Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to be aware of your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, and to use this information to guide your thinking and actions appropriately. It is a necessity in relating to and forming friendships with others. Whether you are looking for a significant other or looking to hire a new employee, you can identify individuals who are emotionally intelligent by assessing their interpersonal skills, noticing their body language, and recognizing their other traits.
EditAssessing Interpersonal Skills
- Pay attention to their listening skills. A person who is truly emotionally intelligent will be an adept listener. Rather than dominating the conversation, cutting people off, or constantly interjecting, you will note that they are thoughtfully engaged in listening to the other person. Often times, they will summarize what the person has just said to them to signal that they understand and hear them.
- You might hear them say things like “so what I’m hearing is that it’s not the job that you don’t like, it’s the miscommunication from the staff that bothers you.”
- Notice empathy. Emotionally intelligent people are typically also highly empathetic. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. A person who is empathetic is likely to ask a lot of questions and display curiosity and genuine concern when someone is upset or having an issue. You will likely see them consoling others when they are crying.
- People often go to them when they are having an issue and want support. Notice the people in your circle whom others tend to flock to.
- Pay attention to courtesy and conscientiousness. Another testament of those with EI is being gracious and thoughtful. This can be evidenced through both physical actions and verbal responses. For instance, the person who regularly leaves their trash for others to clean up is likely not emotionally intelligent. Likewise, the person who constantly talks about how great their significant other is with a coworker who is undergoing a divorce is likely not EI.
- Assess how they talk about others. A person with EI will steer away from gossip and speaking negatively about others, unless necessary. If you regularly hear them bashing others or notice that they tend to be in the middle of drama, then this person is likely not emotionally intelligent.
- EI people tend to be very honest but not unnecessarily blunt.
- Though they will not bash someone, they are also not ignorant to the shortcomings or negative qualities of others.
- Notice how they work and get along with others. If you work with this person, you can easily assess how much of a team player they are. Reflect on the times that you have had to complete projects with them and whether or not it was a smooth process.
- Note also how well they kept their promises related to deadlines.
- Note whether they bicker with others or manage to keep the peace.
EditNoticing Body Language
- Look for direct eye contact. Those with high emotional intelligence will often look you directly in your eye when speaking to you to convey that they are paying attention and are focused. Those with low EI will look down at their feet or at their phone while you are speaking and may not even be hearing what you’re saying.
- Look for a genuine smile. When a person is emotionally intelligent, they do not feel the need to fake emotions. Therefore, any expressions of happiness, sadness, or anger will be genuine. Notice whether or not the person you are assessing is showcasing a smile that is genuine.
- A genuine smile is indicated by the eyes, as well. When someone fakes a smile, their eyes seem disengaged from the process. A true smile requires the full face for effect.
- Recognize calm gestures. You can also assess a person’s gestures to determine if they are emotionally intelligent. A person with high EI will want to convey emotions that are appropriate for the setting and that will not increase anxiety in the person they are speaking with. Watch out for those who make wild and unexpected gestures or who take up too much physical space by spreading their arms or legs out unnecessarily.
- Fidgeting is also a sign of those with low EI.
- If a person has a poker face, this means they are trying to hide their true emotions. While this may be useful in some settings, you can properly emote without having to be dramatic or stifle yourself.
- Notice those who display controlled breathing. A person who is constantly huffing and puffing is likely not EI.
- Notice if they mirror your gestures. One of the biggest signs of an emotionally intelligent person is body mirroring. Mirroring is defined as the act of mimicking certain gestures of the person you are speaking with to convey empathy. It is often done unconsciously, but it shows that the person you are speaking to is actively listening and feeling for you.
- If you have your head tilted slightly to the side, notice if they do, as well.
EditRecognizing Other EI Traits
- Recognize open-mindedness. An emotionally intelligent person will often be accepting of and open to the ideas and suggestions of others. Though they may not always agree, they will at least tend to acknowledge the validity of the thought while respectfully voicing their own opinion.
- If this person is willing to try new ideas, they likely have some degree of emotional intelligence.
- Being open minded signals that the person acknowledges that they do not know everything nor have all the answers.
- Perceive their level of self-awareness. Self awareness is defined as the awareness of your own character, wishes, and motivations. If someone tells you that they believe they are honest, but you have caught them lying several times recently, then perhaps they are not very self aware. However, the person who openly and honestly admits both their strengths and their flaws has an understanding of themselves that helps develop their level of emotional intelligence.
- Ask questions. You can assess a person’s level of emotional intelligence through asking them questions about their thoughts and feelings. Ask them questions about how they handle stress or who they look up to or aspire to be like. This will give you an idea about their inner thoughts and desires.
- You might ask something like “what do you do to take care of yourself when you’re stressed?”
- You could also ask “who do you turn to when you’re facing a difficult decision and why?”
- Notice how they control their emotions. A person who has high levels of EI will tend to be extremely in control of their emotions. This does not mean that they will not be expressive, but that they will not overreact or respond dramatically to circumstances that do not warrant that. If a person cries over the slightest issue or throws things when angry, they are likely not very in tune with their emotions because they do not know how to respond appropriately.
- Notice who around you, while being emotional, keeps a calm and steady demeanor.
- Notice how they handle criticism. One of the truest tests of emotional intelligence is being able to handle criticism with grace. People who are not emotionally intelligent tend to either shut down completely when criticized or react with unwarranted intensity. Notice the person who remains calm and perhaps even asks questions to understand the criticism.
- For example, perhaps someone says that they didn’t complete a project well. An EI person might respond by saying “I admit that I could have done a more thorough job, but I was facing some time constraints. I will take your critique into consideration moving forward, however.”