Five Habits of the Emotionally Intelligent

Five Habits of the Emotionally Intelligent

Emotional intelligence often separates those who thrive personally and professionally from those who struggle. While IQ and technical skills are essential, our ability to manage emotions, empathize, and build strong relationships is foundational to living a fulfilled life. By developing emotional intelligence, we can better understand our motivations and behaviors and connect deeply with others. This article will explore five essential habits that emotionally intelligent people demonstrate. Embodying these habits takes dedication, but implementing small daily changes can lead to remarkable results over time.

1. Show Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent individuals clearly understand their emotions, values, strengths, weaknesses, and goals. They reflect on how their feelings impact their thoughts and actions. For example, when feeling stressed, they may notice tension in their body, rumination in their mind, and impatience in their behavior. Without self-awareness, it’s easy to move through life on autopilot, reacting instinctively rather than thoughtfully.

There are many ways to build self-awareness. Journaling, meditation, and reflecting at the end of each day can help uncover inner thoughts and patterns. Seeking feedback from trusted friends and mentors can also provide valuable insights. For instance, someone may point out that you tend to interrupt people when you feel excited about a topic. Understanding these tendencies makes it easier to pause and listen entirely.

2. Regulate Your Emotions

Once aware of their emotions, emotionally intelligent people can regulate their feelings even in stressful situations. Instead of being controlled by impulsive reactions, they think before responding. This helps avoid emotionally-driven mistakes like angry outbursts that damage relationships. Emotion regulation also enables faster recovery from upsets so individuals can return to a calm state.

Strategies like deep breathing, walking, and cognitive reappraisal—finding a more positive perspective—can help manage emotions. For instance, if a discussion with a friend turns into an argument, an emotionally intelligent person may take deep breaths to remain calm, apologize for their defensive reaction, and suggest returning to the topic when emotions have settled.

3. Demonstrate Empathy

Empathy involves understanding and relating to how someone else feels. Emotionally intelligent people are in tune with others’ emotions and can imagine their experiences. This fosters compassion and connection. Without empathy, it’s easy to overlook or misread emotional cues, which strains relationships.

Ways to become more empathetic include active listening without judgment, “walking in someone else’s shoes,” validating their feelings by naming the emotion and being present. For example, when a colleague shares sadness over a breakup, genuinely focusing on their words, reflecting on their feelings, and offering comfort can help them feel heard and supported.

4. Improve Your Social Skills

Emotionally intelligent individuals excel at building social relationships and navigating group dynamics. They know how to be approachable, articulate their feelings or needs clearly, and resolve interpersonal conflicts. People are drawn to their authenticity, warmth, and ability to connect. Their social skills also help persuade and lead others effectively.

There are many ways to enhance social skills. Observing body language provides insight into unspoken feelings. Asking questions and listening helps people feel heard. Networking expands connections. Roleplaying awkward scenarios can reveal better responses. For instance, using “I” statements makes people less defensive when giving critical feedback. Practicing social skills builds confidence.

5. Harness Self-Motivation

Emotionally intelligent people stay motivated through challenges by their internal drive. Rather than being distracted by what others think or chasing validation, their passion comes from within. They know their worth is not dependent on external factors. This empowers perseverance toward meaningful goals.

To increase inner motivation, connect goals to core values. For example, if being compassionate is essential to you, volunteer work at a shelter will fuel your passion—foster curiosity to stay engaged in the process rather than just focusing on outcomes. Celebrate small milestones so progress feels encouraging. For instance, after calling a prospective client, acknowledge the accomplishment. Even small steps add up.

Case Study

John realized he was struggling with emotional intelligence when he got passed over for a promotion at work. He tended to be distracted in meetings, rarely participated in workplace social events, and lacked empathy when colleagues shared problems. Realizing this held him back, John decided to improve.

He started a daily journaling routine to become more self-aware, noting when he felt bored, impatient, or disinterested. John also set a goal to compliment at least one coworker daily, reminding him to listen more attentively. When he felt discouraged, John visualized the pride he’d feel if he could master these skills.

Within a few months, John found work more engaging. He contributed ideas more regularly in meetings because he was focused. His empathy enabled more vital teamwork. Feeling internally motivated by how much he was learning, John no longer compared himself to others or sought validation.

A year later, when a management position opened up, John’s boss remarked how impressed he was by John’s transformation into a stellar team player. By developing emotional intelligence, John achieved the success he desired.


Emotional intelligence allows us to find purpose, build strong relationships, communicate effectively, empathize fully, and persist through challenges. By practicing self-awareness, emotional regulation, empathy, social skills, and inner motivation, we can unlock our most significant potential and live joyfully. Start small each day and be patient with yourself. Gradually, with commitment, these habits will become second nature. Remember that this journey is lifelong. Even the most emotionally intelligent among us have more to learn. Your effort will enrich both your own life and the lives of those around you.