7 classic signs of an emotionally intelligent individual, according to psychology

In a world that often seems to prioritize academic smarts, it’s easy to overlook the profound power of emotional intelligence. 

But we shouldn’t; it’s this very trait that shapes our ability to understand others and, crucially, achieve real success in life. 

Not convinced?

A Yale study suggested that those with a high EQ make better decisions, while another study found that EQ is a better predictor of entrepreneurial success than IQ. It’s even been found that higher emotional intelligence predicts higher income!

But how can we identify someone with this rare emotional ability? Do you have a high EQ?

Let’s find out. 

1) They rarely lose their cool

You know when people say “back in the good old days,” and we kind of roll our eyes and prepare for a story of how the grass was greener back then? 

Well, there might be something to it. 

Research conducted in 2020 showed that people were far more stressed in the 2010s than they were in the 1990s. Experts put this down to tech changes, family and relationship dynamics, and, as you might have guessed, economic hardship. 

It’s no surprise then that these days, more than ever, it feels like tensions can escalate over the slightest triggers. 

We are all too often tight for time or under too much pressure for our own good, and as a result, we succumb to the heat of the moment more often than we would care to admit. 

But those with a high EQ don’t do this. They embody a calm that many of us aspire to. 

This isn’t to say they don’t feel frustration or anger; rather, they’ve mastered the art of not letting these emotions dictate their actions.

As Kendra Cherry, a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, put it, “Emotionally intelligent people think before they act on their feelings.”

This thoughtful pause is their secret weapon.

The ability to maintain composure isn’t just about avoiding personal regret or embarrassment. It plays a crucial role in diffusing potential conflicts, whether in intimate conversations or high-stakes professional settings. 

Emotionally intelligent individuals understand that emotional outbursts are counterproductive and often escalate situations rather than resolve them.

This next one may explain why high EQ individuals often can network their way to success. 

2) They are empathetic

Every so often, we cross paths with someone who, almost effortlessly, seems to grasp our emotions, our unspoken thoughts, and our very essence. 

It’s rare, yes, but when it happens, it’s as if they possess a kind of superpower. Is it mind reading?

Nope, it’s something even more profound: empathy. 

Emotionally intelligent individuals don’t just skim the surface of conversations; they dive deep, making a conscious effort to view the world from the perspectives of those around them. 

This skill in empathy allows them to navigate social waters with grace, preempting conflicts and fostering a sense of kinship and understanding.

It’s a quality that Harvey Deutschendorf, an emotional intelligence researcher, captures perfectly. In a CNBC post, he stated, “The most emotionally intelligent people have the rare ability to acknowledge not just their own emotions, but also the emotions of others.” 

Want to cultivate this superpower in your life?

You can. It isn’t just for the select few born with this intuitive gift; it’s a skill that can be developed and honed over time.

If you are interested, you can check out our complete guide to developing empathy here

3) They listen to understand

We’ve all been there: sharing something important, but the person we’re speaking to seems miles away, already formulating their response rather than truly hearing us. 

This isn’t the case with emotionally intelligent individuals. They excel in the art of listening, not just to reply but to comprehend the depth of what’s being shared. 

This ability to listen deeply is a cornerstone of effective communication, a skill lauded in countless self-help and communication manuals.

It’s also a clear marker of emotional intelligence. As put succinctly by author Justin Bariso, “Emotionally intelligent people know how to listen”.

You might not have expected this next sign to make this list but it’s a huge one. 

4) They take care of themselves

Taking care of oneself might seem like basic advice, but it’s something emotionally intelligent people take seriously. 

They understand that to support and understand others effectively, they need to be in a good place themselves. The know that we “can’t pour from an empty cup”. 

Their self-care routines might include a range of activities, from hitting the gym to quieter pastimes like reading or gardening. 

But it’s not so much about the activity itself but the intention behind it—to rejuvenate and maintain balance.

Research supports this approach, with experts noting that “self-care is positively related to self-esteem, health, social support, and well-being.” 

5) They reflect

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”


We mentioned empathy a few points back – understanding oneself is as crucial.

To do this, those with high EQ often engage in thoughtful self-reflection, not shying away from the deeper, sometimes uncomfortable, truths about themselves.  

Kendra Cherry, a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, has also noted the significance of self-awareness among emotionally intelligent individuals. Instead of pushing away their feelings, they embrace them, knowing that unaddressed emotions can resurface at the least opportune times.

While some people might naturally incline toward introspection, others take a more structured approach, like journaling.

If you’re looking to enhance your EQ and foster a deeper understanding of yourself, consider adopting self-reflection into your routine. 

Whether it’s through journaling or simply taking a moment each day to check in with yourself, this practice can illuminate your inner world, guiding you toward greater emotional balance and clarity.

6) They value feedback and growth

Here’s one you might have expected. 

Emotionally intelligent individuals don’t shy away from feedback; they welcome it as a tool for personal and professional growth.

Understanding that constructive criticism is a golden opportunity to learn, they approach feedback with an open mind, ready to adapt and evolve. This proactive stance towards feedback is a testament to their commitment to continuous improvement, both in their personal lives and in their interactions with others.

For them, it’s not just about hearing what others have to say but about integrating that information to foster better understanding and relationships. 

Embracing feedback might not always be comfortable, but it’s a practice that can significantly enhance your emotional intelligence. It invites a level of self-reflection and adaptability that is essential for anyone looking to deepen their understanding of themselves and improve their interactions with others. 

7) They are genuinely interested in other people

Last but not least, emotionally intelligent individuals understand that to make others feel truly valued, one must engage with a level of sincerity and attention that goes beyond the norm. 

They listen with intent, respond with thoughtfulness, and ask questions that probe deeper, signaling not just a casual curiosity but a profound respect for the individual’s experiences and perspectives.

This quality, rooted in deep-seated empathy and understanding, allows emotionally intelligent people to foster connections that are both meaningful and lasting.

The bottom line

We shouldn’t overlook EQ; it’s possibly more important now than ever.

If you notice these signs in someone, you are likely dealing with a highly emotionally intelligent person. If you can identify with them personally, even better. 

However, most of us have some work to do in this area. Luckily, emotional intelligence is something we can develop. 

As always, I hope you found this post valuable. 

Until next time. 

Mal James

Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business.

As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys.

In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

People who are highly intelligent but don’t realize it yet often display these 9 subtle behaviors

7 signs a woman is truly in love, according to psychology