There is a big difference between someone who is confident and someone who is self-aware, someone who is socially intelligent and someone who is emotionally intelligent. Being skilled in your field or talented with your craft is not emotional intelligence--and this is what so often gets forgotten. In fact, when it comes to discussing skill sets, best practices, leadership habits, etc., the emotional intelligence portion of things tends to get far less spotlight.
A recent chat with fellow Inc. columnist Justin Bariso prompted me to think hard about what makes someone emotionally intelligent. What so often gets misunderstood about emotional intelligence is that it is not simply self-awareness. It is the ability to be aware of both yourself and the other person, at the same time, and understand both parties' emotions separately yet completely.
Here are 5 signs of emotional intelligence:
1. You seek first to understand, then to be understood.
This is the golden rule of emotional intelligence. So much of conflict between people occurs right at this intersection, where one party, or both, rushes to judgment or criticism of the other person's feelings, instead of first seeking to understand where they're coming from.
2. You can recognize your emotional state and actively make moves to improve it.
The people who struggle with emotional intelligence hardly know where they stand at any given moment emotionally, let alone someone else. One of the most important parts of being intelligent in this capacity is knowing, and being able to take responsibility for, your emotional state.
3. You know the difference between how you feel and how someone else says you should feel.
Projection is what happens when people take how they feel and place it on someone else. Those that lack emotional intelligence struggle then to differentiate between how they truly feel and how the other person says they should feel. It's this differentiation that is important.
4. You understand what habits in your life cause you to emotionally react in certain ways.
One of the big challenges people face, and this goes back to how individuals can actually form positive habits in their life, is knowing how they change emotionally depending on the activities they choose. For example: Some people get frustrated every time they do X, and yet continue doing X over and over again, not realizing the habit of their emotional reaction.
5. You can disagree with someone without reacting emotionally.
There is a huge difference between disagreeing with someone and having an emotional discussion that ends in flames. One is productive and one is chaotic. Ending a discussion in agreement isn't required for a dialogue to be positive. People can disagree and still respect each other. It's when people speak from an emotional place that conflict tends to arise.