It’s all too easy to lose control of our emotions.
That’s why emotional intelligence is so important. The ability to identify emotions (in yourself and others), to understand their powerful effect, and to use that information to guide thinking and behavior, can greatly increase the chances of successfully achieving your goals.
Like any ability, the skills of emotional intelligence are sharpened with practice. But might you already possess a high EQ, without even knowing it?
Take a look at the following statements, and see if they describe your own behavior and habits:
1. You think about feelings. A lot.
EI begins with reflection. You ask questions like, “Why am I feeling this way?” and “What caused me (or someone else) to say or do that?”
By identifying emotions and reactions, you’ve become more mindful and use that information to your advantage.
2. You ask others for perspective.
You understand that others see you much differently than you see yourself. It’s not about right or wrong, rather, understanding how perceptions differ.
3. You say thank you.
It’s surprising how widespread the lack of common courtesy is nowadays.
But not from you. You recognize the power of those two small words to change someone’s day, and to strengthen relationships–and that’s why you always take a few extra moments to express appreciation.
4. You know when to pause.
“The pause” is as simple as taking a moment to stop and think before you act or speak. (Easy in theory, difficult in practice.)
Of course, nobody’s perfect. But the pause has prevented embarrassment on many occasions, made you a better worker, and even saved your relationships.
5. You explore the “why.”
Instead of labeling people, you realize there’s reasons behind everyone’s behavior.
By developing qualities like empathy and compassion, you work to see a situation through another person’s eyes. You ask questions like, “Why does this person feel this way?” and “What’s going on behind the scenes?”
By doing this, you’re able to relate to almost anyone.
6. You’re open to criticism.
Nobody enjoys receiving negative feedback, including you.
But you know well that much criticism contains at least some element of truth, even when it’s not delivered in an ideal manner. Additionally, criticism teaches you much about how others think.
So, you keep your emotions in check and learn as much as you can.
7. You constantly consider how others will react.
From the moment you meet a person, you’re analyzing them. You just can’t help it.
But all of that observation leads to benefits: You realize that everything you say and do potentially affects others. And that means focusing not just on what you say, but how you say it.
8. You apologize.
You know that “I’m sorry” can be the two most difficult words to say in the English language. But you also recognize that they are extremely powerful.
By acknowledging your mistakes and apologizing when appropriate, you develop qualities like humility and authenticity, and naturally draw others to you.
9. You forgive.
While understanding that nobody’s perfect, you’ve learned that refusing to forgive is like leaving a knife in a wound–you never have the chance to heal.
Instead of hanging on to resentment while the offending party moves on with his or her life, you forgive–giving you the chance to move on, too.
10. You have an expansive emotional vocabulary.
By learning to express your feelings, you increase your ability to understand them. When you’re sad, you go deeper in trying to determine why: Am I disappointed? Frustrated? Hurt?
By expanding your active “emotional vocabulary,” you gain insight and learn to take action when necessary.
11. You praise sincerely and specifically.
By consistently looking for the good in others, and then specifically telling them what you appreciate, you inspire them. They feel good about working with you, and are motivated to give their best.
12. You work on controlling your thoughts.
It’s been said: “You can’t stop a bird from landing on your head. But you can keep it from building a nest.”
When you experience a negative situation, you may not have control over your natural, emotional response. But you are in control in what happens next: You choose where to focus your thoughts.
Instead of dwelling on those feelings and thinking about how unfair the situation is, you turn it into a positive–and develop a plan to move forward.
13. You don’t freeze people in time.
Judging others too quickly, without taking context and extenuating circumstances into account, is a very destructive habit.
In contrast, you’re aware that everyone has a bad day, or even a bad year. By refusing to label others, your opinion of them remains fluid, and you get the most of your relationships.
14. You analyze your weaknesses.
It takes self-reflection, insight, and courage to identify weaknesses. But you won’t get better unless you work on them.
By analyzing situations in which you’ve lost control of your emotions, you develop your strategy for encountering those moments the next time.
15. You know that emotions can be used against you.
Just like any ability, emotional intelligence can be used both ethically and unethically. When others increase their skills, they could use that power for manipulative influence.
And that’s exactly why you should sharpen your own emotional intelligence–to protect yourself when they do.
Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in real life.
A version of this post originally appeared on Inc.com.