Emotional intelligence isn’t some “made-up” thing, it’s actually a term used by modern psychology to define the capacity to deal with your emotions in a healthy way.
More specifically, it’s the ability to recognize your emotions and the emotions of others, distinguish one emotion from the next, properly label your emotions, use your emotions to guide your thinking and behavior , and to manage your emotions to achieve your goals (1).
According to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence (EQ or EI) is generally said to include three skills (2):
- Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others.
- The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving.
- The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.
It also involves two kinds of focus: an inward focus on your own feelings and an outward focus on the feelings of the people around you (3).
Why Emotional Intelligence Matters
Emotional intelligence is key to developing problem-solving skills and healthy relationships.
It’s so important that social and emotional learning (S.E.L.) is now taught in schools throughout North America. That’s because the mental well-being of children correlates strongly with their future success. In fact, EQ correlates with better work, stronger marriages, better mental health, and better physical health (4).
When S.E.L. was studied in an elementary school in California, researchers: “…discovered was that [the] kids weren’t going to be able to make progress on the academics until they’d gotten help with their social and emotional issues.”
That’s partly because social-emotional training develops the prefrontal cortex. Consequently, it can enhance academically important skills like impulse control, abstract reasoning, long-term planning and working memory.
Among other things, researchers who studied S.E.L. in elementary schools found that children were able to move on more quickly when they addressed how they were feeling and communicated their emotions with teachers and peers.
Am I Emotionally Intelligent?
Emotional intelligence doesn’t come naturally for everyone, and depending on how you are raised, it may be a challenge to see the value in embracing your emotional side.
There are four key abilities to EI. To understand how your emotional intelligence sizes up, ask yourself the questions below.
1. Understanding and expressing your own emotions
- Have a good sense of why you have certain feelings most of the time?
- Have a good understanding of your own emotions?
- Really understand what you feel?
- Always know whether or not you are happy?
2. Perceiving and understanding the emotions of others
- Always know your friends’ emotions from their behavior?
- Observe the emotions of others?
- Feel sensitive to the feelings and emotions of others?
- Have a good understanding of the emotions of people around you?
3. Regulating your own emotions
- Always set goals for yourself and then try your best to achieve them?
- Always tell yourself that you are a competent person?
- Believe you are a self-motivated person?
- Always encourage yourself to try your best?
4. Using emotion to achieve success
- Have the ability to control your temper and handle difficulties rationally?
- Believe you are capable of controlling your own emotions?
- Always calm down quickly when you are very angry?
- Have good control of your own emotions?
If you answered “yes” to most of the questions above, consider yourself emotionally intelligent. On the other hand, let the questions you may have answered “no” to highlight your challenges in terms of emotional growth.
12 Signs of Heightened Emotional Intelligence
Even emotionally intelligent people have their flaws, but here are 12 things you’ll never catch them doing.
1. They Don’t Disregard Other People’s Feelings
Highly emotionally intelligent people show empathy toward others and seek to understand them above all. While it can be easy to be afraid of what you don’t understand or make assumptions about others, it’s better to seek to understand.
It’s quite simple really: show compassion towards others and treat them as you’d like to be treated. Don’t forget that there’s always two sides to a story, so listen to your enemies as you would your friends.
2. They Won’t Ignore Their Own Feelings
Emotional intelligence involves lots of work: you have to face your inner demons head on. When you notice a pattern of behavior that isn’t helping you move forward in life, the first step is to try to understand why you behave that way. Make sure to name your emotions: you’ll feel more grounded and in control. This step is also crucial to having empathy and understanding others.
Emotions are what makes us human, so it’s vital to show yourself compassion and acknowledge them as they come. Nothing good ever came from dismissing emotions, so sit down and give yourself some much-needed self-love and self-understanding.
3. They Don’t Play the Victim
When you work on your emotional intelligence, you gain the ability to control your emotions and stay accountable. After all, it’s easier to tame a beast that you know and understand.
Emotionally intelligent people aren’t victims of circumstances: they redirect their negative emotions into more productive thoughts. They give their emotions the time of day and take steps to recover during difficult times.
4. They Don’t Let Their Thoughts Run Wild
Your thoughts may seem like they have a mind of their own, but, in truth, you are always in control. It’s important to find a balance between introspection and action. Don’t let your emotions rule you: focus instead on what you can learn from your experience and how your perspective will change as your emotions settle. If your brain just won’t quit: meditate or get creative and bleed your thoughts on paper.
5. They Won’t Dwell on the Negative
Being emotionally intelligent requires a certain sensitivity, but being too sensitive has its downfall. People with a high EQ balance it out with a positive attitude. This allows them to keep a healthy perspective and stay grounded.
6. They Won’t Be Pushed Over
No matter how polite you are, sometimes it’s necessary to stand your ground. The difference lies in the fact that emotionally intelligent people avoid petty drama and saves their energy for positive interactions instead.
7. They Don’t Spread Gossip
Spreading gossip only ever brings harm, both for you and the subject of the rumors. Sticking to mundane subjects of conversation is much better, but it won’t help you move forward. That’s why people with EQ not only seek positive and uplifting conversations, but deep ones as well. After all, being vulnerable with the people close to you will give you a different perspective and will help you learn from the experience of others.
8. They Don’t Get Overwhelmed
If you don’t set boundaries in your relationships, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed when you meet a strong personality. That’s why emotionally intelligent individuals are vocal and firm about their wants and needs. They also are quick to voice concerns when they feel disrespected. By doing so, these people don’t let others manipulate or take advantage of them.
9. They Don’t Live for Others
Emotionally intelligent people have an innate understanding of self that can’t be shaken. They trust their talents and abilities and don’t need validation from others. While they’ll respect the opinions of their loved ones, they don’t make their decisions to please others. Instead, they follow their gut and have faith they’ll learn from every experience and get better as they go.
10. They Don’t Confuse Emotions
People with a high EQ can quickly distinguish what emotions they’re feeling and why. They have a deep understanding of their wants and needs and can express those feelings to others.
12. They Aren’t Afraid of Growth
Emotionally intelligent people challenge themselves and understand that success comes from understanding yourself and facing your personal challenges head on. They pursue emotional growth as a path towards personal fulfillment.
12. They Don’t Hide Their Mistakes
Emotional intelligence requires courage and plenty of self-confidence, but it also requires honesty. As such, emotionally intelligent people take responsibility for their mistakes, especially when they affect others around them.
Instead of giving excuses, these people will own up to their errors, apologize to their victims and do right by changing their behavior and actively gaining back the trust they lost. Emotionally intelligent people don’t expect to be forgiven, they simply try to right their wrongs and learn from their mistakes.
Like academic intelligence, emotional intelligence can be worked on. Keep a journal of how you feel, join a therapy group or take up some basic psychology courses. If you’re really struggling with the concept, consider consulting a psychologist to get an expert’s perspective on the subject.