11 things emotionally intelligent people pick up on in conversations

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Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where you felt like the other person just got you? Where you walked away feeling truly heard and understood? 

If you have, chances are you’ve had the pleasure of chatting with someone who’s emotionally intelligent. Those people aren’t a dime a dozen; they’re rare individuals who seem to have the magical ability to navigate the murky waters of messy thoughts and feelings!

In this article, I’ll share 11 things they can pick up on in conversations that a person with lower EQ isn’t likely to. Hopefully, you’ll see why they’re a special breed. Let’s dive in!

1) Tone of voice

Okay, I’ll start by saying that many of the things on this list are all about subtlety. Because that’s what separates emotionally intelligent people from the rest – the ability to detect subtle nuances. 

First among these are the nuances in one’s tone of voice. Emotionally intelligent people are experts at knowing that the way something is said can reveal a lot about how the speaker is feeling.

So someone might say, “I’m fine,” but their tone of voice says otherwise. Maybe there’s a note of frustration in there, or it’s accompanied by a sigh. 

Whatever it is, the emotionally intelligent person will pick up on that and ask more questions to really get to the heart of the matter. 

2) Body language

Another thing that EQ-savvy people pick up on is non-verbal cues. They notice how someone is sitting, standing, or even fidgeting. Are their arms crossed, or are they leaning in? These small details can say a lot about someone’s comfort level and emotional state. 

Observing body language has been a game-changer for me – I’m an introvert by nature, so I’m happy to sit back and people-watch in social settings. Because of that, I’ve become, if I may say so, quite well-versed in telling how people feel through their body language.  

When I’m talking to someone, it helps me spot when they’re feeling awkward or uncomfortable. And, of course, as an introvert, I totally get their discomfort. 

So I take that as a cue to change topics or find other ways to make them feel more at ease.  

But no matter what your disposition is, whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, paying attention to body language can help you connect with others better! 

3) Microexpressions

Just as they are skilled at noticing body language, emotionally intelligent people can detect microexpressions. 

From its name alone, you can tell that microexpressions are minute. They are almost unnoticeable because they are very fleeting, lasting only a fraction of a second. 

Research has shown that microexpressions can reveal a person’s true emotions, even if they are trying to conceal them. Besides, there really is no way to conceal them; they will occur no matter what you do.  

Most people don’t even register this, but people with high EQ do because they are attuned to the nuances of nonverbal communication. 

So, someone may try to hide their anger or frustration in a conversation, but a brief flash of a microexpression on their face may betray their true feelings.

This ability plays a huge role in why emotionally people can also detect this next thing…

4) Insincerity

Emotionally intelligent people have this strange BS detector that rings an alarm when people are being insincere

They could be at a party where someone’s showering them with compliments – “Oh, I love your outfit!” or “Wow, you look stunning!” – and yet, instead of feeling flattered, they feel annoyed. 

That’s their BS detector at work. Perhaps they notice that the other person’s smile doesn’t quite reach their eyes, or perhaps the tone of their voice has crossed over from enthusiastic to ingratiating.  

Whatever the cue is, emotionally intelligent people immediately know. They can tell there’s a mismatch between the person’s words and their true feelings. 

That’s certainly helpful in weeding out fake people, isn’t it?

5) Genuine curiosity

See, one thing emotionally intelligent people can tell is if you’re genuinely curious about them. 

They know if you’re just asking questions for the sake of making conversation, or if you’re really interested in getting to know them. 

Remember, they’ve got a whole arsenal of BS-detecting skills. Their knowledge of body language, non-verbal cues and all that give them the power to sense reciprocity and genuine curiosity!

6) Inattentiveness

Ah, here’s another pet peeve of mine. You know how some people seem to be listening, but their eyes glaze over? They go hmm, yeah, and nod their heads as you speak, but you can tell they’re not really present?

Emotionally intelligent people pick up on that. They’re not getting fooled there! 

I myself have this particular knack. So, when I notice the other person isn’t listening, I stop talking. I ask, “Are you still here?” in a goofy way to let them know I can tell they’re miles away. 

Or sometimes, I just excuse myself from the conversation. Because really, it feels rude and disrespectful! 

7) Emotional vocabulary

I love the power of language and how it can help us express ourselves. Emotionally intelligent people have an extensive emotional vocabulary, which allows them to accurately identify and articulate their feelings and those of others. 

This skill also helps them detect when someone isn’t quite as adept at expressing themselves. 

What do I mean by this? 

Well, let’s frame it in general terms. When you have a wide vocabulary, you use a lot of words to express yourself, right? 

Similarly, you can tell when the person you’re speaking to doesn’t have as wide a vocabulary as you. They might be using simple words in their speech, or they might even ask you, “What exactly do you mean?”

It’s the same in terms of feelings. Someone might be having a hard time labeling and expressing what they feel because they don’t have the words in their vocabulary, and an emotionally intelligent person can detect that. 

This ability helps them extend more grace and empathy to the person, understanding that they are grappling with emotions that may be beyond their breadth. 

8) Kindness and empathy

Just as they know how to give empathy, emotionally intelligent people also know when someone is truly a kind and empathetic person. 

Is it possible to pick up on these from a mere conversation? 

Absolutely, if you’ve got the emotional chops for it!

They look for telltale signs that someone’s kind, like:

  • Active listening
  • Empathetic statements
  • Respectful words
  • No interrupting
  • Genuine compliments
  • Positive body language

9) Humor

Aside from kindness, emotionally intelligent people can also detect and appreciate humor in conversations. 

Humor is a tricky thing; some jokes rely heavily on tone of voice and context, which can go over the head of folks who aren’t so attuned to that. 

But for emotionally intelligent people, they get it right away – sarcasm, irony, playful teasing – they always get the point of the joke and the mood it’s meant to be taken in. 

That’s why they rarely get offended (unless the joke truly crosses over from funny to offensive). 

10) Envy

What else can emotionally people catch from simple conversations? Jealous or envious vibes!  

How so? 

Well, thanks to their ability to detect nuances in tone of voice, they can recognize when someone’s tone is tinged with bitterness, sarcasm, or resentment. 

They can also figure out when someone’s giving them backhanded compliments, which is a form of undermining achievements.  

I remember when I gave a presentation at work, which was met with praise from my bosses. But one colleague said, “Great job! You sounded so much more confident than you normally are!”

That set my alarm bells ringing. On the surface, it seemed like she was paying me a compliment, but I also felt a subtle put-down thrown in there. 

This is just one example. There are many other ways envy can show up in a conversation, and if you’re emotionally intelligent, you’ll see that. 

11) Knowing when to end a conversation

Have you ever felt trapped in a conversation with someone who just didn’t know how to stop talking? Or in a conversation that’s escalating so quickly, it seems destined for destruction?

Sometimes, conversations need to come to a close – either because they’ve run their course or because emotions are running high. But not many people can sense that, and so it goes on and on. 

In contrast, emotionally intelligent people can sense when it’s time to wrap things up. And they do it in a way that doesn’t leave others feeling cut off or dismissed – truly a masterclass in tact and grace!

Final thoughts

Emotional intelligence is a crucial skill that can drastically improve our conversations and relationships. Being attuned to the subtleties of tone, body language, and emotions helps us connect with others on a deeper level

It won’t happen overnight, though – these skills take a while to develop. But as long as you practice mindfulness and sharpen your powers of observation, you’ll see your emotional intelligence shoot up. 

Trust me, it’s worth the effort. Not only will your conversations become more engaging and meaningful, but you’ll also become that person who just gets others!

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