The Difference Between Emotional Intelligence and Mental Strength

Posted on May 2, 2017

Photo: flickr

While the definition of emotional intelligence has changed over the years, the conventionally used definition follows the five components that Daniel Goleman identified in his book: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, a bestseller in the late nineties. Even though the concept of emotional intelligence first came about approximately half a century ago, it was Goleman’s book that widely popularised it. However, many have also misinterpreted his claims. For instance, while having a high EQ is undoubtedly an advantage in certain situations, that does not give people the ability to do better in examinations or to achieve higher scores, as these attributes are more closely linked to IQ, not EQ.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines emotional intelligence as the ability to understand the way people feel and react, and to apply this skill to make appropriate judgements and to solve or avoid problems. To go into further detail, the five components of emotional intelligence as identified by Goleman are:

- Self-awareness - The ability to identify and grasp your emotions and motivations, as well as how these will affect others.
- Internal motivation – A drive to work that is above and beyond the monetary profits or lifts in status that can be reaped
- Self-regulation – The ability to redirect disruptive impulses and moods, and to think carefully before acting.
- Empathy – The ability to read and comprehend others’ emotions, and to interact with them in accordance with these observations and their emotional reactions.
- Social skills – One’s competency and adeptness in maintaining his or her relationships, and his or her ability to find common ground with others, thus building rapport with them.

On the other hand, mental strength is often used interchangeably with the term mental toughness, even though it is likely that they are not referring to the same thing. This is because mental toughness is usually associated with people who push their bodies past their physical limits to test their endurance and tolerance for pain, such as elite athletes. However, since this sort of mental toughness is an unnecessary skill for most of us, it is highly unlikely that mental strength is about acting or being physically tough.

Rather, it is about being able to learn from painful experiences, living according to your own moral code of conduct, and most importantly, being aware of your emotions.

Mental strength comprises three components:

- Regulation of thoughts – Learning how to train your brain to think in a helpful manner. Examples include being able to ignore self-doubt and replace self-criticism with self-compassion.
- Management of emotions – This allows you to comprehend how your emotions will affect your thoughts and behaviour; it involves being able to deal with and embrace your emotions even if they are uncomfortable, or perhaps acting in a way that goes against your emotions, especially when you know that acting on these emotions would lead to no good.
- Productivity in behaviour – This involves taking actions to improve the quality of your even when you have difficulty feeling motivated or gratified. This is a highly important step in becoming mentally strong.

Given that we have defined both emotional intelligence and mental strength, just what sets one apart from the other? Put concisely, emotional intelligence is a part of mental strength. Mental strength is a much broader term that goes beyond emotions. It addresses thoughts and behaviours that affect the overall quality of one’s life. On the other hand, mental strength would more closely refer to developing good habits that build mental muscle, while working to give up bad habits that rob you of mental strength.

Ultimately, our mental strength and emotional intelligence are not stagnant and fixed; all of us can improve our mental strength and increase our emotional intelligence. Such improvements will be beneficial to the quality of our personal and professional lives.


Category(s):Emotional Intelligence

Source material from Psychology Today


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