The digital world is abuzz with emotional intelligence (EQ) data. If you dig through it, however, you'll notice some common themes. For instance, the language used by those with high EQ has some noticeable overlap. So let's dig in: What words and phrases do much-vaunted  leaders use that make them EQ stars -- and why?

First, let's start with a curated (not exhaustive) list of qualities that can be attributed to those with high EQ, according to psychological research and observation.

Leaders with high EQ:

  • Are not impulsive or hasty, but consider circumstances, reason, and emotion carefully before acting or speaking
  • Are consistently conscious of their own emotional state
  • (As a corollary to the quality above) Can regulate their own emotions to avoid undesired actions or commentary
  • Can easily identify what someone else is feeling and adjust their thinking and behavior accordingly

Given these core attributes, the following four phrases (or variations thereof) will push you higher on the EQ charts:

  • "Let me think about that and get back to you." (Considering circumstances)
  • "I'm a little worked up right now. I made need a minute to calm down." (Recognizing one's own emotional state)
  • "I'm going to take a breather. It will help me clear my head." (Regulating emotions)
  • "It seems like you're happy/upset/angry/etc. about something. Can you tell me what you're thinking/feeling before we move forward?" (Identifying feelings and responding accordingly)

Here's why words matter: As studies have shown, using specific words has a direct and immediate effect on our emotional responses. So, while you may think you need the qualities of an emotionally intelligent person before you start using the phrases above, it actually works the other way around, too: Use the right language consistently and it frames how you view the world and engage with other people.

Why is this important for leaders? Employees work best when they feel valued and engaged by those at the top. As McKinsey & Co. reported, the top three reasons for employees leaving a job were: not feeling valued by their organization, not feeling valued by managers, and not feeling a sense of belonging at work.

It's easy to change this: Start using high-EQ phrases that build value-based, mutually supportive relationships.