Emotional Intelligence (or Emotional Quotient, AKA “E.Q.”) is becoming one of those management sound bites, where everyone knows the answer, but not so many know the meaning. You know what I mean: someone says something like, “We’ve all got to be really emotionally intelligent about this, right?” and everyone nods and goes right, yeah, we do…


So how do you know when you’ve actually got emotional intelligence? What should you work on to improve your emotional intelligence? It’s clearly a good thing to have, right up there with authenticity and resilience and the ability to be strategic. But what is it, really?


Here are five signs which, in my entirely personal view, say you’re emotionally intelligent.


Sign number one: Integrity

When someone asks you: “What are your values?” And you don’t have to make stuff up. These days we are increasingly being challenged by people who want to know about our personal values. If you’re emotionally intelligent, you’re self-aware, and self-aware people know what matters to them, so this question holds no fear for them. They have deeply held values: values they have thought through and chosen for themselves. Ones from which they won’t be shifted; values that will transcend any situation or circumstance, and provide a template for life.


Sign number two: Humility

You actually seek out feedback. We all know we’re supposed to like feedback – thrive on it – grow ever healthier on a rich mix of formal and informal constructively critical feedback. But truth be told, if you’re not emotionally intelligent, you probably don’t really have the stomach for it. You’ll say you like it because you know you’re supposed to (a bit like spinach or Brussels sprouts). But you don’t. And most of the time you don’t accept it or trust it either. On the other hand, if you are emotionally intelligent, you’re grounded enough to know that real self-awareness can’t only be inside-out; it has to be outside-in as well. When Socrates said the unexamined life wasn’t worth living, he didn’t just mean you examining yourself; he meant you examining what others thought and felt about you too. The emotionally intelligent know that what others think or feel or experience about you is critical to understand, examine, and absorb.

if you’re emotionally intelligent, you know that real self-awareness can’t only be inside-out – it has to be outside-in as well.

Sign number three: Self-reflection

You critically self-reflect. This doesn’t mean you seek some sort of Zen-like state of contemplative peace. Though that’s nice too. It means you know who you are and who you strive to be. So every day, or maybe every week, you sit yourself down, look at yourself in a metaphorical mirror and ask:

“Was I today/this week the person I want to be?”

Now, if the answer is “no,” you need to ask “why not?” What made you someone you didn’t want to be? Did you get angry or jealous or self-indulgent or spiteful or lazy? Did you ignore your values? In what way did you fail to take responsibility for yourself? Because that’s what emotionally intelligent people do: they reflect and they take responsibility, and then they change the things they need to change so they spend more time being the person they know themselves to be.

Sign number four: Thoughtfulness

You choose your words carefully. When you’re emotionally intelligent you realize that if you don’t take responsibility for what you say and how you say it, you can do immeasurable, unintentional harm. But do you do this, really? Because when you do take responsibility, you realize just how alert you have to be about what you say, and that’s because others (as well as you yourself) can hold you to account. It’s also the case that if you take responsibility for what you say, you’ll be more emotionally honest and have more conversations that reflect your values and the things that matter to you. So, the more emotionally intelligent you are, the more careful you are about what you say. And so people can rely on what you say being what you mean.


Sign number five: Attentiveness

You actually listen. And you listen actively. Way too many of us are bad listeners! We don’t even attempt to listen to understand. We simply listen to reply. And just as often as not, we use the time that the other person is talking to gather our thoughts for our reply. But the emotionally intelligent among us realize that there are few things quite as compelling as being listened to attentively. So they give eye contact to the person who’s talking; they give undivided attention to the words and obvious consideration to the meaning and intent behind those words. The outcome is an exchange in which the speaker feels listened to, respected, and understood and the quality of the communication is vastly improved.

Where did you land on the emotionally intelligent spectrum?

So, how did you do? Don’t despair. Remember that the skills of emotional intelligence can be absorbed by anyone with the willingness to learn. Emotional Intelligence is about controlling and expressing your emotions in a constructive manner so that you can manage interpersonal relationships better. You’ll become more self-aware, more socially aware, better at self-management, and better at building relationships. And when you think about it like that, it’s probably worth the effort.


Hult’s Global One-Year MBA and Executive MBA programs have a strong focus on soft skills so that Hult graduates truly know themselves and grow into effective leaders. Find out more about our programs and our award-winning leadership track by Downloading a brochure here.


More on this subject

How Hult helps develop your E.Q. by Hult student Lisa Paredes

Why every leader needs a growth mindset by Hult faculty Dr. Samineh Shaheem

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