9 signs you’re more emotionally intelligent than you realize

Do you consider yourself to be emotionally intelligent? 

It’s hard to believe emotional intelligence didn’t hit the mainstream until the release of Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” in 1995. 

It’s front and center now and more important than ever. It boils down to two things at its core

  • Identifying and understanding your own emotions
  • Being able to identify and understand the emotions of those around you

We’re all naturally born with some level of EQ but just how much varies from person to person. Despite what you might think, it’s about more than being good with people. In fact, you might be more emotionally intelligent than you even realize.

Today, we’re sharing 9 signs that suggest you’ve got more emotional intelligence than you might think. 

Let’s jump straight in, shall we?  

1) You feel for others

Are you one of those people who’s able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes?

When they’re feeling good and celebrating, you share their joy and excitement as if it’s your own. But on the flip side, when things are tough, you feel their pain and emotions.

The ability to feel for others like this is called empathy and it’s central to emotional intelligence. 

2) You’re very aware of mood shifts

Imagine this: you’re having dinner with friends.

Your pal, Josh, takes a call outside. When he returns, you immediately sense a mood change. He hasn’t said anything but to you, his whole demeanor is different and you want to make sure he’s okay. 

As you look around, you realize, that nobody else seems to have noticed. People are still laughing, joking, and taking no notice of Josh.

Sound familiar?  

Being dialed into emotions like this is a classic sign you’re highly emotionally intelligent. It comes so naturally to you, it’s hard for you to believe others don’t see it too. 

Being able to pick up on emotions like this is both a blessing and a curse.

You can’t enjoy your evening knowing someone is upset as it upsets you too. But it makes you a great friend to someone in need. 

3) You’re in tune with who you are

Remember Phoebe from Friends?

She’s a perfect example of someone who’s in tune with who she is. She’s different and quirky but whole-heartedly herself which makes her one of the most endearing characters on the show. 

Are you like Phoebe in that way? 

You’ve got a strong sense of self. You’re neither cocky nor lacking in confidence. Instead, you recognize your strengths and lean into them. 

Equally, you’re aware of your weaknesses. Some of them you’re working to improve and others you embrace as part of who you are. 

If being in tune with yourself like this resonates, it’s a sure sign you score high in emotional intelligence as it shows you’ve got lots of self-awareness. 

4) You stay cool under pressure

Are you the person who stays cool, calm, and collected when the pressure is on? 

It seems like everyone else is letting their emotions take over, but not you.

You feel your emotions flaring up too but the difference is you’re able to keep them in check and use a level head to navigate the situation. 

Being able to not only recognize but also control your emotions like this, sometimes described as being ‘level-headed’ or ‘calm under pressure’ is known as self-regulation

Being able to self-regulate is a tell-tale sign of emotional intelligence and something that sets you apart from most other people. If you’ve got this ability, harness it. 

5) You put in the work now and reap the rewards later

You’ve probably heard of the marshmallow test, conducted in the 1970s to see if children could resist the temptation of eating one marshmallow now, to get two marshmallows in 15 minutes.

The test was about assessing their ability to delay gratification; resist temptation now, and reap the reward for it, later. 

The truth is: it’s not just children who’d struggle with this task. Lots of adults would too. However, some people can resist temptation for a greater reward later on. 

Are you one of those people? 

You’ve got enough self-control to study for exams, train for that half-marathon, or even simply resist that extra cookie. Moments of weakness are few and far between for you because you know the reward comes later.

If this strikes a chord with you, it’s yet another sign you’re more emotionally intelligent than you realize and you’ve got an inner strength that shouldn’t be taken for granted.  

6) You’re socially adaptable

Do you find it easy to get along with most people? 

You’re able to adapt your style to fit in with the group you’re with. But it’s not about being fake, it’s about being tuned into the vibe and adjusting to it. 

My cousin James is great at being socially adaptable. He’s generally quite reserved and low key but when the social occasion calls for it, he can transform into the life and soul of the party, becoming energetic and outgoing.

The transformation is hard to grasp, kind of like how it’s hard to believe Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same guy. But it just shows how socially adaptable he is.  

Being able to adapt socially like this is a lesser-known hallmark of someone who’s highly emotionally intelligent.

7) You’re highly self-motivated and self-disciplined

When it comes to motivation there are two kinds; extrinsic and intrinsic.

  • Extrinsic motivation is all about being motivated by external things like financial rewards, praise, or recognition, and accolades like medals and trophies. 
  • Intrinsic motivation comes from within and might include things like a desire to succeed, personal growth and fulfillment, and a sense of achievement. 

You’re all about that intrinsic motivation. Sure, awards and accolades are nice but it’s not what gets you out of bed in the morning. Your drive comes from within. 

And no matter what it is, if you feel strongly about it, you’ll have the self-motivation and discipline to make it happen. 

As outlined by Caroline Castrillon, career and leadership coach “Emotionally intelligent individuals understand the deeper meaning of their goals and the self-motivation skills required to achieve them”.

If you’re highly motivated and self-disciplined then there’s a strong chance you’re also more emotionally intelligent than you might think. 

8) You think first, then talk 

We’ve all witnessed someone speak without thinking and insulting someone else in the process. It’s painful, right?  

This isn’t something that happens to you though, you think first then you talk. As someone with high EQ your empathetic nature means you’re considerate of others.

You’re not only aware of people’s emotions but also the power of your words on them. It’s like you automatically filter your thoughts before you speak to make sure you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. 

This high degree of empathy comes naturally to you so you might not even realize you have it but believe it or not, not everyone has this filter. It’s a sure sign of emotional intelligence.

9) You’re always working on personal growth

Are you on a constant journey of personal growth and self-discovery?

One of the, often overlooked, signs that someone is more emotionally intelligent than they realize is always working on personal growth. 

But think about it: EQ is about self-awareness, self-motivation, and empathy. All necessary for personal growth too. 

Author and motivational speaker, Jay Shetty, talks on his podcast about how levels of growth are like different seasons of the year; there are 5 ‘seasons’ of personal growth.

  • Learning 
  • Experimenting
  • Performing
  • Struggling
  • Thriving

To navigate each season you need to leverage EQ.

You’ve got to have self-awareness to know where you are now and where you’re headed, you need self-motivation to get you there but also patience, understanding, and empathy for yourself along the way.

Being focused on personal growth, clearly indicates you’re more emotionally intelligent than you think. 

Final thoughts 

How many of these signs do you recognize in yourself? 

Very often, people who don’t realize just how emotionally intelligent they are, take it for granted because it’s just ‘who they are’. They assume everyone is like them. 

But make no mistake, emotional intelligence is very powerful and a great attribute to have. Embrace it.

And don’t worry, if your EQ isn’t where you’d like it to be, it’s something that you can work on and develop over time. And it’s well worth the effort to do so.  

Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

7 stoic principles to help you be more resilient in life

People who regret their career choices but can’t admit it usually display these 10 behaviors