Many people hang their success in life on their IQ level. Yet, there is something that can be an even stronger predictor of success. We all know really smart people who are limited in their lives because they just don’t play well with others. They have high IQs, but horribly low EQs. The good news is that while your IQ may be a bit harder to change, anyone can work on developing a better EQ.
Why should you care about enhancing your EQ? Because people who have developed their emotional intelligence enjoy more success in every area of life: social, emotional, physical, and financial. This is because life almost always involves interacting in some way with other people, and high EQ people just make each interaction more rewarding for everyone.
While EQ isn’t always easy to change quickly, with a bit of effort, most people can improve their emotional intelligence with coaching, self-introspection, and feedback from others. The other good news is that EQ naturally increases with age, even if you don’t conscientiously work on furthering it.
There are four main pillars that support a healthy emotional intellect.
- High EQ people are self aware. Instead of just feeling without understanding the source, they can trace their emotions back to their origins and see them logically. They also have a realistic grasp of their strengths and weaknesses.
- High EQ people conduct self management. They can rein themselves in, delay gratification, account for the needs of others, and balance their desires accordingly. They can also walk the middle ground between initiative and patience. They handle change well and follow through with commitments.
- High EQ people are socially aware. They understand and tune into other people’s emotions and can adapt to unspoken social cues. They can also see the interpersonal interactions within groups and larger organizations.
- High EQ people excel at relationship management. They just play well with others, inspire and influence people positively, communicate well, and manage conflict proactively.
In short, high EQ people draw you in and make you want to stay in their circles. How do you know if you have a high EQ? One way is to look at what emotional intellectuals don’t do.
1. They don’t react rashly.
Instead of reacting, high EQ people craft calculated responses. Life is full of stressors. Everyone has their own battles. However, people with high EQ learn to manage their responses to triggers in a proactive way. They learn how to calm down and relax in situations where low EQ people revert to panic and fear. They manage their more basic tendencies to react emotionally and filter that through their reasoning abilities to default to stress management activities.
High EQ people learn to not make decisions when angry, hurt, or scared. Instead, they self manage, get to a better mental state, and then make better decisions after reviewing the situation from their happy place.
2. They don’t avoid new experiences, ideas, or people.
I’m not saying that people with high EQ don’t have strong beliefs or ideas. They do. However, they are not afraid of learning more about other perspectives or having their beliefs challenged. They are open in their thinking vs. closed. They are intellectually curious. They often have friends from every walk of life and faith. They always seek new possibilities. They understand that they can’t always be right, and have the humility to embrace the fact that there is always more that they can learn.
Even when they do disagree with a concept, they consider why their first initial response was to dislike the idea and self analyze why this occurs. They refrain from reacting solely emotionally, and instead respond intelligently.
High EQ individuals see the best in other people. They aren’t afraid to accept help from others, as they realize their own limits and lean on trusted mentors when necessary.
High EQ people are not afraid of change and don’t need rules and structure to feel secure. They don’t remain emotionally unavailable to others or withhold intimacy from their loved ones. They aren’t afraid to have their beliefs or ideas challenged. They also don’t stubbornly cling to concepts and refuse to even entertain new facts that are presented to them.
3. They don’t focus only on self.
This is not to say that high EQ individuals don’t take time for themselves when needed. In fact, going into martyrdom mode is also not healthy. However, high EQ people are empathetic towards others. When it comes to people, they focus more externally vs. being self-absorbed. Instead of seeing life through the lens of their own needs and wants, they have the ability to look at the world from a bigger perspective and walk a mile in another person’s shoes. They are also more forgiving of themselves and others.
High EQ people don’t attack, judge, interrupt, invalidate, criticize, command, lecture, or blame people. They also don’t try to analyze others when they try to share their feelings. They aren’t jealous over loved one’s successes, but celebrate their victories.
4. They don’t become bitter.
Many people don’t take responsibility for their feelings; instead, they blame outside sources for them. However, if you think about it, this is a very basic way to behave. What happens if you take a toy from a child before they are ready to give it up? They cry and throw a tantrum.
You may have met people who still react like a two-year-old child when they are challenged. It’s so much more healthy for people to grow up emotionally as they grow up physically, but this doesn’t always occur. We can all usually “see” what’s wrong in a situation, but most low EQ people don’t move past that step of identifying the problem to finding a solution for it. Instead, they follow the predicable negative chain reaction that can lead to implosion.
High EQ individuals are also not afraid of a challenge, and don’t throw in the towel when they realize that they are not on the correct course. They make adjustments and keep working on solutions to their obstacles.
High EQ individuals don’t go through life feeling like the world owes them. They look within to determine why they do what they do, so they aren’t doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over.
5. They don’t stay ignorant about inner motives.
Ultimately, it comes down to what Socrates proclaimed so long ago. To have high EQ, you must “Know Thyself.”
