Is it Better to be Emotionally Intelligent or Mentally Strong?

There are big differences between being emotionally intelligent and mentally strong.

In this article, we will explore the differences between the two and their advantages in life.

Emotional Intelligence

Over time, the definition of emotional intelligence has shifted. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it is a person’s ability to understand the way others feel and react and to use this ability to make good judgments and to solve or steer clear of problems.

Even though the term emotional intelligence was first coined in the 60s, it became popular only in 1995, thanks to Daniel Goleman’s bestseller Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

However, Goleman’s insights were misinterpreted many times over the years. While he certainly argues that emotional intelligence can be highly advantageous to people, he is certain that it would lead to stronger academic scores, because those things are more dependent on IQ.

Here are Goleman’s 5 components of emotional intelligence:

Internal motivation.

A strong need for work that transcends money and status. It is one’s inner vision of what is truly meaningful and important in life or the pure joy of working at something.


The power to spot and have a deep understanding of your own feelings and what drives you in life, as well as how these things can affect those around you.


An understanding of other people’s emotional states and the willingness to help them in their emotional suffering.

Social skills. 

The ability to manage relationships and to find common ground when it comes to clicking with people.


Redirecting disruptive impulses and moods, and the ability to think before taking action.

Mental Strength

Mental strength is often being confused with mental toughness.

The term mental toughness is normally being used when people are referring to highly-gifted athletes or military personnel – and many of them are truly testing their abilities to the maximum by seeing just how much physical and mental straining they can endure. However, most people do not engage in such extreme activities, so that kind of toughness is not a skill most of us actually need in our day-to-day lives.

Being mentally strong is not about being a tough person in general. It is more about being aware of your own emotions, learning from hurtful and traumatic experiences, and living in coordinance with your moral values.

Mental strength has three key components:

1. Thought regulation.

This involves learning how to train your mind to think in a way that is beneficial to you. That could mean ignoring self-doubt and replacing self-criticism by learning to treat yourself with more compassion.

2. Emotion management.

Knowing your emotions inside-out lets you understand how they influence the way you act and think. It can involve embracing emotions – even when they carry feelings of discomfort  – or it could be about acting in opposition to your emotions when those feelings do not serve you positively.

3. Productive behavior.

Making the choice to take actions that will improve your life, even when you have a hard time motivating yourself or delaying gratification, is crucial to becoming mentally strong.

So what are the key differences?

Mental strength and emotional intelligence intertwine. However, mental strength goes beyond emotions and engages the thoughts and behaviors that affect the general quality of our lives.

Thankfully you can work on raising your emotional intelligence and mental strength. And the more you develop those skills, the better you will perform in all walks of life.

We hope this article was of help to you. Let us know your thoughts on the topic by joining the conversation in the comments and please share if you’ve enjoyed the read.

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