7 Habits of Highly Emotionally Intelligent People

People with high emotional intelligence tend to do better at work. So what habits do they have that set them apart?

Editor's Note: This is one of the most-read leadership articles of 2014. Click here to see the full list.

It has increasingly become accepted that emotional intelligence is an important factor in our success and happiness, not only at work, but in our relationships and all areas of our lives.

So what sets emotionally intelligent people apart? Here are seven habits that people with high EI have:

1. They Focus on the Positive

While not ignoring the bad news, emotionally intelligent people have made a conscious decision to not spend a lot of time and energy focusing on problems. Rather, they look at what is positive in a situation and look for solutions to a problem. These people focus on what they are able to do and that which is within their control.

2. They surround themselves with positive people

People with a lot of emotional intelligence don’t spend a lot of time listening to complainers and tend to avoid negative people. They are aware negative people are an energy drain and are not willing to let others exhaust their vitality. Because they always look for solutions and the positive in situations, negative people quickly learn to avoid positive people as misery loves company.

Emotionally intelligent people spend time with others that are positive and look upon the bright side of life. You can spot these folks as they tend to smile and laugh a great deal and attract other positive people. Their warmth, openness, and caring attitude leads others look upon them as more trustworthy.

3. They are able to set boundaries and be assertive when necessary

Although their friendly, open nature may make them appear as pushovers to some, people with high EI are able to set boundaries and assert themselves when needed. They demonstrate politeness and consideration but stay firm at the same time.

They do not make needless enemies. Their response to situations, in which there may be conflict, is measured, not inflated, and managed appropriately to the situation. They think before speaking and give themselves time to calm down if their emotions appear to become overwhelming. High EI people guard their time and commitments and know when they need to say no.

4. They are forward thinking and willing to let go of the past

People with high EI are too busy thinking of possibilities in the future to spend a lot of time dwelling upon things that didn’t work out in the past. They take the learning from their past failures and apply it to their actions in the future. They never see failure as permanent or a personal reflection of themselves.

5. They look for ways to make life more fun, happy, and interesting

Whether it is in their workplace, at home, or with friends, high EI people know what makes them happy and look for opportunities to expand the enjoyment. They receive pleasure and satisfaction from seeing others happy and fulfilled, and do whatever they can to brighten someone else’s day.

6. They choose how they expend their energy wisely

While these enlightened people are good at moving on from the past when things didn’t work out as expected, they are also able to move on from conflicts involved with others. High EI folks don’t hold on to anger over how others have treated them, rather use the incident to create awareness of how to not let it happen again. "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me," is their motto. While they move on and forgive, they don’t forget and are unlikely to be taken advantage of again in the same set of circumstances.

7. Continually learning and growing towards independence

Highly emotionally intelligent people are lifelong learners, constantly growing, evolving, open to new ideas, and always willing to learn from others. Being critical thinkers, they are open to changing their minds if someone presents an idea that is a better fit. While they are open to ideas from others, and continuously gathering new information, they ultimately trust themselves and their own judgment to make the best decision for themselves.

[Image: Flickr user André Solnik]

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  • Are Emotional People immune from Negative People's energy? Or do they avoid because they know there is a possibility the negative energy will drown away their positive ones?

  • westsidedirt

    At first pass these traits appear valuable, but when the underlying motivation is considered I am left unsettled. Is it self-centered, survival of the fittest? Is it altruism? Or is it something else? All of life’s relationships and experiences require a framework for interpretation, a worldview. A worldview that treats the negative merely as undesirable, objectionable, and inconvenient is shortsighted and inevitably unstable.
    Emotional Intelligence: the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. (dictionary.com) Empathy: the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else's feeling (merriam-webster.com) One can argue these traits may be judicious, but these traits are not characteristically empathetic. All things considered these traits are faulty in my opinion.

  • Gavin Kwek

    Dont agree with this, nearly all the text are recommending this. It just shows how 1 article writer copies from another just because it "sounds" right.

