Emotional intelligence isn’t something we’re all born with.
For most of us, it’s a quality we have to develop through hard-won experience and a dedication to self-awareness.
With time and experience, we gain more emotional intelligence and see how it can be applied beneficially to a number of situations and interactions both personally and professionally.
Are you getting the hang of it?
Here’s how to tell.
1) You face difficult emotions head-on
An important part of emotional intelligence is emotional honesty.
You don’t hide from difficult emotions or painful experiences, and you have overcome shame or guilt associated with sadness, anger or feeling poorly.
You are willing to admit to yourself when you’re not OK.
And you’re willing to be with that feeling and that experience without rejecting it, running away from it or feeling ashamed of it. In other words, you accept that sometimes painful emotions are necessary and even valuable.
In other words, your relationship with yourself is honest and authentic.
2) You let past grudges fade into the rearview mirror
Past trauma and pain can be extremely difficult to forgive, especially when it may still be affecting you today.
The consequences of what others did or didn’t do (including parents or partners) can be devastating.
But a sign of growing emotional intelligence is that you’re starting to be willing and able to forgive.
You don’t forget, and some bridges may stay burned forever, unfortunately.
But you do move on and start orienting your sights on the road ahead. You give second chances to whomever you can and accept that there won’t be second chances in certain cases.
But that resentment and blocked energy that you may have once held is starting to dissolve like ice thawing in the rays of sunshine after a long winter.
3) You have the words to describe what you’re feeling
Talking about feelings can be very confusing and hard, but a sign that you’re mastering emotional intelligence is that it’s becoming easier for you to do.
Your own emotions and those of other people are now something you are more comfortable describing and talking about.
If you feel proud of somebody, you’re able to say that to them and describe why you feel pride in a way that touches them and gets through.
If you feel confused and a bit overwhelmed about what’s wanted from you when a friend asks for help, you’re able to communicate that to them without making it offensive.
You’re able to find the words to talk about what you feel and understand what others feel in a productive and accurate way.
4) You’re willing and able to discuss emotional needs
We all have emotional needs, but for many of us they are something we push aside or even feel bad about.
- The need for intimacy and closeness
- The need for support and encouragement
- The need for friendship and sharing of ideas
- The need to be allowed to explore who we really are and what we believe without judgment.
When you’re beginning to master emotional intelligence, you are able to discuss these emotional needs (and more) with other people.
You’re also comfortable with other folks in your life bringing up their own emotional needs and navigating them.
This emotional assertiveness and accuracy is a key part of growing EI (emotional intelligence) mastery.
5) You feel increasing curiosity and empathy for others
Another big sign of growing EI is that your curiosity and empathy for others is growing.
It’s not an act, it’s genuine.
You’re curious how people feel, what’s going on in their lives and how they’re relating to the world on the emotional level.
You find yourself actively listening to what they say as well as the desires and needs they’re expressing.
6) You find yourself more patient with hard people
You still have limits and you don’t spend your time on folks who are closed off or unkind to you, but you’re increasingly patient with people you might have formerly written off.
You’re able to give folks the time they may need to warm up to socializing, or sharing emotional experiences with you.
That’s because you find that your expectations have decreased and you’re able to let people feel (or not feel) what they want without you expecting anything.
You’re willing to let things flow (or not flow) without trying to rush or influence them too much.
7) You take critical and resentful people in stride
It’s never enjoyable to be having a great day and then be brought down by people who are feeling very resentful, angry or critical.
One coworker having a terrible day can lower the whole climate at the office and spread a vibe of exhaustion if they start attacking others verbally or emotionally.
But you find that you’re more patient with these kinds of situations now and that you aren’t clinging to feeling good, nor to a demand that others feel good.
You can see clearly how lack of emotional honesty and control can lead to people spilling over and impacting the space around them, and you’re self-aware enough to see all the ways you’ve done it in the past, too.
You don’t let a bad mood from somebody else (or yourself) define your day anymore. It’s just part of life.
8) You’re far more able to control your impulses
Impulsiveness is something I’ve struggled with a lot and still do.
If it’s something you’ve also had trouble with then it’s a relief to notice that you’re becoming less impulsive…
You think things over and check in with your heart before making big decisions, before responding to anger with anger, before buying something you don’t need.
You’re more willing to check in with your emotions in an authentic way but without always believing them on the surface.
For example, perhaps you feel the urge to go out on a date with a pretty woman who just messaged you on an app, but checking in more deeply you see that you’re actually just feeling quite lonely and don’t really feel into the date right now.
In fact, you’d prefer to get to know her better first and see if there’s a real conversational connection before meeting up.
9) You’re open about your motivations and inner process
One of the best parts about growing EI is increased transparency.
You find that you’re more forthright with yourself and with others about what you’re working through and what you want.
You don’t try to seem good or noble all the time, and you interact with people in a very genuine way.
When you’re asked what you want or why you want it, you no longer have to shrug:
You not only know what you’re feeling and what you’re motivated by, you have the words, courage and the clarity to express it.
10) You’re more resilient in facing hardship and stress
The best part of becoming more emotionally intelligent is that you also become significantly more resilient.
You’re not beaten down by difficult experiences and stress the way you once were, or at least your response is different.
In other words, if you’re extremely overwhelmed or saddened, you find that you’re able to ask for time off or be honest with those around you that you need time.
Knowing that it’s OK not to be OK and that you can assert your emotional needs gives you more resiliency.
You get through more and trust yourself as you navigate the challenges and ups and downs of life, because you have a closer and more authentic relationship with your own emotions than you once did.
How to use emotional intelligence in your daily life
Using EI in your daily life is a matter of practice.
There are always going to be people, situations and times when we act reactively and impulsively or forget to be honest with ourselves.
But EI is an ongoing process of self-awareness and improving communication and emotional literacy in the world around you.
Using EI in your job, relationships, friendships and daily interactions, you’ll find that most people are very appreciative of having an emotionally literate person around and will be receptive and respond well to you.