Most people underestimate the importance of emotional intelligence (EI) in our daily lives.
This type of intelligence allows us to recognize, understand, and manage emotions—both our own, and other people’s.
It involves abilities such as empathy, compassion, self-awareness, interpersonal skills, and personal regulation.
This article will focus on 10 signs that you have higher than average emotional intelligence, and how you may put it into practice.
1. You’re able to empathize with others pretty much instantly.
While sympathy means that you can feel bad for others’ suffering, empathy means that you can imagine what it must be like to experience what they’re going through.
Essentially, you’re able to picture how you would feel in their shoes, including all the emotions that they’re experiencing in this situation.
This innate ability to empathize can be overwhelming.
Some people struggle to be around those who are going through difficulty because they end up feeling all the hurt and despair that’s roiling around them.
Others use their empathy as a driving force to try to make the world a better place.
Regardless of how you choose to use this ability, if your EI is high, you have no problem understanding how others feel in any given circumstance.
2. You find it easy to not only recognize what you’re feeling, but why.
Many people feel flurries of emotions throughout any given day, but they can’t always pinpoint what’s upsetting them, or what caused it.
We often see this type of behavior in young children who get cranky or angry when they’re tired and have no idea why they’re feeling so upset and overwhelmed.
These emotional storms can also occur in those going through puberty or menopause, when intense waves of anger or sadness can rush through them without any clear causal factor.
When you have high emotional intelligence, you can recognize exactly what you’re experiencing, as well as what may be causing it.
For instance, you might observe that you’re feeling more irritable than you should be when your housemate has a friend over, and then recognize that this friend’s voice reminds you of someone who mistreated you years ago.
You can pinpoint precisely why you’re feeling an emotion, which can do wonders for diffusing or redirecting it.
3. You naturally engage in active listening.
You’ve undoubtedly noticed the difference between when a person claims to be listening, and when they show you they are truly paying attention to what you are saying.
The latter is often called “active listening,” and it involves things like repeating back to people the salient points they made, or asking questions to clarify what they’re talking about.
For example, if someone is telling you that they feel they don’t get enough alone time in which they can read or meditate, you might ask them how you can support them so they do have more time to themselves, rather than simply saying that you understand.
You’re not just paying lip service and being dismissive until they shut up and stop griping.
As someone with high emotional intelligence, this form of listening comes naturally to you.
4. You understand the source of your own ethics, and you act on them accordingly.
You have a list of issues or causes that matter to you, as well as standards of behavior that you adhere to, and you put sincere effort into all of them.
This isn’t a case of doing what everyone else is doing in order to fit in, but rather one of prioritizing the things that you find to be important.
For instance, you may choose to boycott certain companies or restaurants that your peers support because you disagree with how they treat their suppliers.
Or you may choose not to eat or drink certain items because of rules established by the religion you follow, or because you feel that partaking in those items is unethical.
Others may mock you for your choices or even try to push you to consume them because they think you’re being unreasonable, but you stand your ground no matter what.
Your integrity means a great deal to you, and you won’t compromise on what you feel strongly about.
It’s possible that you’ve alienated friends or family members because you refuse to back down on your own ethics, but that isn’t something to lament. It’s rare for people to have the courage of their convictions these days, making you a rare gem.
5. You can adapt to any situation to everyone’s greatest benefit.
A person with higher than average emotional intelligence learns to adapt to the situations they’re in, rather than expecting others to adapt to them.
This can take many forms, but often involves changing tone and body language to suit one’s audience.
As an example, if you’re talking to a child and they seem to be shy or nervous, you may get down on the ground so you’re at the same eye level as they are and modulate both your voice and vocabulary to make them more comfortable with you.
Similarly, you might adapt your word choices when speaking with people who don’t speak your language fluently so that you don’t come across as condescending or arrogant.
Ultimately, your goal is to put people at ease and be a friendly port in the storm where they can find solace and acceptance, not belittlement.
6. You can emotionally self-regulate in trying situations.
People with low emotional intelligence often blame others for how they’re feeling instead of taking responsibility for their own emotions and behaviors.
They’ll say things like “you made me angry,” instead of “I feel angry because __.” As such, they put the onus on other people to regulate their emotions for them, instead of taking care of those challenging feelings themselves.