    Taking the easy way out and not helping anyone else. Im sure such a person will do far in life. It's all too easy to surround yourself with happy people and ignore the rest who need help. I mean, if you are rich everyone would come near you too :)

  • David A. McCuistion

    Near perfect listing. When connected with Physical Intelligence, Intellectual Intelligence and Spiritual Intelligence, the authentic and effective leader has all the necessary characteristics to be successful. Great article. I plan to save for future reference and sharing with my Leadership Seekers Group. Thank you.

  • rhmendelson

    Ah...these are traits of a sociopath too!!!

    What is with you steamroller people that pop back up like a Bozo punching bag? Without the ability to actually FEEL your emotions - and channel them into productive means - we wouldn't have the art, literature, or music from the previous several thousand years of civilization.

    Constructive emotional intelligence requires processing your emotions, not blunting them like a cyborg. You can only take so much Pharrel Williams when you really need Miles Davis!

  • djones

    I had to comment after seeing the "Bozo punching bag" . I have told people for years that I was like one. Life has hit me HARD, many times. I was diagnosed with a progressive, incurable condition the age of 27, a prognosis of being bedridden within 5 years. At the age of 35, I lost the love of my life, and became a young widow and single, disabled mother of a teenage boy, in an instant. This happened only 5-1/2 months after my father (my best friend), passed away from pancreatic cancer. When life hits me, it hits me hard! The first thing I do is fall flat on back. Then, something amazing happens, I bounce right back up. It isn't because of anything, but what I am made of. I am a "Jones". There is a reason they say, "keeping up with the Jones". We are resilient. I believe that we are made like this, because we are supposed to be the example that you CAN get back up. Every day isn't a "Pharrel Williams" day, but it doesn't mean that tomorrow can't be. Thank you for comment.

  • rhmendelson

    Ah...these traits sound like the description of a sociopath too!!!

    Seriously, what is with you steamroller people that bounce back from everything like a punching bag Bozo???

    Without people that actually FEEL their experiences - and need to express them - we wouldn't have the music, art, or literature from the previous thousands of years of civilization. Being emotional intelligent is the ability to channel your experience into something productive; either a work of art, a social movement, or even a sporting pursuit.

    People that can keep moving forward over everything - and deny their pain - eventually move forward over other people too! They become like cyborgs from blunting the pain and lose their ability to care about others. That doesn't sound like a positive adaptation, it sounds evil!!!

  • Jason Lee

    Letting go of the past is huge. Too many people wallow in self pity and what's happened to them rather than picking themselves up and moving on. Every successful person I've met has endured massive hardships, but the reason they're so successful is because they learn their lesson and move on quickly.

  • David Kennedy-Cosgrove

    I think this is a pretty basic overview of emotional intelligence, taking a very self centred view on the traits or habits of emotionally intelligent people. It doesn't examine or mention that outward view; looking at how people with good or high levels of EI are able to read the feelings of other people around them and react in a way that puts them at ease or is appropriate to the situation - that, for me at least, is one of the most formidable traits of high emotional intelligence.

  • Joy Wakenshaw Johnston

    I totally agree. I feel that my ability to quickly intuit a persons mood and/or their comfort level with a situation, allows me to quickly disarm them. Then I just let my natural charm take me the rest of the way.. <grin>

  • As with many intelligence gauges, there will always be arguments for and against them. We tend to be more apt to see articles like Mr. Deutschendorf's in black and white, instead of seeing it as another piece to the human intellect puzzle. I don't imagine he's trying to say this is the end-all, be-all of emotional intelligence, but perhaps an offering of qualities that folks with greater emotional adaptability exhibit.

    This is a great article that can merely be added to our breadth of knowledge of ourselves and those around us or discarded if it doesn't fit our particular view point of intelligence.

  • Mac Carter

    E.I. is based on solid research. That is partly why it has gained credibility. What is the basis for this claim that these are 7 common habits of people with high E.I. traits?