Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman | Book Summary & PDF

In the Emotional Intelligence PDF summary you will learn:

  • How emotional intelligence is built according to research (5 components)

    • Self-awareness/metacognition
    • Managing emotions
    • Self-motivation
    • Empathy
    • Handling relationships
  • Simple ways to apply the power of emotional intelligence in your life (10 actionable ideas)

5 Components of Emotional Intelligence

Contrary to what many people believe, success in life is not directly correlated to the level of intelligence level or IQ.  

Emotional intelligence is what we need to be able to harness the most out of our raw intellectual horsepower.

This book teaches us how to use our emotional intelligence in order to get the very best out of our ourselves and our dealings with others.

Emotional intelligence has 5 components as per research by social psychologist Peter Salovey, and they are as follows:

1. Self-Awareness / Metacognition

Emotional Intelligence PDF Summary - Man deep in thought
Thinking about thinking

In many ways, self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. It's about being able to recognize your feelings and emotions. If you don’t notice and understand them, then you are at the mercy of those feelings.

According to psychologist John Mayer, self-awareness means being “aware of both our mood and our thoughts about that mood.”

We have to be able to identify and name the emotions we're feeling any given moment. This is the skill on which everything else is built in the world of emotional intelligence.

As soon as we're able to identify the emotion we're feeling, the prefrontal cortex gets involved. It means we have gotten away from the grip of the amygdala — the lizard part of the brain that's only thinking about fight or flight — which gets activated in the face of heavily-charged emotions.

All of self-awareness and metacognition really boils down to us being able to rise above the experience as it is happening, rather than being completely immersed in it.

This is also the essence of mindfulness meditation — being able to see your emotions without judgment and without being reactive.

2. Managing Emotions

The first step in managing emotions is identifying those emotions, especially the ones that are negatively-charged. The key is to handle them, not suppress them. It's not about numbing all negative emotions and just feeling positive emotions.

As Aristotle said, have emotions appropriate to the circumstance; not too much, not too little, not too numb. We cannot selectively numb our emotions, we have to be able to feel both.

Therefore, we have to develop the ability to diffuse the challenging emotions, to feel them and just let them be, and to not let them run our lives.

3. Self-Motivation

Emotional Intelligence PDF Summary - Man conquering a snow peak
Conquer your mountain

Being able to use your emotions in order to get the goal or desire is crucial. In fact, it is a key to high performance in the highest of pursuits. But in the face of obstacles and challenges, to be enthusiastic and persistent is hard. We are required to give our very best.

When emotions are out of control, especially negative emotions, they can bring us down. But if we can learn to manage them and harness them to our advantage, we can truly motivate ourselves.

Let’s say you meet 2 different people with similar mental capacities, but 1 of them was severely limited by his emotions because he could not handle them, while the other 1 was able to use his emotions to give his very best in his pursuits — whom would you bet your money on?

Of course you know who's going to win: it’s the person who uses his emotions to bring out the very best from his mental capacities.

Is Stress Bad for Us?

There is a lot of talk about how stress is bad for you and how it should be totally avoided, but that's not entirely the case. Let me explain that by what's called the Yerkes Dodson curve.

Our performance actually tends to go up with a little bit of stress. We can actually perform better. In fact, there is a peak performance zone where we give our very best. But outside of that, too much stress will impede our performance and too little stress can lead to boredom.

Different people have different stress profiles, so while some people might actually start to go down when the stress level gets to a certain level, other people might start peaking at that level.

The key is for you to be able to understand where you are in the stress zone. Be able to tune yourself so that you're constantly able to give high performance at various levels of stress. That is emotional intelligence at its best.

Tests that Show the Importance of Managing Emotions

Here are some actual tests that show how important the power of managing our emotions is.

  • Marshmallow Test

The Marshmallow Test by Walter Mischel was a large-scale experiment conducted back in 1966 for 4-year old kids, each of whom was offered 1 marshmallow. They were told that if they don't eat the marshmallow for 20 minutes, they’d be given another marshmallow.

As can be expected, some kids couldn't wait and ate the first marshmallow, while some kids waited for the second marshmallow. The researchers followed these kids for 14 years.

14 years later, the researchers looked at the kids’ SAT scores. The kids who could not wait for the second marshmallow had an average SAT score of 1,052, while the kids who were able to delay gratification and to control impulses had an average score of 1,262 — which is 20% higher than the score of those who did not have self-control.

20% is considerably a huge number. Just by having that ability to delay gratification and that impulse control, those kids went on to become much more successful. They were much more socially adjusted and had better people relationships.

If you are wondering how you can develop self-control and willpower, some of the great books you can read on these topics are Willpower by Roy Baumeister and Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal. We have full summaries of these books in our Mental Toughness program where we summarized 60 of the greatest books on building self-confidence, self-esteem, willpower, and all those different aspects of mental toughness.

b. Optimism

In his book, Martin Seligman defines optimists as people who see failure as within their control and who can make things happen.

