Have you ever let emotion push you into doing something you later regretted? Or allowed your feelings to hold you back from something you really wanted to do?
Guess what? We all have.
Emotional intelligence, the ability to make emotions work for you instead of against you, involves learning and application.
Just take a look at the following statements, and see if they describe your own behavior and habits.
1. You think about your feelings, and the feelings of others.
Emotional intelligence 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 viewing every emotional reaction as a learning experience, you’ve learned how to read your own mood and the moods of others, and how to react accordingly.
2. You learn about yourself from others.
You’re not afraid to ask others how they view you, because you realize there’s a lot to learn from their perspective.
And that in some situations, perception is reality.
3. You realize the importance of “please” and “thank you.”
Every day, you see others who refuse to express appreciation or common courtesy.
But you won’t be influenced by that. You recognize the power of a few small words to brighten someone’s day, to strengthen relationships, and to make yourself feel better–and that’s why you always take an extra moment to express appreciation.
4. You pause.
You make a habit of stopping and thinking before you speak or act, especially if you feel yourself getting emotional. (Easy in theory, difficult in practice.)
Of course, you’re not perfect. But the pause has kept you from embarrassment more than a few times, has made you a better worker, and has even helped save your relationships.
5. You ask why.
Instead of labeling people, you focus on the reasons behind their behavior.
This improves your ability to show empathy and compassion, and to see things from the perspective of others. And you’ve found this helps you relate to just about anybody.
6. You learn from criticism.
Nobody enjoys being told they’re wrong.
So, when you receive negative feedback, you try to keep your emotions in check and take the bad with the good.
7. You’re a closet anthropologist.
From the moment you meet someone, you begin analyzing that person’s behavior. You just can’t help it.
All that awareness, though, helps you remember that your words and actions can have a profound impact on others. That’s why you focus not just on what you say, but also on how you say it.
8. You’re not afraid to apologize.
You know that “I’m sorry” can be the two most difficult words to say, in any language. But you also know they can be the most powerful.
By acknowledging your mistakes and apologizing when appropriate, you become more humble and authentic. This naturally builds trust with others, and strengthens your relationships.
9. You don’t hold a grudge.
While you’re no pushover, you also realize that refusing to forgive is like leaving a knife in a wound–never giving it a chance to heal.
Instead of hanging on to resentment while others move on with their lives, you forgive–giving yourself a chance to move on, too.
10. You have a great emotional vocabulary.
By learning to express your feelings in specific language, you increase your level of understanding. For example, when you’re sad, you go deeper and try to figure out why: Am I disappointed? Frustrated? Hurt?
Doing so provides insight into your feelings, and can help you better understand the feelings of others.
11. You praise sincerely and specifically.
By consistently looking for the good in others, and then specifically telling them what you appreciate, you motivate and inspire.
Because of this, others find you a pleasure to be around, and are moved to give you their best.
12. You control 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.”
You may not be able to control an initial, emotional reaction. But you can control what you think about next.
Instead of dwelling on feelings that are self-destructive, you focus on productive thoughts, and work on moving forward.
13. You don’t freeze others in time.
You’re well aware that everyone has a bad day, or even a bad year (that’s right, even you).
By recognizing that people can change, you focus on judging behavior, instead of people. This keeps your relationships fluid, and helps you make the most of them.
14. You analyze your strengths, as well as your weaknesses.
By identifying what you do well, you can put yourself in more situations where you’re likely to succeed.
But you know that you won’t get better unless you work on your weaknesses, too. So, you take the time to identify where you can improve, striving for a mindset of continuous growth.
15. You protect yourself from emotional sabotage.
You realize that manipulators are skilled at using others’ emotions to push buttons and influence in an unethical manner.
And that’s exactly why you continue to sharpen your own emotional intelligence–to protect yourself when they do.
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A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.