Sophia, a good friend of mine, is the type of woman almost any man would love to have in his life. It’s not just for her appearance, but for how she behaves when in a relationship.
Also, Sophia has a high level of what we more commonly call emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence generally refers to the ability to identify and manage your own emotions — and place yourself in other people’s shoes. It includes a few skills, such as perceiving other people’s emotions, regulating your own, discussing feelings, and helping others do the same thing.
Thanks to their core traits, such as empathy and self-awareness, emotionally intelligent people are usually great partners. What follows are a few things they tend to do differently in relationships — and also what makes them so special.
They Understand How You Feel and then Behave Accordingly
Years ago, Sophia was in a relationship with Jake, a guy she met at college. He valued a lot his alone time. For him, spending time apart from Sophia was as important as their time together.
What he loved about Sophia is not only that she respected this need, but she was also able to recognize when he wanted some space and proactively left him alone. He never had to ask to have some me time.
According to an article published in Very Well Mind, the ability to perceive emotions, to understand how others feel, and to behave accordingly — especially in a relationship — is a skill emotionally intelligent people have in common.
Also, behaving in a certain way according to how your partner feels is an act of kindness towards them.
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. — Leo Buscaglia
How to apply this:
Understanding other people’s emotions is not easy. However, a great way to know how your partner is feeling is simply by asking them. Remind them they can be honest with you because you’re not going to judge them. If they don’t want to share their feeling, don’t insist.
If they share how they’re feeling, behave accordingly. For example, if they tell you they feel angry or sad about something that happened at work, ask them if they need to be alone or if they want to talk about it. Then, respect their choice.
They Are Able to Regulate Their Emotions
My friend Sophia rarely says things she regrets, because she is in control of her emotions and doesn’t let them rule her life and relationships.
The ability to control your own emotions is central to emotional intelligence — and it’s essential to healthy relationships. Being aware of your emotions is great, however, you also need to learn how to manage them. Emotionally intelligent people have the ability to think before acting on their feelings.
As Arlin Cuncic explains in an article published in Very Well Mind, regulating your emotions is a skill that involves taking a pause between a feeling and an action — and a lack of self-regulation can cause problems in life.
Emotionally intelligent partners are not perfect at regulating their emotions, however, they tend to follow this process: they listen to what they feel, take their time to process their emotions and to think, and then, decide what to say or what to do.
How to apply this:
Regulating your emotions is challenging for anyone, even for emotionally intelligent people. However, it’s a skill anyone can develop and improve over time. Whenever an emotion makes you feel uncomfortable, take a moment to identify it.
Then, if you can, take your time to process your emotions before acting on them, think about the options you have and consider the respective consequences.
Tomás, a co-worker, once told me that whenever he had an argument with his girlfriend, instead of texting her, he opened the Notes app on his iPhone and started writing whatever was crossing his mind. That helped him blow off steam and clear his mind. That helped him take his time and avoid acting impulsively.
I’ve always found his piece of advice brilliant.
They are Willing and Able to Discuss Feelings with You
Some people are empathetic and in control of their emotions, but struggle to actually share these feelings with their partner.
According to a study published in BioMedical Central, a peer-reviewed journal, emotionally intelligent people are not only able to understand and identify their feelings, but they also know how to express them appropriately.
When it comes to relationships, this is an essential skill because healthy communication is key to intimacy and to creating a deep emotional connection with your partner.
How to apply this:
Sometimes discussing our feelings with others — especially with our partner — can be difficult simply because we struggle to identify what we feel in the first place. We often find it hard to label our emotions, and that can make it difficult to externalize them.
As per the previous points, the best thing you can do before discussing your feelings with your partner is to take your time to actually understand how you’re feeling. Take a pen and a piece of paper if you need it, or, as my friend Tomás suggested, write everything on your phone. It will help clear your mind.
They Listen to You Until You Feel Understood
My friend Sophia is a great listener, and this has always helped her build good and healthy relationships.
She is now in a relationship with Adam, and she said that listening to him and asking the right questions always helps her when conflict arises, because it makes him feel understood.
When she feels something’s wrong, she always tries to understand what’s behind his words or actions and puts herself in his shoes. This helped her develop a strong bond with him. Her behavior also set an example that, over time, encouraged and inspired Adam to behave in the same way with her.
People with a high level of emotional intelligence know how important it is to listen to their partner. When it comes to love, being willing to listen and to receive their feedback is key to build and nurture a healthy relationship.
How to apply this:
Stephen Covey said that most of us listen with the intent to reply instead of listening to understand the person in front of us. In his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey explains that one essential habit everyone should learn is seeking first to understand and then to be understood.
And I couldn’t agree more with this. In fact, I mentioned this point in other articles as well because — at least for me — listening with the intent to understand is the foundation upon which you can build healthy relationships.
Learn to slow down and listen to your partner to understand them, before even thinking of what you need to say; relationships are not about what you need, they’re all about mutual respect and understanding each other.
When you make your partner feel understood, you are opening a communication channel that was probably closed or where your voice somehow didn’t fit. It’s by paying attention and understanding first, that you will also be listened to.
When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion. — Dale Carnegie
Understanding other people’s feelings and behaving accordingly, regulating their own emotions, discussing feelings with you, and listening until you feel understood, are all things partners with a high level of emotional intelligence tend to have in common.
Emotional intelligence can be developed by virtually anyone. It’s not easy, it takes time, it involves a lot of self-reflection, but it’s a path worth pursuing, as it can help you build healthy relationships — and most importantly it strengthens your relationship with yourself.