10 lesser-known traits of people with high emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a very tricky concept. How do you know how much of it you have and what you can do to improve if you’re lacking?

In one aspect, you might already be doing things to boost your emotional intelligence without even knowing. 

In this article, we’ll explore the lesser-known traits of highly emotionally intelligent people. Find out how this list can help you spot emotional intelligence in yourself and others.

Let’s dive in!

1) They’re creative

Did you know that emotional intelligence is one of the most overlooked yet essential components of the creative process?

Many studies have identified the link between emotional intelligence and higher creativity

Think about this for a minute: Albert Einstein. Thomas Edison. Leonardo Da Vinci. Vincent Van Gogh. And many more. What do the world’s greatest geniuses have in common?

They all endured heartbreaking missteps and failures. But they got up and kept going, and went on to create some of the most brilliant innovations the world has ever seen.

A big part of their success was their ability to bounce back stronger after every setback. That requires emotional awareness and regulation — acknowledging negative emotions like stress, fear, and frustration and taking steps to not let them get the best of you.

2) They’re authentic

People with high emotional intelligence never try to be someone they’re not. They thoroughly understand themselves, which means they’re confident and secure in who they are

They’re very relatable because they effortlessly and genuinely express their true thoughts and feelings. 

More importantly, they act on their truth. Their decisions and behavior are guided by their core values. They won’t compromise their values and principles, even if it’s not the popular thing to do. 

3) They trust their gut

Have you ever wondered how some people are highly intuitive? How they can trust their intuition to steer them in the right direction?

Highly emotionally intelligent people are comfortable following their intuition because they trust in themselves and their emotions.

They make it a habit to listen to their inner voice for signals like nagging thoughts to feelings of wonder, curiosity, anxiety, and doubt that tell them which way to go.

They tune in to themselves and the present moment, and nothing else, so they can make decisions based on accumulated wisdom and understanding. 

4) They have a wider emotional vocabulary 

Think about this for a minute: Can you give a specific name for your feelings and accurately identify them as they happen? 

And no, I’m not referring to basic descriptions like happy, joyous, sad, and angry.

People with high emotional intelligence have an extensive vocabulary of feelings that empower them to master their emotions.

In other words, they can put their emotions into words. Instead of just saying they’re feeling ‘bad,’ they can pinpoint whether they’re feeling anxious, distressed, or irritable. 

By properly identifying their emotions, they gain better insights into what causes them and what they can do about it. 

5) They have a growth mindset

This one’s connected to our earlier point about how highly emotionally intelligent people view failures as stepping stones to success. 

They perceive every difficult situation as both a chance and a challenge to persevere and grow. 

Of course, they also take time to reflect on all the negative feelings that setbacks bring. But they don’t get stuck in them.

They’re very agile. They believe in their capability to manage their thoughts and feelings and turn every setback into an opportunity for development and growth

6) They’re not perfectionists

Do you often feel that you’re never good enough? Do you still lack confidence even though you know you’ve accomplished so much?

If this is you, then the “perfectionism” trap might be holding you back from living your life to the fullest.

Here’s the deal: There’s no such thing as ‘perfect.’ That’s why people with high emotional intelligence never aim for perfection.

Sure, they also set high standards for themselves and others. But they keep their feelings in check and make sure that these expectations don’t become unrealistic and harmful.

And it doesn’t stop there: They’re not afraid to get things wrong because they know they can try again. 

7) They give and receive feedback

Sometimes, criticism is anything but constructive. It’s not always easy to not get offended by criticism, especially when you feel good about something you’ve worked hard on.

Highly emotionally intelligent people, however, never take criticism personally. They’re very open-minded, and they know how to handle what other people say about them or the things they do.

They can distinguish between hurtful and helpful comments — they ignore those that fall under the destructive type and listen to those that are constructive. They use criticism as a motivation to improve.

Plus, they can also give thoughtful feedback, which means they know how to get their opinions across without belittling others. 

8) They don’t hold grudges

Here’s what makes people with a deeper level of emotional intelligence stand out: They’re quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean they forget.

They know that forgiving doesn’t mean condoning or excusing anyone’s poor or bad behavior. They’re just smart enough to not let other people’s mistakes keep them from moving forward.

They learn to let go of hurt and anger because they want to avoid the harmful health effects of holding on to stress.

Plus, as much as they can forgive, they can also apologize for their mistakes. They recognize when they are wrong, and they take accountability for their decisions and actions. 

9) They know how to deal with toxic behavior

Toxic people surely have their ways of bringing out the worst in you. More often than not, their irrational behavior can push your buttons or worse, drive you insane.

But highly intelligent people have distinct ways of handling toxic people calmly and effortlessly.

They’re very empathetic, which means they can see things from the toxic person’s perspective. They do their best to validate and understand the other person’s feelings and find solutions. 

And the best part? They effectively set and maintain healthy boundaries. They can control much of the chaos because they proactively decide when and where they’ll engage a toxic person.

10) They pause

People with high emotional intelligence know that sometimes, they’ll find themselves in extremely hard situations where they’ll need to regroup. 

That’s why they make it a habit to unplug and recharge. They give their minds and bodies a break from the constant barrage of stressors.

Whether it’s by sitting in silence, working on their breathwork, or other mindfulness practices, they find time to quiet their mental chatter and just tune in to themselves.

It’s how they learn to understand their emotions and keep stress in control before they react or make choices. 

Final thoughts

I hope this article helped you learn a thing or two about what it means to be emotionally intelligent.

And remember, developing emotional intelligence doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an ongoing, lifelong process. 

Start small and work your way up. With practice and determination, your emotionally intelligent behaviors will turn into habits that will greatly strengthen your relationship with yourself and others. 

Picture of Maria Fatima Reyes

Maria Fatima Reyes

Fat Niebres is a freelance writer who loves to chase stories that matter. She finds meaning and inspiration in the mundane. When she's not writing, she's probably reading, eating, traveling, or having deep conversations with her husband. She brings her experience in broadcast, print, and NGO communications, and has been published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Inquirer.net.

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