11 unusual habits that indicate high emotional intelligence, according to psychology

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a crucial part of a fulfilling and meaningful life. 

We all have varying levels of EQ and life is a process of growing in our empathy and expression of our own emotions and those of other people. 

That’s why learning more about those with exceptionally high EQ is helpful and gives us insights into the unique behaviors and habits of those who feel deeply and are skilled at working with emotions. 

What do they do differently according to psychology?

Let’s take a look at some of the most unique habits of those with especially high EQ.

1) Strategic procrastination

High EQ folks are able to strike a balance between getting things done and procrastinating. 

They are skilled at delaying just enough to allow their subconscious mind and creative side to come up with unique ideas and solutions to whatever task they are facing. 

They don’t leave things until the last possible moment, but they also don’t plow through right away with the first idea that comes to mind. 

As organization psychologist Adam Grant points out:

“Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, learn and reflect on setbacks, and then incorporate those lessons into your final work.”

2) Appreciation for ambiguity 

The high EQ individual is able to appreciate and tolerate ambiguity.

Many situations, relationships and interactions are undetermined. They could go either way. They could work out or fizzle out. 

The high EQ person can deal with this and even appreciate the nuances and uncertainties of life. 

What will the future bring? 

What’s the solution to the problem they’re facing? 

They’re not quite sure, but they’re existing consciously in that place of not knowing and becoming more self-aware and conscious as a result. 

3) Acute non-verbal reading 

The high EQ man or woman tends to be very skilled at reading people

They pay close attention to body language and non-verbal cues to better understand and connect with others.

They also do this to detect threats and to pick up on friend or foe when they’re in a new or uncertain situation. 

This can serve them immensely well in their personal and professional life, but may surprise or unnerve others who see how intuitively they grasp the underlying reality of people around them. 

“To read people means to interpret or understand others based on non-verbal cues, behavior, and communication patterns, even without explicit verbal explanation,” explains BetterHelp. 

“Psychologists call this skill theory of mind.”

4) Pausing before reacting to situations

One of the things that can make it hard to notice a high EQ person is that they don’t necessarily display the outer symptoms that people associate with a “sensitive” or “high emotion” individual.

They will often pause before responding or reacting to an emotionally charged situation or conflict, for example. 

This can sometimes come across as overly stoic or even unfeeling in nature. 

But the reality is that they are simply making an effort not to react impulsively or without considering their feelings and what they mean. 

Highly emotionally intelligent people sometimes look like they feel nothing. But that’s actually just them processing and grappling with what they feel and what to do with it. 

This also relates to the next behavior…

5) Micro meditation and brief time outs

The high EQ individual tends to take brief, mindful pauses throughout the day and engage in “micro meditation” or small meditation sessions during these pauses. 

He or she does this to reset and manage stress.

They focus on their breathing and mindfully just exist with themselves and without focusing on looming deadlines, existential questions or issues and hopes of their life. 

They just meditate and rest for a moment. And they come out feeling much refreshed and rejuvenated, both physically and emotionally. 

“In the same study, just 5 minutes of meditation was enough to improve heart rate and reduce negative affect,” notes meditation and mindfulness teacher Janis Gioia of a recent study on the benefits of micro meditation.

“These results suggest that shorter forms of meditation can still result in the full range of benefits, such as decreased anxiety and higher quality of sleep.”

6) Curating emotions with playlists

The high EQ individual has a habit of using specific playlists to consciously shift or enhance emotional states.

If they’re feeling sad and want to sit with that and explore it, they will play music that stimulates and explores this emotion. They will delve into its meaning and power, instead of pushing away the sadness or denying it. 

Or maybe they are feeling joy and inspiration and want to boost that to an even higher level?

They will turn on music that gets them amped up to the stratosphere and feeling like they can take on the world. 

This habit of curating and exploring emotions with music is something we can all learn from and all engage in at times, but the high EQ person does so even more consciously and powerfully.

7) Anthropomorphizing objects 

Anthropomorphizing objects is something people have done since the beginning of time and our earliest cultures. 

It means attributing human characteristics and emotions to non-human things such as animals or natural objects. 

The emotionally intelligent person explores their emotions and the deeper questions of life in such a way, connecting more to themselves and the cosmos in the process. 

Classic examples include the writing of someone like Fyodor Dostoyevsky, for example, whose books like The Brothers Karamazov include extended explorations of the spiritual nature of the environment and its relation and interaction with our inner state. 

As Psychology Today explains:

“Some people are more inclined to anthropomorphize than others, but it is a common way of perceiving and interacting with the world.”

This connects directly to the following high-EQ habit:

8) Tuning into the environment and communing with it (biophilia)

The emotionally intelligent individual is a master at connecting to their environment and benefiting from it. 

This includes things like adjusting surroundings (lighting, scents, sounds) to influence mood and productivity.

They are able to work with their indoor and outdoor environment to boost and enhance what they are trying to achieve and to reach new insights and states of being.

“Humans have always been drawn to, dependent on, and fascinated by the natural world,” observes Psychology Today. 

“Biophilia, which literally translates to “love of life,” is the idea that this fascination and communion with nature stem from an innate, biologically-driven need to interact with other forms of life such as animals and plants.”

9) Self-imposed social media limits 

The high EQ individual is prone to meta-cognition and self-reflection. 

They like to delve into their own emotions, identity and reality and become more sure about what they want to do with their life as a result. 

This necessarily entails cutting off some distractions, and one of them is social media. 

They are disciplined about creating strict boundaries for social media usage to protect mental well-being.

The effects of social media are well-documented, and in particular include a big influence on mood and on how somebody sees their value socially. 

High-EQ people want to manage their own emotions rather than having them externally influenced very much by social media. 

As this recent psychological study in Sage Journal discovered:

“People’s emotional life is growingly interwoven with the mediated and mediatized world. In particular, social media plays an important role in people’s everyday emotion regulation and mood management.”

10) Adopting unconventional perspectives and identities

High EQ individuals tend to deliberately challenge their own viewpoints to foster greater understanding and empathy.

“As you move through life and its various phases of experience, there are periods of stability when you are living the life that you have created,” notes psychology writer and ophthalmologist Nina Ahuja, MD.

“Stable periods are followed by transition periods when decisions or circumstances drive you to a new way of being in one or more dimensions.”

They do their best to make these transition periods meaningful and dynamic as they adjust to the changes of life and process and work with their own emotions. 

11) Narrative reframing

The highly emotionally intelligent individual makes a practice of reframing their narrative. 

They insist on being author of their own script and on rewriting personal narratives to highlight growth and learning from past experiences.

Instead of being a loser whose business failed, they are a winner who’s had valuable insights into the ups and downs of starting a business:

Instead of being the sad woman whose relationship crashed, they are the powerful survivor who now knows for sure what she is looking for.

Best of all, they help other people also reframe their narratives to be more empowering as well. 

As psychologist James L Creighton PhD. notes:

“One way to change your life is to ‘re-story’ your life. By looking for events that contradict your current frame you may be able to reclaim parts of yourself. Some of those other stories, the ones you didn’t tell, might convey an entirely different frame for your life.”

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