Since you’re so self-aware that you can recognize why you’re feeling the way you do, you can also dig into your personal arsenal of coping mechanisms to self-regulate.
For instance, if you’re feeling anxious or emotionally jarred because you witnessed a car accident, you may be able to compartmentalize those emotions in order to help injured parties and call for help.
Alternatively, if you’re overstimulated because the kids are screaming or people at work are arguing, you can call for everyone to have a snack break, go for a walk to reset, and reconvene when everyone is calmer and has more stable blood sugar levels.
This ability to self-regulate means that you’re highly unlikely to ever lose your temper or fly off the handle.
Because you can recognize when you’re reaching your personal limits, you can take action to diffuse your own meltdown before it takes full form, thus preventing all kinds of arguments or misunderstandings.
7. You’re resilient and use difficult experiences as learning opportunities.
People with higher than average emotional intelligence tend to be quite resilient.
You’ve likely been through your fair share of difficult experiences, but instead of being mired in them and using them to stay in perpetual victim mode, you’ve allowed yourself to grow and learn from what you’ve been through.
Every challenging situation offers us a chance to flex our coping muscles, as well as opportunities to learn—whether it’s by discovering new skills or by putting past experiences into practice.
Though you may have been traumatized by a difficult experience in the past, you’re now likely to remain calm if and when similar circumstances unfold, and possibly even take charge if the need arises.
8. You find it easy to read other people’s nonverbal cues.
People say a lot without uttering a single word. In fact, body language often conveys just as much (if not more) about what someone is thinking or feeling than anything they say.
If you have higher than average emotional intelligence, you’ll pick up on these nonverbal cues on a subconscious level, as well as through observation and empathic awareness.
For example, if someone isn’t smiling with their eyes, or if they’re taking long, deep breaths, you know that they’re eager to get away from their current situation because they’re uncomfortable or irritated with it.
Are they not meeting your gaze, or standing with their arms crossed? Then they’re likely feeling vulnerable or scared and are trying to defend themselves against any possible attack, even on a subconscious level.
Unsurprisingly, having the ability to read body language makes it easier for you to understand people who have difficulty communicating verbally, such as people with autism spectrum disorder or other types of special needs.
By reading their energy, the way they move, and how they position themselves, you can determine both what they might need, and what they’re trying to communicate to you.
This can be immensely comforting to those who struggle to be understood in a world where most people use speech to express their thoughts and emotions.
9. You’re a natural mediator.
Your ability to empathize with others makes you an ideal mediator in any kind of argument or dispute.
Since you can understand what both sides are feeling, both end up feeling seen and heard, rather than invalidated or dismissed.
Additionally, you’re often able to see below the surface to the underlying issues that they might not even have been aware of.
This can help them understand where their conflicts stem from, as they may have been solely driven by their emotions without awareness of why they were feeling that way.
By maintaining calm and order, and ensuring that both sides can air their grievances in a safe, supportive space, you can help them find a solution that works well for everyone.
Furthermore, you can likely encourage them to see one another’s perspective, which can go a long way toward avoiding similar conflicts in the future.
10. You can find a silver lining in just about anything.
People with high emotional intelligence can often find something to be positive about in even the most dire circumstances.
In the same way that you’ve been able to treat challenging situations as learning opportunities, it’s highly likely that no matter what you end up facing in life, you can find something good in the experience.
For example, if you find out that you’re allergic to a food that you’ve always liked, well that’s a great opportunity for you to expand your palate with different ingredients you may not have tried yet.
You’ve submitted your book to 100 different publishers and all have rejected you because your work isn’t appealing to the largest demographics? Well, that’s a huge sign to start your own publishing company that specializes in books that amplify marginalized voices and tell stories that go above and beyond cookie-cutter expectations.
In essence, you don’t let anything get you down. If something doesn’t unfold as expected, you take that as a sign that it wasn’t meant to be, change direction, and keep on going.
Having higher than average emotional intelligence is a major advantage in life. If any of these points resonate with you, you’re likely within the 10% or so of people who have this ability.
The key now is to determine what you want to do with this skill; how you’d like to channel it for its greatest potential, both for your own benefit, and in service to others.
Whatever legacy you choose to leave, your high EI is sure to help you get there.