The Smartest People Possess These 4 Traits Of Emotional Intelligence

Plus, why it's so important.

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We know that general intelligence — referred to as IQ — is fairly consistent throughout life, though studies have found some age-related dips in certain skills as we age.

We typically use IQ scores to identify areas of cognitive strengths and deficits. For example, those with lower scores qualify for additional school services, or those with higher scores are designated gifted or talented. 

But, in contrast, what is emotional intelligence?


RELATED: If You Do These 9 Things, You Have High Emotional Intelligence & Are In Control Of Your Feelings

One’s EQ (emotional intelligence) can always be developed, polished, and refined. Yes, you’ll likely retain what you develop, but EQ is based on skills that (if not practiced) can deteriorate over time. 

So, why should you care about emotional intelligence? Individuals who understand and use EQ skills...

  • Make better life choices 
  • Have better interpersonal relationships
  • Are better parents
  • Are more successful at work
  • Make exceptional business owners and leaders

Additionally, businesses who make EQ skill development a part of the organizational culture see greater overall productivity, increased sales, increased customer service, and a reduction in turnover.


EQ is based largely on 4 principles, and if you have all of them, you are a highly emotionally intelligent person.

1. Self-awareness

You know what creates an emotional response for you. You understand your "gut" feelings, what triggers your emotions, and where your emotions intersect with your own thoughts and behavior.

For instance, if you feel yourself starting to get anxious, recognize the feeling as anxiety, determine what’s causing it, and use skills and tools to manage and control the anxiety.

RELATED: What Is Emotional Intelligence — And Why Knowing Your EQ Is So Important For Your Relationships

2. Self-management

You know what to do to control your emotions and effective ways to use your emotions to guide and direct your behavior.


For example, anger is a common emotion, and circumstances in life will anger you at times. The key is how you recognize and use your anger in a way that allows you to respond productively versus destructively.

3. Empathy

You understand the emotions of others. By your own experience with 1 and 2, you can infer how others might be feeling in a variety of contexts.

You raise your EQ by learning to place yourself in others’ shoes, and by being able to relate to situational factors that may lead to emotional responses — and residual thoughts and behavior.

You’ve experienced being sprinkled with hundreds of questions in an interview setting. You understand how your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors work in that setting. Now, when you’re interviewing others, are you able to understand some of their experience?


4. Ability to build relationships

You understand how to help others manage their emotions, and how to use your own emotional awareness to navigate, build, and maintain positive relationships.

Think about a person you would like to emulate. For most of us, those people not only understand shared feelings, but they use the power of their words and actions to inspire and motivate. They are masters of all 4 of these principles.

As mentioned, emotional intelligence requires skill development and practice.


You have to make it a priority and focus your intention on emotional intelligence. It also helps to have a mentor or someone who understands the skills, knows how you can build and refine them, and who will give you honest, objective feedback for continued development. Investing in yourself always pays off. 

RELATED: 10 Irresistible Traits Emotionally Intelligent People Have

Dr. Todd Helvig is a licensed psychologist and business owner whose interest in writing includes leadership development and advancing emotional intelligence, health, wellness, and recovery.