Is there a relationship between Mental Toughness and Emotional Intelligence is a frequently asked question. It’s a good question and, like all the best questions, it has a potentially complex answer.

At its simplest EI describes the extent which you are sensitive to the emotions and feelings of others particular when you say or do something which impacts on them in some way. It also describes the extent to which you are emotionally sensitive to the actions, words and deeds of others.

Essentially it is about emotional sensitivity to the world around you. It doesn’t necessarily indicate how you will respond as a result of this sensitivity.

MT describes something similar but importantly different. It is a personality trait which assesses mindset (how we think and feel) when faced with factors such as stress, pressure and challenge. Those factors might embrace an emotional response. MT is all about your sensitivity to those factors and how you are likely to respond by virtue of the 4 components of MT ( the 4Cs).

This is perhaps confounded a little by the on-going debate about what exactly EI is.

Nevertheless the possible difference and the connection between EI and MT can be summarised neatly in the 4 quadrant matrix shown below. This shows the possible outcomes for combinations of high and low positions for EI and MT.


So someone with high EI and high MT might be sensitive to the emotions and feelings of others and will be effective at managing their response to these. Which is what research at the University of Lincoln indicates. Someone with low EI and high MT might emerge as insensitive to others emotions and feeling and in this case their high MT might emerge in seeming “thick skinned”. And so on.

However the research also indicated that those who are more mentally tough also tend to be “more comfortable in their own skin” which can often mean they are more open to connection with others and their feelings and emotions. The suggestion being that EI may even be a subset of MT.

If we look at Goleman’s model of EI it is possible to see a connection with three of Goleman’s characteristics – Moods Management; Self Motivation and Relationship Management.

Perhaps more interesting is the new thinking around Intelligent Emotions (advocated by Professor Paul Brown amongst others). This resonates closely with the Emotional Control scale in Mental Toughness and suggests that individuals with this kind of Intelligence are able to impact on the mood of other around them by (authentic) displays of feelings and emotions. In turn that can provide positive feedback to the individual and enable them to manage mood and emotions.

A view being that Intelligent Emotions are more intelligent that Emotional Intelligence.

We’ll look at this more closely in a later post

If you would like further information on Mental Toughness please click here or for the opportunity to complete the MTQ48 free of charge (one per organisation) please contact us

@ AQR International 2016.

AQR is a leading edge publisher of psychometric measures, we also work through partner organisations. For more information please visit

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