Emotional intelligence affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Social-emotional skills play an important part in our ability to work efficiently with others. Research shows that 90% of top performers have high emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence includes personal competence and social competence. Personal competence comprises self-awareness and self-management. It helps you stay aware of your emotions and manage your reactions and tendencies by being flexible and positive in how you behave. Social competence is about awareness of others’ emotions and understanding what’s going on and using this awareness to manage interactions successfully.
Here are eight behaviors of people who develop high emotional intelligence:
1. They have a healthy vocabulary of emotions.
People with high emotional intelligence can master their emotions because they can specify their feelings. Instead of describing themselves as feeling “bad,” emotionally intelligent people can pinpoint whether they feel “angry,” “frustrated,” “resentful,” or “anxious.” The more specific your word choice, the better insight into how you feel, what caused it, and what you should do about it.
2. They’re assertive.
People with high emotional intelligence can balance empathy, compassion, and kindness with the ability to assert themselves and establish boundaries. This tactful combination is ideal for handling conflict. Instead of defaulting to passive or aggressive behavior, emotionally intelligent people remain balanced and assertive using reaction management. Management of their reactions enables them to neutralize difficult and toxic people without creating enemies. Some examples include setting the right tone when they have to deliver difficult news to someone or sending the right signals to others to get the help they need.
3. They recognize how others are (really) feeling.
The ability to empathize with others is an essential skill. Empathetic people tend to read body language and non-verbal cues including tone of voice and facial expressions more accurately. They attune themselves to differences between words and body language, such as when a comment like “Sure, I’m fine” is not the case.
4. They are difficult to offend.
If you have a firm grasp of who you are, it’s difficult for someone to say or do something that gets your goat. Emotionally intelligent people are self-confident and open-minded, which gives them a thick skin. They won’t let anyone limit their joy. While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others. When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction derive from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your happiness. Emotionally intelligent people know how to take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, their self-worth comes from within.
5. They ignore negative self-talk.
A big step in developing emotional intelligence involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on these thoughts, the more power you give others. Most of our negative thoughts are not facts. Take a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, and you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating the truth.
6. They think before they react.
We’ve all worked with someone unpredictable in their reaction to things. It depends on their mood, the day, their stress levels, and they can have their colleagues walking on eggshells. Emotionally intelligent people respond appropriately to emotional situations and don’t tend to have outbursts or lash out at others. They tend to be more even-tempered, think clearly under pressure, and take the time to feel their way through a problem rather than reacting at the moment.
7. Their decisions include thinking and feeling.
Emotions always contain a message regarding your needs and information about people and situations. If we ignore feelings because they’re negative or uncomfortable, we can miss important information about an interaction or situation. Emotionally intelligent people are open to all emotions and use them in their thinking and decision-making. They know that emotions can help inform them on the best way forward.
8. They match their mood to the task.
Emotionally intelligent people can deliberately change their attitudes to match their tasks. For example, when you address a challenge or think about doing something different, this can be easier when you’re in a positive mood. Conversely, if the situation calls for more careful and critical thinking, a more serious temperament is often more conducive to results. This awareness of the right mood or frame of mind for specific tasks is also a great way to be most productive.
Training your brain repeatedly to practice new emotionally intelligent behaviors builds the pathways needed to shift into habits. Before long, you will begin responding to your surroundings with emotional intelligence without even having to think about it.
Co-authors Jane Firth and Andrea Zintz, Grit, Grace & Gravitas, The Three Keys to Transforming Leadership, Presence, and Impact.
We wrote our book to share our models and research, teach and explain the social-emotional skills so needed right now. The stories and suggestions for handling reactions and relationships help leaders understand their capacity to evolve and have the tools to do so. Our book describes how the constructive power of grace provides us with greater dominion over emotional triggers and adverse reactions; how the skills and qualities of grace help to have better relationships and inspire others through behaviors and impact. Now is the time when social-emotional skills are essential for creating the conditions that lead to success. Our book will add insight and value to developing your emotional intelligence.