Intent Blog

Emotional Intelligence vs Intelligence vs Maturity

Emotional intelligence is something people often talk about. I think everyone knows that emotional intelligence (EQ) is different from intellectual intelligence. Emotional intelligence is also different from maturity.

I have already written about the difference between intelligence and maturity and their different uses. I have not so far mentioned emotional intelligence. So, in this article I want to explore what emotional intelligence is and how it differs from both intelligence and maturity.

Emotional Intelligence:

What I want to say about emotional intelligence is not from what I was taught studying psychology. I want to share what I have experienced about emotional intelligence. I think that emotional intelligence picks out a certain property that I have seen in some people and not in others.

I believe that emotional intelligence is the full awareness of one’s own emotional responses to things. I think that this is really what it is about. To put it in terms of the old cliche, it is about being in touch with your feelings. It is about truly understanding within yourself what emotional responses tend to accompany what sorts of environmental stimuli.

Psychologists tend to say that emotional intelligence is not just the awareness of emotion, it is also the ability to effectively manage emotion. I would tend to agree, someone who is fully aware of their emotions will be in a strong position to manage them. Someone who is not fully aware of their own emotional responses will often experience themselves as being buffeted about by inexplicable feelings. They will experience their own emotions as unpredictable and so will struggle to effectively manage them.

What I have found is that human beings almost always respond in predictable ways, so if you feel something, chances are that someone else in your position with similar concerns would feel the same thing. Someone who fully understands his/her own typical emotional responses to certain stimuli will start to recognise similar things in others. They will start to see the role emotion plays in the continuous unfolding of all of our lives and the decisions we make in our lives. Emotional intelligence thus puts a person in a good position to empathize with others and help them navigate their emotional lives.

Emotional Intelligence vs Intelligence vs Maturity:

Emotional intelligence is different from intelligence. Intelligence is a matter of being an effective problem solver. You can be very good at quickly solving problems and making sense of complicated information, but still have no idea about the feeling stuff that happens inside you. I actually know some exceptionally intelligent people who really struggle to make sense of their own emotional responses to things.

Emotional intelligence is much more closely related to maturity, but again, they are not the same thing. Maturity is a matter of being willing to put your own agenda aside and give attention to the agenda of another. Put very simply, maturity is about cultivating the intent to serve. More often than not, the mature person will be concerned about what they can contribute, rather than what they should be getting. This is not quite the same thing as being aware of emotions. It is not possible, for example, to be mature and be selfish. You can have emotional intelligence and be selfish though. Just being aware of my own and other people’s emotions does not guarantee that I will be able to suspend my agenda for theirs, which is what maturity is about.

Emotional intelligence does however help with becoming more mature. Emotions are a powerful force in us. Very often we are prevented from overcoming our immediate self interest because of strong emotions we might be feeling. For example, I have often felt like I can’t do the mature thing and walk away because I was just soooo angry: “I will be petty right now because F*#! that guy!”

Being fully aware of the emotion involved and its cause helps us work on putting it aside and overcoming the barrier to maturity that it represents in the moment. It is not about denying emotions, it is about working gently with them so that they don’t prevent you from doing the right thing and growing.

The simple truth is this. In order to mature, we have to deliberately work on putting our own agenda’s aside. We have to train ourselves to not constantly gun for our own immediate self interest. Having emotional intelligence is very useful because it helps us overcome the obstacles our emotions often put in our way.


Assad holds a Masters in Philosophy from the University of the Witwatersrand and is currently a PhD candidate. He is the editor of the Schuitema blog and is a regular facilitator of the company's Care and Growth and Mentoring for Mastery programs. He also has 5 years experience lecturing and tutoring Philosophy at Wits.