If you ever chatted with someone who truly seemed to "get" you, they were probably someone with
high emotional intelligence. These folks have a few skills — and habits that come about as a result — that allow them to tap into the experiences of others, and be quite grounded, open-minded, and understanding as a result.
"Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand what other people are saying and how what they are saying is impacting them emotionally,"
clinical psychologist Dr. Helen Odessky, tells Bustle. "Being able to read and accurately perceive how someone is feeling, and being able to act on that knowledge in a pro-social way, is emotional intelligence."
It comes in handy when communicating with others, but also makes life much easier as it provides
you with a healthy dose of empathy, compassion, and understanding of your own emotions. While some people are born with these skills, they're something the rest of us can work on improving, if we want to.
"It's a trait that can be developed, though some people are born with a greater degree of it naturally,"
couples therapist Brooke Sprowl, LCSW, tells Bustle. "Psychotherapy can help with developing skills for anxiety regulation, empathy, communication skills and perspective taking, all of which can improve your emotional intelligence." Here are a few habits and skills that can be a sign of emotionally intelligence, according to experts.
Instead of waiting for their turn to talk, emotionally intelligent people actually
hear what others are saying. They focus on the person they're speaking with, show that they're listening, and respond accordingly.
"[They] aim to listen well," Dr. Odessky says. "This means they try to understand the other person, rather than formulate a response while the other is speaking." Their goal is to make a connection and have a healthy, two-sided conversation.
They Try To Find Common Ground
Even if they don't agree with what someone's saying, an emotionally intelligent person will try their best to have a civil conversation. "They seek to establish win-win relationships and try to find common ground if possible," Dr. Odessky says. "They understand that no one wants to feel like a loser in an argument." So they make every effort to be fair.
They Read Between The Lines
One skill that enables them to do be so fair? "They can read between the lines as to what is
not being said with words, and interpret the underlying emotions," Dr. Odessky says. Emotionally intelligent people are able to infer what someone might mean, and put themselves in other people's shoes. Which again, helps them to see both sides.
In situations where others might become frustrated or irritated, emotionally intelligent folks have a knack for staying cool under pressure.
Instead of lashing out or jumping to conclusions, "they allow themselves to process thoughts and emotions before rushing to a decision," lifestyle expert and writer,
Amanda Raimondi, tells Bustle. "In addition, they give others the same amount of patience. If someone is struggling, this individual will give them the time to figure things out."
They're Incredibly Self-Aware
It's possible to spot emotional intelligence in others simply by the way they carry themselves. "[They] are very aware of the way they speak and how they come off to others," Raimondi says. "Almost as if they are observing a conversation as they are having it."
In doing so, you might catch them "mirroring," which is a
skill that puts others at ease. They may "change their tone and way of speaking depending on who they are with," Raimondi says, all as a way of creating a more meaningful conversation.
Far from being stuck in their ways, emotionally intelligent people are open-minded and interested in new people and situations. As Raimondi says, "They see every opportunity as a way to grow and create new relationships."
They're Able To Stay Positive
Part of maintaining a healthy outlook is getting in the habit of looking for the silver lining, even when other people can't. "This goes hand in hand with being open-minded," Raimondi says. "An individual who is positive wants to do better and be better. They don’t let the weight of the world get them down or stifle their goals. Going through life
with a positive attitude and mindset helps you achieve far more than having a cynical mindset." And emotionally intelligent people are aware of that.
They Naturally Read Everyone's Body Language
If anyone's going to feel for others, it's these folks. "Emotionally intelligent people are highly empathetic and compassionate by nature,"
Katie Ziskind, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "Empathy is the ability to step into someone else's shoes to deeply understand — for instance their sorrow, pain, or loss."
They're able to spot these emotions through different cues. "Emotionally intelligent people are great at
reading facial expressions and body language," Ziskind says. "They know how body language is connected to emotion and can sense this without needing to talk."
They Regulate Their Own Emotions
Since emotional intelligence provides a better understanding of emotions, and thus an ability to
handle emotions, emotionally intelligent people may know how to manage their more negative emotions so they do not get channeled in destructive ways, Sprowl says.
They know the
importance of taking care of themselves and are able to spot, early on, signs that they may need to practice self-care, slow down, and destress.
They Don't Get Defensive
One thing emotionally intelligent people will likely never be, is defensive. "They can validate someone else's point of view even when they disagree with them, while still holding their ground and assertively expressing their views," Sprowl says.
They Maintain Healthy Boundaries
Even though they're naturally empathetic, and great listeners, emotionally intelligent people know the importance of
maintaining healthy boundaries.
"For example, someone can be attacking them verbally, but they can maintain good boundaries because they know that this is really about the other person and how they feel about themselves, and really not about them at all,"
Heidi McBain, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle.
While no one's on point 100 percent of the time, possessing a high degree of emotional intelligence can make it easier to understand others, as well as yourself.