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In the wonderful Disney film, Inside Out, the plot revolves around five emotions running the minds of the people they inhabit. The emotions are joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust, and the movie provides parents with abundant material to get conversations going with their children about identifying their own emotions.
The older we get, though, the more we discover that our emotions consist of many more — and more complicated — emotions than the basic five. In recent years, psychologists have developed a related concept known as “emotional intelligence.” Although it’s an intriguing idea, it’s harder to quantify emotional intelligence than general intelligence. But here’s where common sense comes into play — you can recognize an emotionally intelligent person when you see one. Writing for Very Well Mind, Kendra Cherry says “Emotionally intelligent people engage in a number of habits and behaviors that contribute to their ability to manage their own emotions and understand the feelings of others. Do you know anyone who is keenly attuned to his or her own feelings, capable of expressing emotions in an appropriate way, as well as empathetic and understanding of how others are feeling? That person is probably a very emotionally intelligent individual.”
Are there other signs of emotional intelligence? Absolutely, and Cherry points to the following indicators.
- “Emotionally intelligent people pay attention to what they are feeling.” Outside of discussions about psychology, this is also known as basic self-awareness. It’s what adults have traditionally described as maturity.
- “They understand how other people feel.” This is what has always been considered empathy, and it’s a critical trait for relating well with others.
- “They are able to regulate their emotions.” A sign of this ability is the tendency to think before acting in response to an emotion.
- “They are motivated.” Although this trait may not be immediately identified with emotional intelligence, it makes sense when you think of it in terms of delayed gratification— the ability to sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term success.
- “They have great social skills.” Dealing well with people is a very predictable sign of someone with high emotional intelligence.
- “They are willing and able to discuss feelings with others.” Being able to identify your emotions is one thing — being able to discuss them with another is often more difficult.
- “They are able to correctly identify the underlying causes of their emotions.” This may be one of the most difficult things for anyone to do — correctly understanding why you’re feeling a certain way.