity for emotional literacy. Being able to label specific feelings in yourself and others; being able to discuss emotions and communicate clearly and directly.

2. Emotional facilitation of thought

  • The ability to incorporate feelings into analysis, reasoning, problem solving and decision making
  • The potential of your feelings to guide you to what is important to think about

3. Emotional understanding

  • The ability to solve emotional problems mainly related to feelings, sentiments and egos.
  • The ability to identify and understand the inter-relationships between emotions, thoughts and behavior. For example, to see cause and effect relationships such as how thoughts can affect emotions or how emotions can affect thoughts, and how your emotions can lead to the behavior in yourself and others.
  • The ability to understand the value of emotions to the survival of the species

4. Emotional management

  • The ability to take responsibility for one's own emotions and happiness
  • The ability to turn negative emotions into positive learning and growing opportunities
  • The ability to help others identify and benefit from their emotions. Because the above attempt at a definition is still a bit cumbersome, here are two less complicated ways to look at it:
  • The mental ability underlying the emotional sensitivity, awareness, and management skills which help us maximize our long term health, relationships, happiness and survival.
  • Knowing how to separate healthy from unhealthy feelings and how to turn negative feelings into positive ones.

The Four branches of EI:

  • Perception Appraisal and Expression of Emotion
  • Emotional Facilitation of Thinking
  • Understanding and Analyzing Emotions; Employing Emotional Knowledge
  • Reflective Regulation of Emotions to Promote Emotional and Intellectual Growth

Perception, Appraisal and Expression of Emotion

  • Ability to identify emotion in one's physical states, feelings, and thoughts.
  • Ability to identify emotions in other people, designs, artwork, etc. through language, sound, appearance, and behavior.
  • Ability to express emotions accurately, and to express needs related to those feelings.
  • Ability to discriminate between accurate and inaccurate, or honest vs. dishonest expressions of feeling.

Emotional Facilitation of Thinking

  • Emotions prioritize thinking by directing attention to important information.
  • Emotions are sufficiently vivid and available that they can be generated as aids to judgment and memory concerning feelings.
  • Emotional mood swings change the individual's perspective from optimistic to pessimistic, encouraging consideration of multiple points of view.
  • Emotional states differentially encourage specific problem-solving approaches such as when happiness facilitates inductive reasoning and creativity.

Understanding and Analyzing Emotions - Employing Emotional Knowledge

  • Ability to label emotions and recognize relations among the words and the emotions themselves, such as the relation between liking and loving.
  • Ability to interpret the meanings that emotions convey regarding relationships, such as that sadness often accompanies a loss.
  • Ability to understand complex feelings: simultaneous feelings of love and hate or blends such as awe as a combination of fear and surprise.
  • Ability to recognize likely transitions among emotions, such as the transition from anger to satisfaction or from anger to shame.

Reflective Regulation of Emotion to Promote Emotional and Intellectual Growth

  • Ability to stay open to feelings, both those that are pleasant and those that are unpleasant.
  • Ability to reflectively engage or detach from an emotion depending upon its judged informativeness or utility.
  • Ability to reflectively monitor emotions in relation to oneself and others, such as recognizing how clear, typical, influential or reasonable they are.
  • Ability to manage emotion in oneself and others by moderating negative emotions and enhancing pleasant ones, without repressing or exaggerating information they may convey.


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