Have you ever watched one of those superhero origin stories?
You know what I’m talking about: when the hero first discovers their powers, but they don’t yet know how to control them. Young Clark Kent discovers X-ray vision and super-hearing for the first time—and gets completely disoriented. Or, Peter Parker practicing swinging between buildings—and falls flat on his face.
It’s similar when building emotional intelligence.
Emotions are powerful. Anger, sadness, fear: They can all be overwhelming, leading us to say or do things we later regret.
But those same emotions can be a force for good.
Fear can be paralyzing, but it can also motivate us to flee from a dangerous situation. Sadness is painful, but it can help us to realign our priorities or to take action. And while a bad temper can ruin a relationship, anger exercised in the proper degree and in the right way can inspire needed change.
That’s why, once you start to develop it, you know:
Emotional intelligence is a superpower.
I’ve spent the past several years studying the topic of emotional intelligence in everyday life. Along the way, I learned that emotional intelligence helps you to see many things differently from the rest of the world.
Here are a few examples.
Emotionally intelligent people aren’t afraid of failure. They know success isn’t a single achievement; it’s built on continuous improvement.
And every fall is another opportunity to learn and grow.
When criticized, most people immediately get defensive, shift the blame, or fight back.
But emotional intelligence helps you to see criticism in a different light: It’s simply another person’s perspective. Usually, there’s at least some truth to that perspective, and you can use it to improve.
And even when that perspective is completely off base, it can still help you to see things through the eyes of others—and that makes you better, too.
Empathy is a beautiful quality, and we need more of it in the world.
But it also must be kept in balance. Because if you empathize with everyone else’s feelings without considering your own, you put yourself on a path to burnout.
Emotionally intelligent people recognize thoughts for what they are: chemical reactions within your brain, over which you have a measure of control. Controlling those thoughts will influence the emotions you feel.
So, while you can’t always control when and how you experience an emotion, you can learn to control how long you experience that emotion.
“The design of the brain means that we very often have little or no control over when we are swept by emotion, nor over what emotion it will be. But we can have some say in how long an emotion will last.”
Most people are afraid of silence. If things get too quiet, they fill the moment with noise.
Emotionally intelligent people love silence. They enjoy being alone with their thoughts. They use peaceful moments to recharge. And they savor the chance to think before speaking.
For them, silence isn’t awkward. It’s golden.
Have you ever met someone afraid to express a contrary opinion? Afraid to share their inner thoughts?
Emotional intelligence helps you to learn how to think for yourself. It gives you courage to ask questions. To disagree. To share your true opinion.
Not everyone will appreciate you for that. But the ones who matter will.
“I’m sorry” may be the two most difficult words in any language, but they’re also two of the most valuable. Emotionally intelligent people understand this—so they swallow their pride and apologize when needed.
Because it’s not always about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about valuing your relationship more than your ego.
Saying sorry doesn’t always mean you’re wrong. It means you value your relationship more than your ego.
Similarly, emotional intelligence helps you to see the harm in holding a grudge.
Harboring resentment is like leaving a knife in a wound, never allowing it to heal. It’s like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
But when you forgive and forget, you remove the power others hold over you—and free yourself to move forward with life.
Today, many see humility as a sign of weakness.
But emotional intelligence helps you to see humility as a strength. Recognizing that everyone makes mistakes, you aren’t afraid to admit yours. This puts you in a position of growth.
At the same time, that vulnerability makes you more relatable to others, helping you to build stronger, deeper relationships.
Most people today will break a commitment at the drop of a hat, large or small.
But emotionally intelligent people know that every time they break their word, they put a ding in their reputation. So, they strive to do what they’ve said they’re going to do—even if they don’t feel like it, or if doing so is no longer advantageous.
Because of this, they become known as reliable and trustworthy—qualities that set them apart.
Yes, emotional intelligence helps you to think differently about, well, emotional intelligence.
You see that the process of understanding and managing emotions isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come naturally. Like any ability, it takes skill, practice, and hard work to develop.
But with that time, effort, and practice, you will discover superpowers you didn’t even know you had.