Resilience Links Emotional Intelligence and Stress Management

Emotional intelligence has been increasingly recognized as important over the last several decades, the EQ to go with IQ. The idea being, of course, that all the smarts in the world won’t do you good if you can’t navigate your own emotions, and those of others.

Emotional intelligence has been linked to everything from mindfulness to job satisfaction. And now, a new study has added weight to the idea that there’s a connection between higher emotional intelligence and lower levels of perceived stress.

In the study, researchers surveyed 698 college students in Spain’s Basque Country and in Nevada. The researchers assessed people’s self-reported emotional intelligence by asking them how closely they identified with statements such as the following:

  • By looking at people’s facial expressions, I recognize the emotions they are experiencing
  • I have a rich vocabulary to describe my emotions

They also measured people’s resilience using the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale. Finally, they asked people to report their levels of perceived stress by rating how much they agreed with four questions:

  • In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?
  • In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?
  • In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?
  • In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?

When the researchers put all this data together, they found that people with higher emotional intelligence also tended to perceive their lives as being less stressful.

Resilience appeared to account for the link between emotional intelligence and perceived stress. That is, people with higher levels of emotional intelligence also reported higher levels of resilience, and people with higher levels of resilience reported experiencing less stress.

One implication is that interventions aimed at helping people build resilience and emotional skills might in turn improve people’s ability to cope with stress.

This study specifically looked at college students who, as the authors point out, are a group that tend to report high levels of perceived stress. Thus, universities might be wise to implement programs that help students with resilience and emotional intelligence.

Developing these skills likely has a payoff for people who aren’t college students as well. Overall, emotional intelligence has been linked to a variety of positive outcomes, and this study bolsters the idea that better stress management is on that list.