13 Brilliant Quotes That Prove Emotional Intelligence Has Been Around for a Very, Very Long Time

The term emotional intelligence may only be a few decades old, but the concept behind it certainly isn't.

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We’ve seen a resurgence in recent times regarding the concept of emotional intelligence: the ability to identify, understand, and manage one’s own emotions and the emotions of others.

Or, as I describe it in my new book, EQ Applied, emotional intelligence is the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.

But while the term emotional intelligence may only be a few decades old, the concept behind it certainly isn’t. For centuries, leaders have advised their followers to consider how emotions affect behavior. 

For example, just consider the following 13 quotes:

  1. “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”­ 
    –the Bible (James 1:19, King James Version)
  2. “Care for your psyche…know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves.” 
  3. “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
  4. “Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.” 
    –Sun Tzu
  5. “When anger rises, think of the consequences.”
  6. “One ought to hold on to one’s heart; for if one lets it go, one soon loses control of the head too.” 
    –Friedrich Nietzsche
  7. “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
    –Oscar Wilde
  8. “Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.”
    –Isaac Newton
  9. “When a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master.”
    –Baruch Spinoza
  10. “It is just as valuable to be censured by friends as it is splendid to be praised by enemies. We desire praise from those who do not know us, but from friends we want the truth.”
    –René Descartes
  11. “What worries you, masters you.” 
    –John Locke
  12. “There is no other way to guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not offend you.”
    –Niccolò Machiavelli
  13. “The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood.”

All of the above statements resemble different aspects of what is today referred to as emotional intelligence.

Emotional understanding, emotional ability, emotional intelligence, EQ–call it what you want, the fact remains the same: 

The ability to understand and manage emotions effectively is a crucial skill that can help you navigate life successfully…

And its value has been recognized for a very, very long time.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on

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