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Psychological Awareness vs Emotional Intelligence

Psychological awareness and emotional intelligence are similar concepts, though not identical.

When someone has emotional intelligence, they can ‘inherently’ understand the emotional responses that affect themselves and other people.  This ‘intelligence’ comes from a combination of influences of nature and the environment.  In other words, this is associated with the interplay between the genetics we are born with, and the environmental impact of our upbringing and other factors we endure and experience during our life.

On the other hand, when someone has psychological awareness, they are ‘aware’ of the psychological factors that influence and drive people’s lives; this includes influences in their own life.  Having psychological awareness allows the person to analyse and act on their observations.

It is possible to have emotional intelligence without being psychologically aware but if someone has psychological awareness then they must have some level of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EI) was a term first used by Wayne Payne in a dissertation in 1985[1].  The concept was developed further and other terms like emotional quotient (EQ) were used synonymously with the original concept.  Part of this discussion compared the emotional quotient to the intelligence quotient (IQ), which is an interesting comparison.   Having a better education can improve someone’s IQ scores, but only to a limited extent.  For instance, you can’t take someone with an IQ of 90 and educate them to have an IQ of 140.

EQ is much the same, it is an inherent quality of the person that changes as the brain develops over time.  You might have observed this in people you have met.  These people seem to know how people are feeling and can respond in a meaningful way that addresses the emotional needs of the situation.  However, you might also notice that these people don’t really know what they are doing.  Their responses are a ‘natural consequence’ of how that person’s brain inherently functions… they aren’t necessarily aware of the psychological issues and drivers of behaviour, it’s an automatic response.

Psychological awareness is slightly different.  A psychologically aware person contemplates the psychological forces in the situations they face.  This awareness provides them with the capacity to analyse and contemplate the psychological factors involved in that situation.  The advantage of being psychologically aware is that it allows a person to knowingly and deliberately consider the issues and factors involved.  This means the person can consider past responses, contemplate what future responses might look like, and modify behaviour and circumstances to create better outcomes.  Those outcomes have the potential to create benefits for the psychologically aware person, and for the people they are interacting with.

While the distinction between the two concepts is important, at least from the perspective of being able to teach someone to become psychologically aware, most research focuses on the notion of emotional intelligence and emotional quotients.  Often, research and books written to support these concepts discuss the things one can do to improve a person’s EQ or EI.  From my point of view, this moves toward the concept of psychological awareness.  So, when you read about these issues, understand that you can develop your EQ skills through psychological awareness, but like IQ, there may be limits, but those limits are a lot larger than it is with IQ.  In other words, by learning to be psychologically aware, one’s EQ skills can increase. So you can improve your EQ with appropriate training.


Real Benefits of Having Psychological Awareness

Psychological awareness creates benefits for the psychologically aware person, the people around that person, and for companies that employ them, particularly those who employ them deliberately.  Psychologically aware people bring a number of benefits in the  corporate setting  including:


Psychological Awareness for the Workforce

There has been considerable research into the value of using emotional intelligence in the workforce.  It helps people make sound decisions, develop collaborative relationships, to deal with stress and manage change better.  It is also associated with reduced levels of conflict and is an important element of leadership training[2].

Companies that focus on employing and developing employees with emotionally intelligence typically enjoy an improved corporate culture[3] which brings further rewards like improved productivity, profitability, reputation, and even the value of share prices[4].


Psychological Awareness and Litigation

A thesis by Gardner examined the relationship between teaching people in the workplace to develop higher levels of emotional intelligence or develop psychological awareness and found that teaching EI to employees created reduced levels of stress and strain[5].  One such strain is the development of stress and illness within the person.  Another is the use of litigation within a company.  Unhappy, dissatisfied employees are more likely to take workers compensation for stress and anxiety, and this carries a significant cost in terms of productivity and workers compensation claims for stress and related problems[6].  The cost of litigation of this type depends on the specific circumstances, but it can extend from a few days off, to the retirement of the employee, a large payout, and potentially large litigation expenses.  Developing a workforce with higher levels of emotional intelligence and benefits the employee, their colleagues, and from the employers perspective, reduces costs and improves productivity.  This represents a good return on investment.


Psychological Awareness and Client Relationships

Emotional intelligence has been studied with particular interest because of its ability to develop stronger relationships.  This is particularly important for the relationships that people develop with clients[7] and for the development of corporate reputation[8].  The ability of a marketing professional to bring better value through the better use of emotional intelligence is clear[9].  Not surprisingly, this can improve relationships with all types of clients no matter what type of company you are running or employed with.  It follows that when clients are generally more satisfied with the company’s services, and not just their products, the corporate reputation improves.  Looking at this from the perspective of future business, improved reputation creates more work, which creates more value, and greater profit.  Improving client relationships can dramatically improve the company’s standing.


