5 Signs of High Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence predicts people’s ability to regulate themselves, manage other people, and achieve success. Research shows a link between emotional intelligence and career success. Not everyone is born with it, but unlike IQ, emotional intelligence can be acquired and improved with practice. So, how can we tell if someone’s got it or not? Here are five signs of people with high emotional intelligence. These are qualities that are easy to assess in every day situations. Sign No. 1 : They handle criticism without denial, blame, excuses or anxiety.
One of the hallmarks of high emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Self-awareness is a deep understanding of what makes us tick, what angers us, makes us happy, bores and interests us. It’s also means that we can appraise ourselves, faults and all, with great honesty and clarity. So when people with high emotional intelligence make a mistake and get criticized for it, it doesn’t send them into an emotional tailspin. It’s simply a fact to be noted, analyzed and corrected.
Not everyone with high emotional intelligence reacts to criticism in the same exact way. Some people deal with it more empathically and instantly wonder “Why did this person just criticize me?” And they seek to understand “what does this criticism mean for our working relationship moving forward?” Others handle criticism more like a process engineer looking to root-cause a product defect, systematically dissecting every step leading up to the thing they just got criticized for. Their first thought is “I need to figure out exactly what went wrong.”
Regardless of the exact nature of their reaction, people with high emotional intelligence do not deny it, blame others, make excuses or melt into a pool of anxiety.
If you’ve ever heard people say, “That rule doesn’t apply to me” or “My performance was just fine” (when it clearly wasn’t), you’ve witnessed denial. These are folks who are so defensive and walled-off or their egos are so fragile, that they’re simply not ready for feedback. They are, in effect, saying, “There’s no problem. My performance was absolutely fine. If you don’t like the results, that’s a problem with your judgment, not my performance.”
Others exhibit blame. Blame is the unspoken acknowledgment that constructive feedback is warranted (i.e., the outcomes were subpar) coupled with an unwillingness to admit any personal fault. You’ll hear things like “OK, results weren’t perfect, but if you want to know where the problem is, go talk to Accounting about why they didn’t get the right data to my team before the deadline.”
Excuses are another reaction common to folks with lower emotional intelligence. An excuse is an admission of subpar results plus an admission of fault that is coupled with a host of extenuating factors that no normal human could possibly have overcome. Unlike blame, it won’t be another person or department that gets thrown under the bus but rather your servers, procedures, phone systems and the like.
Then there’s anxiety. Here, the actual subpar performance and culpability have been fully acknowledged, but the person lacks the readiness to move forward and improve future performance. People in anxiety say things like, “There’s no way we’ll finish in time” or “We’ve tried to fix this before and it just didn’t work.” Sign No. 2: They’re open-minded.
A high level of self-awareness lets emotionally-intelligent people listen to a situation without reacting to judgment. They don’t automatically dismiss ideas just because they are different from their own. This makes them a popular go-to person when there’s trouble, issues, challenges or just a need for a sympathetic ear. You won’t find them chit-chatting all day, or tolerating negative personalities, but they do have a knack for helping people quickly set things right. Sign No. 3: They’re good listeners.
Great listening requires a developed listening structure that separates the facts from interpretations, reactions and ends. People with emotional intelligence can identify the emotions that shut down their ability to listen. They’ve worked at developing the ability to divorce themselves from those emotions so they can remain open and able hear what is really being said. Sign No. 4: They don’t sugarcoat the truth.
Emotional intelligence requires recognizing emotions in others, but this other awareness doesn’t mean shying away from speaking the truth or using tricks to try and soften the blow of tough feedback. People with emotional intelligence know how important it is that tough messages get heard. You won’t hear blatant candor that could possibly shut down the conversation, but you will hear a clear message that might sound something like this: “Frank, I’ve got a tough message to deliver. There’s no getting around it, but I want you to understand that I’m doing this out of a concern for your wellbeing. Because if you don’t fix this stuff, your career here is in jeopardy.” Sign No. 5: They apologize when they’re wrong.
People with high emotional intelligence don’t invest valuable time trying to prove they are right when they realize they’re wrong. Instead of looking for excuses, they offer a simple, honest apology that lets them quickly get back on track. It sounds something like this: “I’m sorry” I messed up and chose some bad words that sounded like I was attacking you. This is not what I intended. Can I try again?”
There are many indicators that someone has high emotional intelligence. But these five signs are quick tests that you can witness every day at work. And they’ll quickly help you assess whether the person in question does, or does not, have high levels of emotional intelligence.
Mark Murphy is a NY Times bestseller, author of Hiring For Attitude and founder of Leadership IQ.
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