Pessimists, on the other hand, see failure as something that is fixed and hence cannot be changed. They think they cannot make it any better and that something must be wrong with them. And that's why they continue to fail or struggle.

Optimism can be learned. It is the skill we need when it comes to overall self-motivation and harnessing the power of our emotions. When we become optimists, we know we can make things happen and we can influence things.

c. The Flow Zone

Another great way to harness the power of emotions is to get into what's called the flow zone, also known as “the zone.”

Flow is considerably the peak of exercising emotional intelligence. When you get into flow zones, you are literally performing at your highest level with the power of your emotions.

Flow is that point in time when you are utterly absorbed in a task and nothing else matters. You're paying complete attention to that task.

At this state you are giving your very best. You are right at the edge of your competence. You are not really concerned about how well you're performing.

Flow in sports

Playing sports or even videogames are so much fun because you're constantly in the zone.

  • You are just enjoying the moment as it is.
  • All your attention is focused on the game.
  • Your goal is well-defined.
  • You have specific boundaries.
  • The demand for the task is right at your level of competence or right above it.

This is why it's fun to play sports with someone who's at a similar level as you. If not, you quickly lose interest because you are unable to meet the demands.

You have to be at that level where the challenge is just right for you in that particular moment. That's when you get into the flow zone. That's when you enjoy the most.

The ability to find flow experiences and to harness them is a great skill to have because that's when you're performing at your very best. It's the peak of emotional intelligence as Daniel Goleman says.

The book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi also talks about this in great detail.

4. Empathy

Emotional Intelligence PDF Summary - Holding hands for comfort
Give the gift of understanding and comfort

Empathy is simply recognizing emotions in others. It builds on the first component of emotional intelligence, which is self-awareness.

The more we understand our emotions, the more we can read and feel them in others.

All of rapport starts with empathy.

Also, research has now shown that empathy is very powerful in that it helps us become more popular, more outgoing, and more sensitive. It allows us to build better relationships with the opposite sex. These are just among the great benefits of practicing empathy in life.

5. Handling Relationships

Emotional Intelligence PDF Summary - 5 people walking closely together at the beach
Tune in to others' emotions

This idea is all about managing emotions in others. In order to do that, we need to master skills, manage our own emotions, and have empathy for others.

We have to be able to tune in to other people's emotions and we have to be able to drive their emotional state. We have to be able to bring them into our emotional realm. When we are able to set the emotional tone of the interaction, we win.

The key: Even though you want to be able to set the emotional tone and to tune in to people, don’t be a social chameleon. Instead, act in alignment with your values and feelings to be able to do the right thing no matter what.

One of the greatest books ever written on building and handling relationships is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I have a beautiful animation summary of that book and you can watch it here.

Related Readings:

  • Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
  • The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
  • Willpower by Roy Baumeister

II. Actionable Ideas on Developing
Emotional Intelligence

The following are actionable ideas on how to harness all of the components of emotional intelligence.


Mindfulness meditation has so many scientifically-proven benefits that are exactly related to emotional intelligence:

  • helps reduce
    • anxiety
    • depression
    • stress
    • nervousness
  • helps improve
    • self-awareness
    • awareness of emotions/metacognition
    • pain tolerance
    • impulse control
    • optimism
    • grit
    • compassion
    • performance under pressure
    • brain performance

I myself have been meditating for 20 years, having found over 900 studies that talk about how powerful mindfulness meditation is.

You can download a simple 15-minute guided mindfulness meditation audio that I have put together. Just go to 2000books.com/meditate and you can start meditating right away once you press play and sit down.

I'll also send you a few emails about how to meditate the right way. It's like a mini course on meditation.

Meditation is the ultimate power strategy when it comes to developing emotional intelligence because it touches on all the 5 components of emotional intelligence. If there's one specific thing you can do to develop emotional intelligence, it is mindfulness meditation.


When you feel a strong emotion, write down the emotion as soon as it pops up in your brain.

Just the act of naming the emotion and writing it down diffuses the power of that emotion in your amygdala because it engages your prefrontal cortex.

Also, when you start writing down those emotions, you develop an emotional vocabulary along with your self-awareness.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This is one of the most powerful ways to help treat depression and anxiety. The book Feeling Good by David Burns, MD, talks about it in detail.

How it works:

When you notice that you are having some challenging emotion, such as depression or anxiety or any negative emotion, ask yourself:

  • What specific thought is leading to this emotion?
  • What is the distortion in my thoughts?

You’ll find that it’s actually not the situation but the thought about the situation that's leading to that emotion.

There are 10 common cognitive distortions that cause our negative emotions. Once you understand these distortions, you can begin responding to your negative thought. You can start a healthy dialogue with it. You will see that you are just making a mountain out of a molehill, or taking one little experience and extrapolating it.