Psychological Awareness and Success

I have been discussing the benefits of a company ensuring that their staff either have emotional intelligence when they are employed, or have been developed to improve their emotional intelligence.  However, the value of emotional intelligence extends far beyond the company.  A real benefit for psychological awareness falls to the people who experience it, and of course, those around them who benefit from its presence.  The following list highlights those benefits.

  1. Benefits to the Individual’s Self-Esteem and Confidence. The development of psychological awareness helps a person develop self-esteem and confidence.  This has been documented in adolescents[10] and many other groups.  This may seem obvious; if someone is able to cope with the emotional challenges in their life, then they will feel better about their ability to manage whatever situations they will face in their day-to-day life.  This is part of the definition of self-esteem, which centres around how you think and feel about yourself.  With better self-esteem, confidence grows too.
  2. Benefits to the Individual’s Work Relationships. We have already discussed ‘work-issues’ but I want to focus on individual work relationships.  Research verifies that work relationships improve when someone develops their emotional intelligence[11].  This improvement allows people to develop more positive experiences with their colleagues, improve collaboration, and ensure that separate people can come together and work as a team.  This creates a different outcome from having separate people who choose to work and focus on their own goals but don’t consider what the team needs.
  3. Benefits to the Individual’s Personal Relationships. Not only are work relationships improved, but personal relationships improve too[12].  This should make sense – if relationships can improve between people at work, the same skills that improve EI will be used with everyone else they know.  This means personal and social relationships improve and this would apply to close personal relationships like spouses, partners, children, friends, and other social relationships.  This means that all relationships relating to the psychologically aware person will improve.
  4. Benefits to Those Who Interact with the Individual. People with high levels of emotional intelligence provide a basis for the development of other people.  This extends to the development of psychological skills and ‘moral growth’[13].  This may occur by setting a behavioural and emotional example that someone can follow or aspire to follow.  In other words, the emotionally intelligent person provides an example of someone functioning at a higher level.
  5. Improved Satisfaction. Some authors suggest that emotional intelligence is more to do with personality, and it is possible to see the linkages.  However, studies that examine satisfaction in the light of emotional intelligence suggest that emotional intelligence can predict satisfaction greater than the definitions of personality[14].  Regardless of the discussions around personality and emotional intelligence, it is still clear that having higher levels of emotional intelligence tends to create greater levels of self-satisfaction.  This satisfaction includes every area of a person’s life, including their personal, social, and occupational pastimes.
  6. Reduced Anxiety. Anxiety can challenge anyone, but psychologically aware people are aware of their own anxiety and the anxiety of others[15].  More importantly, they know how to respond to anxiety and ensure that their anxiety is under control.  This doesn’t mean that psychologically aware people don’t feel anxious, of course they do, but when they experience anxiety, they have strategies that help them improve and tackle the anxiety they experience.  It goes further too, while these techniques improve the anxiety in the moment, they also help to change anxiety in the future by increasing resilience and protecting that person from future stressors.
  7. Improved Income. Research that links the levels of emotional intelligence to salary demonstrates clearly that having a higher emotional intelligence leads to higher salaries over time[16].  Explanations for this observation come down to the fact that people with higher levels of emotional intelligence have better relationships which, in turn, creates opportunities for employment growth.  Employment growth means greater success in one’s career, so more opportunities for promotion, opportunities for better, more highly paid jobs, or successfully running one’s own business and so on.

Psychological Awareness is Learnable

In the first part of this article, I made the point that emotional intelligence is part of a person’s ‘wiring’ which is a product of genetics, particularly personality genetics, and environment.  This suggests that a person doesn’t always have much control over the ability to improve their emotional intelligence.  In contrast, psychological awareness is a set of learned skills that most people can adopt and create a version of themselves that creates an improvement in their emotional intelligence.  I would go further: while emotional intelligence involves someone being able to detect and respond to emotional considerations but without a process of analysis and consideration, but psychological awareness creates a framework around which the person can analyse situations and reach considered conclusions.  Psychological awareness creates a framework that the person can build into their life.

I said that ‘most people’ can learn to be psychologically aware, but it is also true that some people will find it very difficult if their view of the world is so narrow that they cannot easily consider someone else’s thoughts or feelings.  For example, someone who is a very rigid thinker or who has significant levels of autism would find it difficult to use strategies in psychological awareness.  At the other end of the spectrum, people who already have emotional intelligence will be able to develop their skills and take advantage of being able to observe and analyse what people are doing, how they develop.  They can then use a framework for analysing their emotional lives’ and the lives of others.  As you might imagine, most people fall between these two extremes, and most people benefit from being able to learn about the psychological factors that affect us all, and to use that information to create better situations.

