9 tiny habits that will make you more emotionally intelligent than 95% of people

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Do you know the most important skill you should be cultivating to get a leg up in life? 

It’s emotional intelligence. And it’s so valuable that: 

About 58% of job success is attributed to it. Majority of Fortune 500 companies hold emotional intelligence training and testing. 

And get this – a whopping 70% of people with an average IQ but high EQ can outperform even those with the highest IQ!

Unfortunately, not everyone has it. That’s why you see a lot of rudeness, inconsideration, and apathy in the world. 

But there are a few tiny habits you can do that will make you more emotionally intelligent than the majority. Let’s check them out! 

1) Be still

Surprised that the first habit is to simply be still? Well, I told you we’ll be discussing tiny habits…

But make no mistake – as tiny a habit as this is, it’s so powerful. 

You see, being emotionally intelligent begins with being self-aware. Without self-awareness, you can’t look inwards and see what needs to change. 

That’s where being still comes in. It offers us the space to sit with our thoughts and feelings (so to be clear, it requires ditching your phone during this time). 

It’s a moment to take a deep breath and observe how you feel. To examine how a situation made you feel, and why it did so. 

That way, you can learn to identify and acknowledge your emotional triggers and prepare ahead for the next time it happens. 

This habit is what got me from being reactive to proactive.

I learned to identify the things that can take my temper from 0 to 100 and create a script or a (self-)prescribed way to deal when those issues come up. 

On that note…

2) Learn to ask this question: “Why?” 

This is precisely what looking inwards means – to keep delving and investigating why you think or feel a certain way. Understanding their roots helps you have a smarter emotional response.

Let’s say you got angry when your coworker dismissed your idea in a meeting. Your first reaction might have been frustration, but why? Is it because you feel undervalued, or is there a deeper issue at play? 

Your mom invited you to go on a trip with her, but instead of feeling excited, you feel a sense of dread. Okay…but why? 

Repeatedly asking “why” helps you start to uncover layers of emotions and motivations. And believe me, those are often more complex than they appear at first glance.

Getting to the root then enables you to do the next emotionally intelligent thing – address these feelings constructively. 

3) Listen actively

Another tiny habit that can help you be more emotionally intelligent than 95% of people is to listen actively. 

You’d think listening is something everybody can do, but trust me, I’ve been around enough “half-listeners” and “fake-listeners” to know that it’s kind of a rare skill. 

You see, most of us do these things when someone else is speaking: 

  • Listen with the intent to reply (they aren’t really listening, they’re constructing what they’re going to say next)
  • Change the subject abruptly
  • Just completely tune out of the conversation

If you’re serious about being emotionally intelligent, make sure active listening is part of your repertoire. Because then, it enables you to do this next awesome thing…

4) Imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes

I once had a friend who was going through a divorce. She was saying how heartbroken she felt about it when another friend suddenly interjected, “Why would you feel heartbroken? You should be grateful to be rid of that cheater!”

I know our other friend meant well, but it wasn’t exactly empathetic. If anything, it was pretty dismissive. 

Empathy is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence. And it’s what you show when you can step into another person’s shoes and imagine how they’re feeling. 

For example, I’ve never been through a divorce myself. But just imagining myself going through one helped me understand the pain my friend was going through. Yes, it was good to be rid of a cheater, but divorce brings so many mixed feelings with it. 

Getting into the habit of putting yourself in the other person’s shoes will help you understand them better and respond in a helpful way. 

5) Regulate your emotions 

Besides being self-aware, emotionally intelligent people have also mastered the art of self-regulation. Those two practices are connected. 

As I mentioned earlier, self-awareness helps you be proactive instead of reactive. Because the truth is, we all have the tendency to react without thinking. 

One thing that has really helped me in this area is to embrace the power of pause. In that pause, I can make a conscious choice – to either not react or to respond appropriately. 

Which reminds me – yes, you can choose to not react. After all, not everything in life needs or deserves a reaction. 

And also this – you can’t control everything. This little nugget has helped me regulate my frustration when things don’t go as I planned. 

Aside from that, here are a few other tiny habits that can help with getting your feelings under control: 

  • Make sure you get enough quality sleep. A bad night can make you cranky and less able to control yourself. 
  • Don’t let yourself go hungry. Or should I say, hangry. Hangriness has led me to pick fights with people over nothing. 
  • Use deep breathing and meditation to calm yourself down. Counting one to ten helps, too! 

Emotion regulation isn’t easy, I know. Even when you’ve got a good handle on yourself, it can sometimes be hard to channel your inner Gandhi. That’s why it’s important to…

6) Release tension in a healthy way

Look, emotionally intelligent people aren’t saints. They might not be as easily triggered, but they do get stressed and hold tension inside, too. 

The difference is, they know how to release it in a healthy way. Which definitely doesn’t include hurtful behaviors like substance abuse or lashing out at others. 

Instead, they might choose activities like exercise, which is a fantastic way to burn off steam. 

I’ve personally found that a quick jog or a brisk walk can clear my mind and ease tension. It’s amazing how much a little physical activity can shift your perspective.

I also often turn to creative outlets like writing/journaling or painting to express what I’m feeling. 

So, find a good, wholesome way to get things off your chest, and you’ll see a boost in your emotional intelligence.  

7) Rehearse what you’ll say 

Going back to the power of pause, I’d like to mention that it also helps with this next habit – rehearsing what you’ll say. 

I admit that I used to have a case of foot-in-mouth disease. I’d blurt out things unthinkingly and hurt someone in the process. 

Rehearsing your words doesn’t mean you need to be fake. It’s just a matter of choosing the right words and the right tone, which by the way is super important. 

As they say, sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. 

And on the off chance that you do end up hurting someone…

8) Take responsibility for your feelings

Have you ever had someone tell you, “Now look what you made me do!” or something along those lines? 

That’s someone who can’t take responsibility for their feelings. And there are a lot of those out there.

Most people won’t see this as a tiny habit. Because let’s face it – learning to be accountable is hard. 

But you know what? It’s just the first few times that it is. With more practice, it gets easier to own up to your feelings (and your mistakes, too!). 

Besides, once you’re already doing the “be still and know yourself more” habit, taking responsibility for how you feel just happens as a natural consequence of that.  

9) Practice being grateful

If I had to pinpoint the most important habit that has helped me be more emotionally intelligent, I’d say it’s this one. 

You see, an attitude of gratitude is powerful. It literally lights up the brain!

According to Generation Mindful, “When we express gratitude and receive the same, it acts as a catalyst for neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which are crucial in managing emotions, anxiety and immediate stress responses.”

Plus, it helps us be more aware of our strengths and values and understand others better as well. 

For me, being grateful has helped reframe negative events in my life. It has helped me see how much I have vs. how much I don’t have. And always, I find that the scale tilts in my favor! 

So, what’s the effect of that? I feel happier and more able to extend grace and understanding to others. 

Final thoughts

Some people are born with naturally high emotional intelligence. But even if you’re not one of them, you still can boost your own. 

Hopefully, these tiny habits can get you started. As someone who’s had to learn how to manage her own feelings, this much I can say: 

It’s hard, but it’s worth the effort. I hope you decide to make it, because the world needs more emotionally intelligent people.  

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