5 Seemingly Small Acts Emotionally Intelligent People Master
Ever since Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and science journalist wrote his book about emotional intelligence in 1995, the concept has been widely discussed and applied in multiple areas of life, from business through leadership to basic human behaviour in any interpersonal setup.
To sum it up in one sentence, emotional intelligence is the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you. It encompasses the management of your own emotions just as much as observing, understanding and managing the emotions of others by your own behaviour and actions.
The idea gained vast popularity and added another, distinct layer to explain cognitive abilities — claiming that IQ is not the only measure of one’s characteristics in the field of intelligence.
When it comes to emotional intelligence, we talk a lot about empathy, integrity, authenticity, the ability to listen, to give good feedback and to apologise. But it’s vague.
Human interpersonal relationships — be it a romantic relationship, a family setup or a leader-employee hierarchy — are usually vague and very situational. Empathy is great until it turns into people-pleasing. Listening is a great skill if you are not required to express your opinion on a touchy subject. Giving good feedback can be amazing if you are not in a situation where you should just listen.
Emotional intelligence is about integrity and the expression of your true self in an authentic way that makes others feel more comfortable about themselves when they are around you.
It’s hard to master and it’s difficult to practice — but it can be improved, even if you weren’t born with it — unlike IQ which is believed to be a constant regardless of the lexical knowledge and life experience you can amass.
So what is it really about? I collected 5 seemingly tiny acts that are unique to emotionally intelligent people.
You don’t let anyone think you love them more than you do
Do you have friends, potential romantic partners or colleagues who like you more than you like them? Did they notice that their enthusiasm is unilateral or at least you don’t have that much interest in them as they have in you? Did you ever let them know? Or do you keep them at arm’s length even when sometimes their company and presence are a burden for you, thinking there might come a time when you will grow fonder of them?
Emotionally intelligent people don’t fool others with half-promises. They are not afraid of shutting people out from their lives — fully understanding that they don’t need back-up people to replace the potential losses. They also don’t get involved in half-situations where the “rules” are not explicit and clear.
Don’t let anyone think you like or love them more than you do. Do them a favour and give them a chance to find someone who can reciprocate their enthusiasm, and do yourself a favour to liberate some time and energy for those you really want.
You don’t say maybe when you want to say no
From an early age, we learn that white lies are for the benefit of others and as such, they are more helpful than harmful. This can be true — when not telling the full truth to a newborn’s mum about their far from pretty baby or not telling your grandma that you sometimes get drunk — but its use is limited.
Some people have a hard time saying no, and they find that saying maybe is still giving them options — they can say yes or no later, they can change their minds, they can come up with some excuse.
But if you have high emotional intelligence, you understand the weight of your words, you understand promises, options, consent and the lack of it. You understand that no is a complete sentence without further explanation — and you don’t say yes or maybe when you have no intention to keep your word.
Say yes to things you want to say yes to with your whole heart, soul, mind and body. And say no firmly but kindly to everything else that doesn’t serve you.
You don’t shy away from explicitly admitting you were wrong
Apologising is a great skill. Knowing when and how to say sorry is a strength and never a weakness. But what is even better is to openly admit if and when you were wrong.
It exceeds the power of an apology — that can be heartfelt but still empty. And it also suggests that you are willing to do everything it takes so that the same behaviour that caused harm to the other should never happen again.
To be able to do this, you need to be confident and emotionally intelligent enough, knowing that one mistake is not the end of the world, and the attempt of fixing it can go a long way. To err is human, to admit it is close to being the best human being you can possibly be.
You fight the right fights and you do it in a fair way
Nobody said that you can go through life without conflicts — not if you have a mind on your own and you are willing to stand up for yourself even with unpopular opinions. Emotional intelligence doesn’t mean that you can avoid conflict — primarily because conflict requires at least two parties and you can only manage your own feelings and behaviour.
But it does mean that whenever you are facing a conflict you know whether to engage in it or to walk away. And if you decide to engage — because it is more important than to let it go, because it is about standing up for your values or speaking for those who don’t have a voice — then you know how to fight in a fair way.
If you are emotionally intelligent, you will also know that you can’t win every fight and sometimes the resolution of a conflict is not about winning it.
You don’t expect anyone to read your mind — and you don’t pretend you can do it either
There is nothing wrong with the world, it’s our expectations that will ruin our experience. And more often than not unmet expectations come from unsaid needs.
It happens to the best of us that we assume that someone understands or should understand our needs without saying anything about it. It can be as tiny as expecting our spouse to take the trash out or secretly hoping that our boss will finally give us the promotion that we know we deserve — yet the expectation that is unsaid can start to rot inside us if the expected behaviour doesn’t happen, or doesn’t happen at the time when we want it.
Emotionally intelligent people don’t allow their expectations to turn into bitterness and they don’t expect others to read their minds. Nor they pretend that they understand others fully without learning what they mean and need.
Don’t play google, don’t guess what others would be saying, don’t expect anything from others that you haven’t explicitly said and don’t expect anyone to understand fully your priorities. You can save yourself from a lot of trouble if instead of mind-reading you improve your communication skills.