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High EQ Is a Superpower: Three Habits Signify You've Got It

Recognize what emotional intelligence looks like in daily life.

Key points

  • Three real-life examples of emotional intelligence elucidate this theoretical concept.
  • Emotional intelligence allows a person to maintain healthy relationships with others who share similar capacities.
  • Possessing emotional intelligence in the workplace may enhance success.
  • Emotional attunement to others, self awareness, and the ability to recognize, identify, and verbalize feeling states are elements of EQ.

Emotional intelligence inspires collaboration, facilitates trust in relationships, and allows a person to help and empower others. The insight gained from emotionally intelligent tendencies often promotes personal growth and happiness. Understanding what EQ looks like in “real life” may help a person continue to cultivate these qualities. Three attributes strongly suggest a person operates with a high EQ.

First, a person who is emotionally attuned to others is usually emotionally intelligent. Sensing the feeling states of others allows a person to act conscientiously and respond to the emotional needs of friends, colleagues, and loved ones.

For example, Amy is a project manager at her company. On Monday morning, she assembles her team to discuss their progress on a high-profile account. During the meeting, Amy notices that Tim, a team member, is unusually quiet and appears anxious.

After the meeting adjourns, Amy stops by Tim’s office and asks if things are OK. Tim invites her in and tearfully shares that his wife filed for divorce. Amy resonates with his emotional distress and communicates understanding, “You are hurt and probably feel as if your world is crashing in around you.” Tim senses Amy’s sincere empathy and identifies and articulates several additional painful emotions. Amy empathizes.

Tim admits she is the first person he has told and acknowledges the relief he feels talking about it. Amy encourages him to find her if he needs to talk again and asks if he needs some time off. Tim indicates that work is a useful distraction and that he also finds Amy’s support helpful. Amy smiles and gives Tim the card of a local therapist as an additional resource.

Alternatively, say Amy is not attuned to Tim’s emotional state. She publicly reprimands him for his lack of participation in the meeting. Tim’s anxiety intensifies. He returns to his office and experiences a panic attack. Unable to function, he leaves work and takes a sick day.

Amy is furious. She believes Tim is “dropping the ball” at a critical juncture and emails him, “I am sorry you are sick, but this is not a good time. You are leaving us in a lurch. You need to work from home to make up lost ground.”

After Tim reads her email, he breaks down. He is facing a divorce and a boss who is angry at him. His mental health deteriorates, and he misses additional work. Although Tim is Amy’s strongest employee, Amy is furious and finds an excuse to fire him. Both Tim and Amy lose in this situation due to Amy’s lack of empathy.

Second, an individual who is self-aware is often emotionally intelligent. The ability to look at oneself routinely leads to insight. This introspective ability assists a person in realizing a mistake in a relationship. The knowledge that her words or actions negatively impacted a friend or loved one allows her to repair a misstep.

For example, Pete is at lunch with friends. He is excited to announce he and his partner are pregnant with their first child. Cheers and a toast follow his announcement.

On the drive home, he remembers that a friend at the gathering recently miscarried. He worries his timing was insensitive. He contacts the friend and apologizes. She accepts his apology and reassures him that he is not in the wrong but appreciates his call.

She also opens up about her miscarriage. Pete listens and empathizes with her grief. The two bond, and a month later, Pete is the first person she calls when she discovers she is pregnant again.

On the other hand, let's say Pete exaggerates his announcement and lavishes the attention. He monopolizes the limelight and talks about the baby and his big plans. The friend who miscarried the previous week is caught off guard by his announcement. She assumed the lunch was planned around an out-of-town friend who was visiting.

Although she is happy for Pete, grief floods her on the way home. She wishes he would’ve prepared her. Feeling alone and hurt by Pete’s insensitivity, she distances herself from the friend group at a time when she desperately needs their support. She and Pete grow apart.

Third, a person who is in touch with her uncomfortable emotions can identify, verbalize, and discuss the nuances of specific emotional states. Differentiating between feeling states such as disappointment, hurt, envy, anger, frustration, shame, sadness, fear, and confusion can help a person unpack and understand intense and overwhelming emotions. This understanding helps a person act on difficult emotions constructively instead of destructively.

For example, Lisa has been saving for a new car. She has dreamt of a red convertible for most of her life. After four years of stashing away extra cash, Lisa has enough money to buy her car. The evening before the appointment at the dealership, her friend, Lexi, posts that she is the proud owner of a new convertible. To Lisa’s dismay, it is the exact make, model, and color of the car Lisa was planning on purchasing.

Lisa is extremely disappointed, angry, and envious that Lexi “beat her to the punch.” She thinks about posting a message on social media, exposing Lexi as a “copycat,” but she refrains. She tolerates her intense emotions and calls her mom. As she is talking to her mom, she identifies anger, envy, and intense disappointment. Her mom empathizes and validates what Lisa is feeling.

Lisa absorbs the empathy and experiences mild relief after processing the intense emotions. Calmer, Lisa is able to problem-solve. She decides to switch gears and continue saving until she has enough money for a down payment on a small loft property in her neighborhood. Lisa’s mom is excited and supports Lisa in her new endeavor.

Conversely, Lisa acts out her anger and immediately calls mutual friends, convincing them Lexi is spoiled and a showoff. Lisa plays the victim and garners sympathy from her friends. As a group, they decide to “get back” at Lexi by excluding her from the beach day they planned. Lexi sees the collage of beach photos on social media the following day and is hurt and upset. Lisa is satisfied she hurt Lexi, and her pattern of unfairly punishing friends continues. Because Lisa is unaware of her jealousy, she acts on the feeling destructively.

Possessing emotional attunement and empathy, self-awareness, and the ability to be in touch with uncomfortable emotions grants a person the opportunity to help instead of hurt. An individual who embodies these attributes is usually able to cultivate healthy and close relationships with others who share these qualities. Moreover, strong introspective capacities tend to assist a person in self-regulating, correcting a mistake, and integrating permanent growth and change.


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