Gaining psychological awareness requires the development of a range of skills that involve developing better awareness of oneself, awareness of the psychological states of other people, a knowledge of how people interact in groups and in conflict, and being able to use these skills to lead.  A framework for psychological awareness should cover a range of areas, but should include:

  1. Skills for self-reflection and professional reflection.
  2. Developing self-esteem and confidence.
  3. Stress and stress management.
  4. An understanding of emotions including how to identify emotions from non-verbal cues, and understanding what those emotions might mean.
  5. Understanding trauma and trauma triggers.
  6. Understanding personality, personality traits, psychological defences, common personality problems, and cognitive biases.
  7. Being able to use empathy to ‘heal’ stressful situations between people.
  8. Learning to communicate better which includes having an awareness of non-verbal communication, active listening, and being able to manage difficult conversations.
  9. Being able to understand how ‘groups’ work, and how a single change to one person in the group can change the dynamics of the whole group.
  10. Knowing what conflict is, when it becomes toxic, and how to deal with a conflictual situation using a specific framework to manage the conflict.
  11. Understanding how to develop a negotiation in a way that allows all the parties to experience a positive outcome.
  12. Understanding how to deal with conflict and negotiate with difficult people.
  13. Recognising the different types of leadership that can be used, and then to plan the type of leadership you want to use to get the best results from the team you are working with.

Developing psychological awareness improves the person’s ability to succeed at work, at home, and will produce greater levels of success for those with these skills.  While some people will find these skills easier to learn than others, the skills associated with psychological awareness are learnable and most people can learn. 


Get Hyperconnected

If you would like to get a more detailed understanding of how I work and understand psychological awareness, then you should read my book, Hyperconnected[17].  It provides a clear understanding of the concepts important for your emotional intelligence which is the key to your success.

Get you copy now, you won’t be disappointed.

If the information makes sense to you, we also offer individual coaching to help people develop psychological awareness.   It helps people develop emotional intelligence, improve management skills, gain greater levels of self-satisfaction, and even greater rewards. 

Most of our clients achieved promotions within the first 12 months after completing the program, it is well worth it.

[1] Wayne Payne, ‘A Study of Emotion: Emotional Intelligence; Self-Integration; Relating to Fear, Pain and Desire.’ [1985] The Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities <>.

[2] Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books, 1998); NJ Schultz, Hyperconnected (Schward Publishing, 2023); E Hatfield, JT Cacioppo and RL Rapson, Emotional Contagion (Cambridge University Press, 1994); Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books, 1995); D Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ. (Bantam Books, 1995); Payne (n 1).

[3] Holly Corbett, ‘How High EQ Helps Build and Inclusive Workplace Culture’, Forbes (online, 28 February 2023) <>.

[4] Pamela R Johnson and Julie Indvik, ‘Organizational Benefits of Having Emotionally Intelligent Managers and Employees’ (1999) 11(3) Journal of Workplace Learning 84.

[5] Lisa Gardner, ‘Emotional Intelligence and Occupational Stress’ (PhD, Swinburne Univiersity, 2005) <>.

[6] Brian Murphy and Christopher Scoma, ‘Stress and Anxiety: Drivers of Poor Workers’ Compensation Outcomes’ (2022) 34(3) Orthopaedic Practice 176.

[7] Blair Kidwell et al, ‘Emotional Intelligence in Marketing Exchanges’ (2011) 75(1) Journal of Marketing 78.

[8] David Ryback, Putting Emotional Intelligence to Work: Successful Leadership Is More Than IQ (Routledge, New York, 2011).

[9] Kidwell et al (n 7).

[10] Kaur Tajpreet and SK Maheshwari, ‘Relationship of Emotional Intelligence with Self-Esteem among Adolescents’ (2015) 10(1) Indian Journal of Psychiatric Nursing 18.

[11] Moshe Zeidner, Gerald Matthews and Richard D Roberts, What We Know about Emotional Intelligence: How It Affects Learning, Work, Relationships, and Our Mental Health (MIT press, 2012).

[12] Paulo N Lopes, Peter Salovey and Rebecca Straus, ‘Emotional Intelligence, Personality, and the Perceived Quality of Social Relationships’ (2003) 35(3) Personality and individual Differences 641.

[13] David A Pizarro and Peter Salovey, ‘Being and Becoming a Good Person: The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Moral Development and Behavior’ in Improving Academic Achievement (Elsevier, 2002) 247.

[14] Benjamin Palmer, Catherine Donaldson and Con Stough, ‘Emotional Intelligence and Life Satisfaction’ (2002) 33(7) Personality and Individual Differences 1091.

[15] Bridget Connor and Sharon Slear, ‘Emotional Intelligence and Anxiety; Emotional Intelligence and Resiliency.’ (2009) 16(1) International Journal of Learning.

[16] Martin Sanchez-Gomez, Edgar Breso and Gabriele Giorgi, ‘Could Emotional Intelligence Ability Predict Salary? A Cross-Sectional Study in a Multioccupational Sample’ (2021) 18(3) International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 1322.

[17] NJ Schultz, Hyperconnected (Schward Publishing, 2023) <>.

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Dr Schultz spent 22 years working in psychiatry and then went on to qualify as a lawyer. He has spent 34 years helping people solve problems and the unique combination of medicine, psychiatry, law and mediation provides a unique academic and practical approach to life's challenges.

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