I highly recommend Feeling Good for anyone who is struggling with negative thoughts and challenges. This book will really help you. We have included it in our Mental Toughness program where we have 60 book summaries on self-confidence, self-esteem, and other related areas. You can also get the list of the common distortions in our summary. Check it out at 2000books.com/tough.


Change Your Physiology

Changing your physiology changes your biochemistry. Just standing in a powerful position, for instance, will increase your dominance hormones (testosterone) and reduce your stress hormones (cortisol).

In the book Unlimited Power, Tony Robbins talks about how the words and pictures we hold in our mind affect our emotional state.

I have a video on our channel on how I walked on 10 feet of red-hot burning coal just by using these techniques. We also have a summary of Unlimited Power in our Mental Toughness program.

  • Power pose

Another power hack is to stand up in a power pose, like Superman occupying a lot of space, hands on the waist. You can also spread your hands in the air. Do these for 2 minutes whenever you're feeling stressed, fearful, nervous, or anxious.

The effect is the same: your testosterone goes up and your cortisol goes down. You will then start feeling different.

In the book Presence, Dr. Amy Cuddy talks in great detail how this works. We covered that book as well in our Mental Toughness program so check that out.

  • Go walking or running

This will shake you out of a bad mood.

When I am feeling like I'm in a funk or  a little down, I go for a run for 30 minutes to an hour. It makes me forget about that down mood and puts me in a completely new state. I become a new person again.


Deep Breathing

Follow this breathing pattern when you are stressed out, angry, or nervous:

Inhale to the count of 4…hold your breath to the count of 4…and exhale to the count of 8 with your mouth open.

Breathe in this pattern maybe 10 times or for about a minute. You'll then see a difference in your emotional state.

Doing this gives control back to your prefrontal cortex, away from your amygdala, making you centered again. It has been proven to reduce blood pressure as well.


Architect a Small Win

  • Assign yourself a small task when you’re feeling negative emotions.
  • Write it on a small piece of paper.
  • Once you complete it, cross it off from the piece of paper.

Doing this will give you an emotional boost — a sense of completion and victory that you’re ready to take on a bigger challenge.

A small task could be as simple as arranging your desk or doing the dishes or fixing your bed and so on.


Help Others in Need

This is one of the most powerful ways to harness emotional intelligence.

In the book The Upside of Stress, Dr. Kelly McGonigal talks about how research found that mortality rate goes down by 33% if we spend time on a weekly basis helping others in need. (We also covered this book in detail in our Mental Toughness program, so check it out at 2000books.com/tough.)

Another book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie, says that helping others in need is one of the greatest ways to change our own mood for the better. It will help us enjoy our life. I have a complete video of this book showing 8 key ideas from it and you can watch it here.


Empathy Exercise

Try to read other people's emotions just by watching their nonverbals.

You'd be surprised how accurate you can be when you start to develop this practice.

Practice reading their face, their eyes, their smile, their hands, and the way they're sitting, standing, and walking. Over time, as you do this again and again, you will develop the ability of knowing what emotions they're feeling.

In one of the exercises during a Tony Robbins seminar called Unleash the Power Within that I attended, we split up into pairs of 2 and went into a specific emotional state. Each of us had to figure out what emotional state the other person was in.

Usually one of the best ways to do that is to adopt the same specific physical state the other person is in. You will certainly start to feel that emotion, and that's the key.

Understanding people's emotions just by watching them is a very powerful key to develop emotional intelligence and empathy.



When you’re in a difficult situation, ask yourself:

  • How will the situation turn out to my advantage?
  • Why is this good for me?

Now you're reframing the situation to something positive. You can even reframe your past failures in terms of how it helped you move forward.

In the book Awaken the Giant Within, Tony Robbins talks about different kinds of reframes. (We also have a summary of this book in our Mental Toughness program at 2000books.com/tough.)

Another great reframe is to realize that the obstacle that's standing in the way is the way forward. There's a whole book by that name called The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. One of the most powerful quotes in the book is from Marcus Aurelius, the great stoic philosopher:

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

This is another great book and you can check out our summary of it in our Mental Toughness course.


How, Not What

When the words from people are in conflict with how they're saying them, trust how they're saying it, not what they're saying.

Trust their body language, their tonality, their gestures, and their voice, not the words that are coming out of their mouth. As you might've heard, 93% of communication is nonverbal, and that's true.

So don't trust what they said. Trust how they said it.

I hope you learned a lot about emotional intelligence from this summary. Make sure to also  get our mind map of this for free at 2000books.com/self. You will have access to all these ideas instantly to be able to practice emotional intelligence right away at your fingertips.

Related Readings:

  • Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins
  • Feeling Good by David Burns, MD
  • How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
  • Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
  • Presence by Amy Cuddy
  • The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal, PhD
  • Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins