How To Become An Emotionally Intelligent Person

Matt Lillywhite

Photo by Annika Palmari on Unsplash

I know exactly how you feel.

I can tell that you want to make friends with anyone and live each day with a beautiful sense of optimism. But for one reason or another, you have no idea how to start.

Let me begin by saying you’re capable of achieving a much better life than you think. But before I continue this article, I need to drop some truth bombs:

  • You don’t need to be extremely good looking to have amazing relationships.
  • You don’t need to have an incredible sense of confidence to make friends with anyone.
  • You don’t need to wear designer clothes to gain approval or validation from other people.

The above points are contrary to what most people think. But if you’re reading this article, I can safely assume you’re not like most people. Are you?

Quite rightly, you want the best for yourself. You want to improve your friendships, relationships, and every other important aspect of your life that matters.

Fortunately, there’s a solution to your current state of unhappiness. It’s called emotional intelligence. So if you want to begin the process of changing your life forever, you first need to change your actions.

Here’s how.

Listen To Other People With Intent

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” — Epictetus

When you understand how to listen intentionally to someone, the quality of your relationship will exponentially improve. Because when you genuinely care about what people say, they’ll probably reciprocate.

The truth is that most people don’t know how to have a conversation. Sure, they might hear what you say. But more often than not, they’re not listening. Instead, they’re just trying to come up with a reply.

This is something I see throughout my daily life. All too often, people take more interest in themselves than other people. So naturally, they don’t have great relationships.

That doesn’t surprise me.

But here’s the thing: when you listen with intent during conversations, every single one of your relationships will change for the better. Perhaps this is what Dale Carnegie meant when he said:

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Maybe you’re like my past-self. You want to make friends with anyone you meet. But for one reason or another, you struggle to maintain a conversation, as you regularly run out of things to say.

It’s no secret that most people enjoy talking about themselves more than other people. So instead of speaking about your own life, consider asking some open-ended questions about the other person. For example:

  • What’s your story?
  • If you could restart life, what would you do differently?
  • What book had the greatest impact on your life?

You get the idea. When you take an interest in other people during a conversation, they’ll naturally want to take an interest in you.

Be Empathetic To The Feelings Of Others

“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.” — Walt Whitman

I’ve learned that empathy is, by definition, the ability to understand and share the feelings of other people. So if you want to improve the quality of a relationship, being empathetic to how they feel is an excellent place to start.

When you genuinely care about others, I’ve found that it’s much easier to build trust, intimacy, and many other things that are vital to a healthy relationship.

For example, you could focus on the positive actions of your partner instead of concentrating on the characteristics that annoy you. Alternatively, you might want to consider someone’s point of view during an argument and try to understand how they got to a specific conclusion.

If you aren’t empathetic in your relationships, they’ll be mediocre at best. So if you want to fulfill your potential, take a moment to understand how people feel & why they think a certain way.

Learn To Control Any Negative Thoughts

“Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.” — Seneca

Emotionally intelligent people know that if you don’t learn to control negative thoughts, they’ll be in control of you. In addition to destroying your mindset, a pessimistic attitude towards life can also put significant strain on your relationships with other people.

For example, you might become irritable, irrational, and have a desire to get into arguments more frequently. So if you want to improve your life, it’s vital to understand any triggers for negative thoughts, so you can prevent them from affecting you in the future.

Over the past few months, I’ve learned to control my thoughts and restrain myself from doing anything impulsive that might harm my relationships. Although it isn’t always easy to remain calm, I’ve recognized that an argument with someone is likely to last much longer than a temporary feeling of anger.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying to ignore anything that goes through your mind. That would be stupid. But if you can prevent negative thoughts from affecting interactions with other people, the quality of your relationships will undoubtedly benefit as a result.

Accept The Things You Can’t Control

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” — Epictetus

I’ve noticed that most people can’t help but worry about circumstances they cannot control. But emotionally intelligent people are smart about how they handle their emotions.

Because once you accept that you can’t control everything in life, you’ll have much more time & energy to focus on the things you can. For example:

  • You can’t change the circumstances you’ve been given in life. But you can always try to improve your situation and create a happier future.
  • You cannot control what other people think, do, or say. But you can always control your reaction to them, and how you respond to any negative comments.
  • You can’t change any lockdown restrictions caused by the global pandemic. However, you can use the extra time indoors to spend more time with your family and do anything else that matters to you.

Thousands of years ago, the Stoics called this concept “Amor Fati” (a love of fate). Without even realizing it, we often wish for our circumstances to be different. But if you spend your emotional energy worrying about things you cannot change, you’re not allowing yourself to focus on what you can. Ryan Holiday said it best:

“There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself, and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”

Like you, I want to make friends with anyone and live each day with a sense of optimism. So when I began implementing these habits, my relationships massively improved.

It’s important to remember that your level of emotional intelligence isn’t going to go from zero to one hundred overnight. But once you take steps towards becoming more emotionally intelligent each day, the quality of your relationships will quickly improve for the better.

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Matt Lillywhite publishes national news and local stories. He can be reached via email at


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