That can help you connect with others on a deeper level.

We talk a lot about emotional intelligence, but what does it actually mean?

There are hundreds — if not thousands — of definitions that explain this concept. However, the bottom line seems to be the following:

As Travis Bradberry explains in Business Insider, “Emotional intelligence is the ‘something’ in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.”

Wondering what all this looks like in everyday life? What follows are four things emotionally intelligent people tend to do differently, and that make them so special.

1. They Can Control Their Emotions and Use Them in Their Favor

Emotionally intelligent people not only have the ability to control their emotions, but they also understand when they can use them in their favor.

As Gayle P. Myers, MD explains, “Feelings can oftentimes be overwhelming, especially when we’re under pressure, however, emotionally intelligent people can easily find composure in the midst of stressful situations.”

As Justin Bariso mentions in an article published on Thrive Global, “Emotionally intelligent people realize that emotions are fleeting, and that often making impulsive decisions leads to regrets.”

This is why it’s so important to think before making any decision, especially when we feel we’re about to act impulsively. This doesn’t mean we have to ignore our emotions — at all. It means we can listen to them and use them in our favor. However, before doing that, we need to process them.

As Myers adds, “Since they are aware of their emotions, emotionally intelligent people are also able to make decisions based on their inner wisdom.”

In other words, emotionally intelligent people listen to their emotions. And they include them in their decision process, but without acting impulsively.

How to apply this:

Listen to your gut, but don’t make impulsive decisions. Take a step back, analyze your emotions, understand where they’re coming from, and process them. Then, taking into consideration both your gut feelings and your rational thoughts, make a decision.

2. They Accept Responsibility for Their Actions and Know When to Apologize

As hypnotherapist and mind coach Ciarán Coleman explains, “Accepting responsibility for their actions and embracing humility when
something doesn’t go their way is a hallmark of emotionally intelligent people.”

“Something not many of us like to do, but must, is to apologize when we are wrong. There is a level of maturity needed to evaluate your decisions and accept when you didn’t do something right,” adds Coleman.

And emotionally intelligent people have a high level of emotional maturity. This allows them to understand when they didn’t do something right and when they should apologize.

How to apply this:

Ever heard of the concept of Locus of Control? As explained in the Marine Corps University website, it refers to an individual’s perception about the underlying main causes of events in their life.

Some people have an external locus of control — that is, they tend to believe that “their behavior is guided by fate, luck, or other external circumstances.” Others instead have an internal locus of control — they believe that “their behavior is guided by their personal decisions and efforts.”

Make sure you belong to the second group. Stop blaming other people or external circumstances and always focus on what you could do to achieve a positive outcome. And if anything goes wrong, try to look for what you could have done differently.

For example, if you show up late for work, don’t blame the traffic, don’t blame your roommate; you know you could have left the house 15 or 20 minutes earlier. Be honest with yourself and with others, and apologize.

3. They Don’t Judge, They Make an Effort to Understand Others

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.

— Dale Carnegie

Emotionally intelligent people tend to be curious, a lot. If they don’t understand something they’ll look for answers. If they’re about to judge someone, they’ll stop and ask themselves how they would feel in that person’s shoes.

As Dr. Robert Uri Heller said, “Emotionally intelligent people are less likely to get uptight about things and instead want to understand other people’s perspectives before making judgments.”

How to apply this, in a nutshell:

If you think about it, this is something we can all learn by making a small effort. Any time you are about to judge someone, stop for a moment and ask yourself if you have enough information to even form an opinion about that person.

Put yourself in other people’s shoes, make it a habit. You’ll start to find it difficult to judge others.

4. They Have Social Awareness

This is closely related to the previous point. Social awareness is one of the most important traits of emotionally intelligent people.

As Harvard psychologist Daniel Goleman explained in an article published in CBNC, “Social awareness indicates accuracy in reading and interpreting other people’s emotions, often through non-verbal cues.”

If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.

— Daniel Goleman

How to apply this:

As Goleman mentioned, social awareness requires good listening skills.

Remember to always be an active listener and don’t talk over others. Give your undivided attention and ask follow-up questions in order to better understand the person in front of you. Challenging your biases is also key.

To sum up, what follows are four things emotionally intelligent people tend to have in common:

  • They can control their emotions and use them in their favor;
  • They accept responsibility for their actions and know when to apologize;
  • They don’t judge, they make an effort to understand others;
  • They have social awareness.

Joseph A. Cornacchia