“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
At least that’s what Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., well-known writer and researcher on leadership who wrote the best-seller Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, says. Goleman has dedicated his work to finding out what makes people successful. And, his title spoiling the surprise, he says it comes down to their emotional intelligence. That’s what drives a person to excellence.
What exactly is emotional intelligence (EI)? Psychology Today says it’s:
- The ability to accurately identify your own emotions, as well as those of others
- The ability to utilize emotions and apply them to tasks, like thinking and problem-solving
- The ability to manage emotions, including controlling your own, as well as the ability to cheer up or calm down another person
The concept of emotional intelligence has been around since 1990, when Yale psychologists John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey presented the concept to the academic world. But Goleman has gone on to study it further—and he found a direct relationship between the EI of a company’s staff and the company’s success:
- Employees with a high level of EI have self-awareness that helps them understand co-workers and meet deadlines.
- When people have high EI, they are not bothered by client criticism; they remain focused on outcomes, rather than feeling offended.
- If two job candidates have similar IQs, the one with the higher EI will likely be a better fit for the company.
Like Goleman said, no amount of smarts will make up for a lack of the ever-important emotional and social abilities, especially as part of the professional world. Not sure how to recognize this essential trait? Here are seven characteristics of emotionally intelligent people.
1. They’re change agents.
People with high EI aren’t afraid of change. They understand that it’s a necessary part of life—and they adapt.
2. They’re self-aware.
They know what they’re good at and what they still have to learn—weaknesses don’t hold them back. They know what environments are optimal for their work style.
3. They’re empathetic.
The hallmark of EI, being able to relate to others, makes them essential in the workplace. With an innate ability to understand what co-workers or clients are going through, they can get through difficult times drama free.
4. They’re not perfectionists.
While extremely motivated, people with EI know that perfection is impossible. They roll with the punches and learn from mistakes.
5. They’re balanced.
Their self-awareness means that they naturally know the importance of and how to maintain a healthy professional-personal balance in their lives. They eat well, get plenty of sleep and have interests outside work.
6. They’re curious.
An inborn sense of wonder and curiosity makes them delightful to be around. They don’t judge; they explore the possibilities. They ask questions and are open to new solutions.
7. They’re gracious.
People with high EI know every day brings something to be thankful for—and they don’t see the world as “glass half-empty” as a lot of people do. They feel good about their lives and don’t let critics or toxic people affect that.
Emotionally intelligent people know how to make work, and the world, a better place. Are you one of them?
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.