High EQ individuals understand the chain reaction that occurs that brings about their emotions. They also can explain why they are experiencing certain feelings without blaming someone else. High EQ people are never emotionally dishonest and don’t withhold information, or downright lie, about what they are feeling. They also don’t minimize or exaggerate their emotions, nor do they let things build up until they blow up.
Being self aware helps you understand why you react as you do and if needed, to take steps to change it. You must learn who you are, and more importantly, not let others define you with their self-imposed expectations. As you become more self aware and manage your emotions more effectively, you also are able to subsequently better understand the reactions of others. This ultimately creates better personal relationships and overall happiness.
Some great questions to help you discover more about your inner workings are, “Why do I act like that?” “Why do I believe this way?” “Why am I afraid of having that concept challenged?”
6. They don’t clam up or blow up.
High EQ individuals are communication masters. They have excellent verbal and non-verbal communication and listening skills. They manage conflict better, have stronger relationships, and are able to convey thoughts in a non-threatening, respectful manner. Good communication also increases their ability to influence others in a positive way.
High EQ people, in addition to being more aware of their feelings, are also not afraid to share those feelings with others. And, they check their ego in at the door when it comes to gaining wisdom, insight, and feedback from trusted sources.
High EQ people often use phrases such as “I feel..” to express their emotions. However, they don’t use “I feel that…” This phrasing is often a tip off to a thought disguised as a feeling. For example, “I feel like you…” While the true “I feel” messages give necessary information in a non-threatening manner, the “you” messages usually do not reveal the person’s actual feelings, but can be thinly-veiled accusations.
High EQ individuals also don’t lay guilt trips on others. Instead, they always tell them where they honestly stand in the relationship. Instead of acting out their feelings by resorting to negative actions like door slams, moodiness, passive aggression, or silence, they talk about them calmly.
High EQ people also never resort to playing emotional games and manipulating others. They are excellent listeners, and do not interrupt or invalidate. They are open to other opinions and won’t try to “win” an argument by focusing on facts over feelings. They also don’t act superior or use intellect to judge and criticize others without considering the impact of their actions.
7. They don’t forget about balance.
High EQ people look at life from a balanced, positive viewpoint. They aren’t overly pessimistic or unrealistically optimistic. They tend to be happy and successful. They recognize the good in others and in themselves. They are forgiving of flaws. They make the best out of difficult situations, embracing hardships to help fuel their personal development and improvement. They also keep their sense of humor and find the light side of their trials. High EQ people understand what is within their control, and what is not. They don’t beat themselves up for things that they have no ability to influence.
8. They don’t embrace negativity.
High EQ people are not dominated by fear, worry, guilt, shame, embarrassment, obligation, disappointment, hopelessness, powerlessness, dependency, victimization, or discouragement. They do not give or receive manipulation.
High EQ people let their own personal goals and desires motivate them—not power, wealth, status, fame, or approval. They don’t do things because of a false sense of duty, guilt, force, or obligation. They balance out their feelings with reality checks of logic when needed. They are independent, intrinsically motivated, and self reliant. They also aren’t afraid to push out of their comfort zone to reach new heights.
9. They don’t let others get to them.
Do you know people who cause others to walk on eggshells? If you are unlucky enough to inadvertently make them upset, do they carry grudges? This is a sign of very low EQ.
People who have matured emotionally are resilient, able to agree to disagree, and do not internalize failure. Even if they have had a difficult life, they have managed to learn from the pain and become an even more amazing individual. They don’t dwell on the past, but learn from it. They realize that the past is out of their control, so they choose to live in the present and shape it into a better future.
Individuals with high EQ never hold onto self-destructive belief systems and negative self talk. They refuse to feel inadequate, bitter, disappointed, resentful, or victimized. If they have a pity party, it ends quickly and they certainly don’t send out invites. Instead of focusing on their weaknesses, high EQ people target their strengths.
High EQ people refuse to entertain insecurities or cling to negative experiences. They will not be defensive and freely admit when they make a mistake and apologize. They never avoid responsibility by saying things like, “I had no choice!” They never allow other people to make decisions for them, but take the steering wheel of their lives. They are patient people and can roll with the punches when life doesn’t go as planned.
High EQ people never shut out others. While they realize relationships can be painful, they understand the value far exceeds the hurt. They will never seek out substitute relationships with less threatening and more controllable subjects like pets or imaginary people to replace the real thing.
10. They don’t fight with their head and heart.
High EQ people are able to get in touch with what they are feeling, are interested in other people’s feelings, and are comfortable talking about their emotions. However, they also can recognize that feelings don’t equal fact. They tend to look at situations logically, understand why they feel a certain way, and then work through it proactively.
Emotional intelligence is certainly not easy to obtain and requires a lot of introspection and work; which is why it is so rarely found. However, once you have mastered this skill you will stand out from the crowd, and will soon discover better interpersonal relationships, career success, happiness, and peace. That will bring about a lot more inner satisfaction than bumping up your IQ score any day!
Featured photo credit: Young woman with guitar in forest in early autumn via shutterstock.com