9 habits of emotionally intelligent people (and why it’s more important than IQ)

Have you ever met someone with a high IQ that just didn’t seem to be as intelligent as you’d expect? Maybe they don’t follow character-driven movie plots or seem to be lacking in common sense.  Perhaps they find it difficult to interact with others socially? 

If so, chances are that they may be lacking in emotional intelligence. And that makes a big difference. 

Studies have shown that more than IQ, a high Emotional Intelligence or EQ (Emotional Quotient) can greatly enhance your life and experiences and boost your happiness and success.

It’s all about our ability to understand and regulate our own emotions and those of others. 

Wondering what habits people high EQ have to make them such masters of emotions? Read on and find out! 

1) They practice self-awareness

For me, self-awareness is a highly important trait that I look for in friends and especially in a partner. 

We all have our personal demons to deal with. Self-awareness helps us notice when these issues crop up in our lives.  

For instance, if I’m in a bad mood because I had a bad day at work, and that triggered a sense of rejection, being self-aware will help me understand what’s going on. 

By knowing myself, I can realize that the rejection feeling is linked to an event from the past.

Without self-awareness, however, I might blame my bad mood on something my partner or friend has done, and cause an argument. 

Self-awareness helps us understand where we end and another begins, and what is (and is not!) our responsibility to deal with.

Read on to find out what other EQ benefits self-awareness brings.

2) They manage their emotions to feel better

Self-regulation, when combined with self-awareness, relates to our ability to soothe or calm our emotions. So instead of getting angry with a partner when we feel bad, we can take a break, and do something that helps to bring us back to baseline.

What can you do to self-regulate? For some that might mean a walk in nature, enjoying a bath or some deep mindful breaths. For others, it could be doing something they enjoy like reading or playing a game. 

There is also a sense of accepting that we will feel unpleasant emotions, but given a bit of time and distance, those feelings will fade.

That makes us feel better and it also improves the experience of those close to us, and that’s where empathy comes in.

3) They practice empathy

If you are an empathetic person, or try to be, then you will frequently try to put yourself in the shoes of another person. (And you probably won’t take that sentence literally and become a footwear thief!)

As my friend says to me, “we are all the heroes of our own story”, meaning that we tend to see things from our point of view.

But if we then take the time to imagine that we are someone else, with different perspectives, feelings, views and experiences, it can dramatically improve the way we relate to that person.  

Why should you care? Better and more empathetic relationships with others mean a happier life for you and those around you.  

Related: Stay single until you find someone with these 7 traits

4) They read social cues and have good social skills 

Another way to improve your relationships with others is to have good social skills.  This can include reading social cues.

For example: Is it late and your friend yawning and looking at her watch? This is a subtle clue that she wants to go to bed, but may not want to say it directly.

Other social skills can relate to noticing when others would like to speak, talking about things that interest others as well as you (and noticing when other people look bored!).  

Learning about body language is a great way to improve your social skills.

Being able to read other people in this way can also help you not to get scammed or tricked

5) They bounce back after setbacks

Even the most emotionally intelligent people will have bad experiences that may include being tricked or manipulated by others.  It’s also the nature of life that good and bad things happen.  

Our ability to deal with troubles and bounce back is a sign of our resilience, and the more of that we practice, the better we are likely to feel, even after unpleasant events.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s normal to feel upset, down and even grieve when bad things happen. But resilience helps us assess what went wrong, how we might do things differently in the future, and realize that our distress is temporary. 

It can also help us to adapt to changes in our lives.

6) They keep an open mind

Remember my empathetic friend who told us ‘we are all the heroes of our own story?’. Once again this adage comes in handy.

It’s easy to judge others based on our own values, culture, conditioning and experiences, but in doing so we deny the experiences of other people.  

As the philosopher Jean Paul Satre pointed out, there is no one moral code that fits every situation. Living as though there is, is likely to bring unhappiness.  Similarly, no single set of beliefs and values apply to all people.

What’s the benefit of open-mindedness?

It helps us to get on better with other people, have more friends and be more well liked. It also makes life easier if we don’t have to sit in judgment of other people, as this can be draining and limit us.

7) They do active listening 

So how do you really begin to understand another person’s values and beliefs in an open-minded way?  The secret is in being an active listener.  

Active listening is not just about staying quiet, although letting people talk is a great first step!  

However little cues, like nodding and making noises like mmhmm, as they talk, shows that you are listening and paying attention, and will encourage them to keep speaking.

The next step is to really pay attention to what they are saying and how they are saying it.  What is their tone of voice like? Do they look sad, happy or as if they are forced to think a certain way? 

Step three involves asking relevant questions. So for example, if your friend is talking about a person that makes them feel anxious, you might ask them what they think started this feeling, or if/when they have felt this way before.  

Active listening will help your friend know that you really care about them, and assist them in self discovery when needed.

8) They are honest and focus on building trust 

Most people would agree that honesty is a good thing, and I do too. (Mostly!)

Good emotional intelligence allows you to express your thoughts tactfully, even when that feels difficult.  

An example of brave honesty might be having the courage to kindly tell a friend when his or her behaviors aren’t serving them well, (essentially helping them to improve their EQ with open-mindedness and empathy!)

On the other hand, being totally honest and having no filter is not necessarily a good thing.  

Knowing when to tell a ‘white lie’ to protect someone’s feelings, or even their safety, is another important facet of emotional intelligence.

9) They communicate and resolve conflicts well

No matter how hard we try, we will inevitably find ourselves in conflict sometimes. Maybe your honesty, though justified, wasn’t well received, or perhaps something you did made another person feel hurt or unheard.  

By using a mix of EQ skills, especially self-awareness, empathy, listening, open-mindedness, you can resolve conflict more easily.

A handy tip for dealing with conflict is using ‘I’ statements, and focusing on how specific things make you feel, rather than blaming.

In other words: NOT – “You always make me feel stupid.” but rather, “When you make jokes about me in front of other people, I feel stupid and embarrassed.” 

You can take it a step further and politely request how you would like to be treated.

Developing emotional intelligence: A journey of self-discovery

Did you recognize any of these traits in yourself or other people? If you did, then well done! 

If not, that’s okay too! For some of us, including some neurodivergent people, aspects of emotional intelligence do not come naturally.  

If that’s you, I have good news: Emotional intelligence can be learned, and the fact that you have just read this article, shows you have the willingness and curiosity to learn these valuable skills!

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Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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