It's all too easy to lose control of our emotions.

That's why emotional intelligence, known as EI or EQ, is so important.

The ability to identify emotions (in yourself and others), to understand their powerful effect, and to use that information to guide thinking and behavior can greatly increase the chances of successfully achieving your goals.

Like any ability, the skills of emotional intelligence are sharpened with practice. But might you already possess a high EQ without even knowing it?

Take a look at the following statements, and see whether they describe your behavior and habits:

1. You think about feelings — a lot
EI begins with reflection. You ask questions like "Why am I feeling this way?" and "What caused me (or someone else) to say or do that?"

By identifying emotions and reactions, you've become more mindful and use that information to your advantage.

2. You ask others for perspective
You understand that others see you much differently than you see yourself. It's not about right or wrong but rather understanding how perceptions differ.

3. You say thank-you
It's surprising how widespread the lack of common courtesy is nowadays.

But not from you. You recognize the power of those two small words to change someone's day and to strengthen relationships — and that's why you always take a few extra moments to express appreciation.

4. You know when to pause
"The pause" is as simple as taking a moment to stop and think before you act or speak. (Easy in theory; difficult in practice.)

Of course, nobody's perfect. But the pause has prevented you embarrassment on many occasions, made you a better worker, and even saved your relationships.

5. You explore the 'why'
Instead of labeling people, you realize there are reasons behind everyone's behavior.

In trying to develop qualities like empathy and compassion, you work hard to see a situation through another person's eyes. You ask questions like "Why does this person feel this way?" and "What's going on behind the scenes?"

By doing this, you can relate to almost anyone.

6. You're open to criticism
Nobody enjoys receiving negative feedback, including you.

But you know well that much criticism contains at least some element of truth, even when it's not delivered in an ideal manner. Additionally, criticism teaches you much about how others think.

So you keep your emotions in check and learn as much as you can.

7. You constantly consider how others will react
From the moment you meet a person, you're analyzing the him or her. You can't help it.

But all of that observation leads to benefits: You realize that everything you say and do potentially affects others. And that means focusing not just on what you say but on how you say it.

8. You apologize
You know "I'm sorry" can be the two most difficult words to say in the English language. But you also recognize that they are extremely powerful.

By acknowledging your mistakes and apologizing when appropriate, you develop qualities like humility and authenticity and naturally draw others to you.

9. You forgive
While understanding that nobody's perfect, you have learned that refusing to forgive is like leaving a knife in a wound — you never have the chance to heal.

Instead of hanging on to resentment while the offending party moves on with his or her life, you forgive — giving you the chance to move on too.
10. You have an expansive emotional vocabulary

By learning to express your feelings, you increase your ability to understand them. When you're sad, you go deeper in trying to determine why: Am I disappointed? Frustrated? Hurt?

By expanding your active "emotional vocabulary," you gain insight and learn to take action when necessary.

11. You praise sincerely and specifically
By consistently looking for the good in others, and then specifically telling them what you appreciate, you inspire others. They feel good about working with you and are motivated to give their best.

12. You work on controlling your thoughts
It's been said: "You can't stop a bird from landing on your head. But you can keep it from building a nest."

When you experience a negative situation you may not have control over your natural, emotional response.

But you are in control in what happens next: You focus on your thinking.

Instead of dwelling on those feelings and thinking about how unfair the situation is, you turn it into a positive: You develop a plan to move forward.

13. You don't freeze people in time
Judging others too quickly, without taking context and extenuating circumstances into account, is a very bad habit.

In contrast, you're aware that everyone has a bad day or even a bad year. When you refuse to label others, your opinion of them remains fluid and you get the most of your relationships.

14. You analyze your weaknesses
It takes self-reflection, insight, and courage to identify weaknesses. But you won't get better unless you work on them.

By analyzing situations in which you've lost control of your emotions, you develop your strategy for encountering those moments the next time.

15. You know that emotions can be used against you
Just like any ability, emotional intelligence can be used both ethically and unethically. When others increase their skills, they could use that power for manipulative influence.

And that's exactly why you should sharpen your own emotional intelligence — to protect yourself when they do.

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