"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."
In this quote, the philosopher Aristotle perfectly sums up a concept that has become a hot topic in psychology, education, and business – emotional intelligence.
Emotionally intelligent people engage in 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 his or her 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.
Emotional intelligence involves four major skills:
- The ability to perceive emotions
- The ability to reason with emotions
- The ability to understand emotions
- The ability to manage emotions.
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.
1. Emotionally intelligent people pay attention to what they are feeling.
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. They understand how other people feel.
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 he is feeling can give you a much better idea of how to respond.
3. They are able to regulate their emotions.
Self-regulation is absolutely 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. They are motivated.
Emotionally intelligent people are motivated to achieve their goals and 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. They have great social skills
Emotionally intelligent people also tend to have strong social skills, probably in part 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. They are willing and able to discuss feelings with others.
Sometimes people are empathetic 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. They are able to correctly identify the underlying causes of their emotions.
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.
Are you emotionally intelligent?
Check out the following resources to learn more about why emotional intelligence matters, discover your own emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), and learn more about whether EQ might be more important that IQ:
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Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam.
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, cognition, and personality, 9(3), 185-211.