7 Habits of Emotionally Intelligent People

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The philosopher Aristotle described what it means to be emotionally intelligent hundreds of years before the term became popular. He said:

"Anyone can become angry—that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not easy."

The quote perfectly sums up a concept that has become a hot topic in psychology, education, and business: emotional intelligence. People sometimes refer to emotional intelligence as EQ (emotional quotient).

Emotionally intelligent people have a number of habits and behaviors that contribute to their ability to manage their own emotions and understand the feelings of others. Do you know anyone who is keenly attuned to their own feelings, capable of expressing emotions in an appropriate way, as well as empathetic and understanding of how others are feeling? That person is probably a very emotionally intelligent individual.

Four Skills for Emotional Intelligence

  • The ability to perceive emotions
  • The ability to reason with emotions
  • The ability to understand emotions
  • The ability to manage emotions

The first item, perceiving emotions, is considered the most basic or the first level of emotional intelligence. The skills progress to the last item, managing emotions, which is considered the highest level of emotional intelligence. This involves the ability to manage your emotions and the emotions of others.

Check out these key things that emotionally intelligent people do so that you can try to make some of these a habit in your own day-to-day life. And take this quiz to determine how emotionally intelligent you are, the answer might surprise you! You can also check out signs of low emotional intelligence.

1. Self-Awareness

Psychologist and author Daniel Goleman identifies self-awareness as one of the key components of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness involves the ability to recognize moods, emotions, and feelings.

Part of self-awareness also involves being aware of how your emotions and moods influence other people. This ability to monitor your own emotional states is a basic requirement for emotional intelligence.

2. Empathy

Empathy is another of Goleman's major elements of emotional intelligence. This involves the ability to understand the emotions of other people.

In order to interact with other people in multiple life domains, such as at work or at school, you need to be able to know what they are feeling. If a co-worker is upset or frustrated, knowing what they are feeling can give you a much better idea of how to respond.

3. Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is central to emotional intelligence. Understanding your emotions is great, but not particularly useful if you cannot make use of this knowledge. Emotionally intelligent people think before they act on their feelings. They are in tune with how they feel, but they do not let their emotions rule their lives.

4. Motivation

Emotionally intelligent people are motivated to achieve their goals. They are capable of managing their behaviors and feelings in order to achieve long-term success.

They might be nervous about making a change in their lives, but they know that managing this fear is important. By taking a leap and making the change, they know that they might make their lives better and come one step closer to attaining their goals.

5. Social Skills

Emotionally intelligent people tend to have strong social skills, probably because they are so attuned to their own feelings as well as those of others. They know how to deal with people effectively, and they are invested in maintaining healthy social relationships and helping those around them succeed.

6. Expressiveness

Sometimes people are empaths and in tune with their emotions, but struggle to actually share these feelings with others. Emotionally intelligent people not only understand feelings, they know how to express them appropriately.

What exactly do we mean by appropriately? Imagine, for example, that you just had a particularly awful day at work. You are tired, frustrated, and angry about how things went at an important meeting. An inappropriate expression of your feelings might involve coming home and getting into an argument with your spouse or sending a nasty email to your boss.

A more appropriate emotional reaction would be discussing your frustrations with your spouse, releasing some tension by going for a jog, and coming up with a plan to make the next day better than the one before.

7. Perceptiveness

Imagine that you find yourself getting frustrated and angry with a co-worker. As you assess your feelings, analyze what you're really upset about. Are you mad about your co-worker’s actions, or does your anger stem from underlying frustrations and pressure from a boss who has heaped too much work and responsibility on your shoulders?

Emotionally intelligent people are able to look at the situation and correctly identify the true source of their feelings. At first, this might seem like an easy task, but the reality is that our emotional lives can be both complicated and messy. Locating the exact source of your feelings can be particularly tricky when you are dealing with powerful emotions such as love and anger.

How to Become More Emotionally Intelligent

Contrary to popular belief, you can learn emotional intelligence. Children and adults alike can learn to strengthen EQ.

To start, try reflecting on your level of self-awareness. For instance, are you aware of your emotions? Do you understand how your emotions impact your beliefs and your behaviors? Do you notice how your behaviors impact others around you?

Becoming aware of how we think and feel, and how our actions affect others, is a great foundation for building emotional intelligence.

Mindfulness techniques can help you become more present with your thoughts and emotions. For instance, instead of yelling at someone when you're upset, you might use a deep breathing technique to buy yourself some time, rethink your strategy, and react with more understanding.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is linked with improving emotional intelligence as well. CBT is a form of therapy in which people learn emotional regulation. A therapist will teach you healthy coping mechanisms to use to handle difficult emotions and improve your relationships.

Social and emotional learning programs (SEL) are implemented in some schools to teach kids how to be emotionally competent. There are also SEL programs for adults. SEL helps people develop their sense of identity, strengthen communication skills, use empathy, and achieve personal goals.

Emotional Intelligence Tests

There are online tests available that will determine a level of emotional intelligence based on your answers to various questions. The tests are usually multiple-choice; they ask what your reactions would be in hypothetical situations.

For instance, do you respond to an argument by confronting the other person, shutting down, or apologizing? When you make an important decision, do you procrastinate, let someone else decide, or go with your gut? These are examples of the types of questions you'll find on EQ tests.

Remember, though, there are more factors that go into determining your EQ than an online test could compute. However, a test could get you thinking about which of your emotional skills are strongest and which areas you may wish to improve.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."