Emotional intelligence (EQ) has become one of the most in-demand skills, with 71% of employers now saying they value EQ over IQ. It’s easy to see why. Yale research shows that people with high EQs are more likely to remain calm under pressure, expertly resolve workplace conflict and respond to colleagues with empathy.
But beyond the benefits for companies, a high EQ can also skyrocket career prospects. One study found that 90% of top performers have high EQs. In fact, people who demonstrate this competency earn, on average, $29,000 per year more than people with low EQs.
Here are 6 workplace habits that show you’ve got more emotional intelligence than you give yourself credit for.
#1: You believe in life-long learning
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” - Henry Ford
People with high EQs relish the opportunity to grow and learn. They understand that, with hard work and dedication, they can hone new skills, reach their goals and improve their workplace performance.
In essence, they foster a growth mindset: the belief that talent and skills are cultivated through effort rather than just innate ability.
In the workplace, channeling a growth mindset looks like putting your hand up for new opportunities, remaining open-minded to different ideas and perspectives and regularly stepping out of your comfort zone.
#2: You’ve unlocked the power of vulnerability
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it's having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it's our greatest measure of courage.” - Brene Brown
We all know the stereotype of the ‘successful’ leader who is unshakably stoic. They’re cold-hearted. They never show weakness. They prize rationality over emotions. But, actually, research shows that vulnerability is vital to creating psychological safety in the workplace.
Emotionally intelligent people get this. They understand that vulnerability isn’t a weakness; it’s a superpower. They’re adept at admitting their errors, sharing without oversharing and creating a space where their colleagues feel they can bring their true selves to work – fears, mistakes and all.
So, if you realize the strength of showing your weaknesses, and hold space for your colleagues to do the same, then this signals you’ve got a solid EQ.
#3: You see the gift in feedback
“Examine what is said and not who speaks.” - African proverb
Feedback is a bristly topic. Most of us don’t like to give it or receive it. There’s a reason for this. Science shows that our brains automatically see negative feedback as a threat. It’s a primal instinct that’s impossible to override!
Despite this, people with high EQs are able to temper their responses to feedback. Rather than flying off the handle or taking constructive criticism personally and getting upset, they practice critical thinking, taking away valuable lessons from the feedback they’ve received.
You can tell you’ve mastered this skill if you’re able to go into appraisal meetings with an awareness that you’re going to feel nervous, but manage to regulate your emotions and find the learning opportunities in the discussion.
#4: You can calm yourself down when the going gets tough
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” - Maya Angelou
Workplace stress is, unfortunately, inevitable. Deadlines, managerial pressures and tiredness can all impact our emotional states, causing us to feel flustered, anxious and uptight.
But while people with low EQs allow these negative sentiments to get on top of them, people with high ones understand that their reactions are within their control. Of course, they honor and accept their feelings, but they don’t let their bad moods turn into bad days. They know how to control their behavior and choose responses that align with their long-term goals and values.
At work, this often looks like keeping a cool head when working under pressure, even though you initially felt panicky inside. It’s also the ability to recover from negative emotions and make light of bad situations, such as making a mistake at work.
#5: You’re mindful of work/life balance
“Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” - Dolly Parton
As you’ll find in our emotional intelligence test, one of the hallmarks of a high EQ is strong psychological wellbeing, which is your level of psychological, emotional and social prosperity.
Those with high EQs understand that life is about balance. They know that to feel their best, they need to look after their mind and body. Work is important to their sense of purpose, but so is socializing for their mental health and regularly attending the gym to keep healthy.
While work/life balance can be hard to consistently achieve, if you actively try to look after yourself holistically and nurture your close relationships, it shows your EQ is higher than you realize!
#6: You compassionately read between the lines
“Listen with your eyes as well as your ears.” - Graham Speechley
Emotionally intelligent people aren’t just good at regulating their moods, they’re also well-versed in picking up on others' emotional experiences, tuning into unspoken social cues like body language and facial expressions.
Because of this capability, people with high EQs are fantastic at reading between the lines, analyzing not just what’s been said, but underlying emotions and motivations. This often makes them great workplace managers and confidants, helping them to discern and respond to colleagues’ emotional needs, even when they haven’t been vocalized.
If you find it comes naturally to interpret other people’s emotional states and know how to show your colleagues empathy and compassion, this is a great sign of a high EQ.
Does this sound like you?
If you practice these 6 qualities in the workplace, chances are you have a high EQ. But even if these traits sound alien to you, the good news is EQ is a skill. It can always be learnt and enhanced.
Keen to boost yours? Our emotional intelligence test is a great way to gauge your EQ and identify areas for improvement.