If you always use these 12 phrases, you’re more emotionally intelligent than most




As someone who has spent over 25 years researching and writing about emotional intelligence, I can say that being emotionally intelligent is highly beneficial. In my latest book "Optimal," I discuss how emotionally intelligent individuals are more likely to be high performers, engaged in their work, satisfied, and in a good mood at work.


The hallmarks of emotional intelligence can be broken down into four key domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Within these domains, there are a dozen specific competencies that distinguish top performers, both on teams and as leaders. These include emotional self-awareness, emotional self-control, adaptability, achievement orientation, positive outlook, empathy, organizational awareness, influence, conflict management, inspirational leadership, coaching and mentoring, and teamwork.


So in short, I would hope that your speech and behavior would demonstrate that you are emotionally intelligent. This type of emotional intelligence is a major asset in the workplace and in life. 

12 core traits of emotional intelligence
Key Step Media / Daniel Goleman

Here are 12 phrases that emotionally intelligent people tend to think or say regularly — each reflects strength in one of the 12 competencies. 

1. ‘I can handle this’ 

Emotional intelligence competency: Self-management (self-control)

No matter how stressful or upsetting your life, excellence in self-management — and in emotional self-control in particular — means you can keep disruptive emotions like anger or anxiety from getting in the way of what you have to do at the moment. And if you do get upset, you recover quickly.

2. ‘I can get better and so can you’ 

Emotional intelligence competency: Self-management (positive outlook)

Rather than assuming you or someone else is only as good at a particular skill or task as they seem at the moment, you realize everyone — you included — can get better with guidance and practice. 

This positive outlook lets you roll with the punches in life and lets you see the opportunities even in setbacks.

3. ‘I’m excited about this change’ 

Emotional intelligence competency: Self-management (adaptability)

You’re able to navigate uncertainty and adapt to changes instead of being rigid in how you respond. You’re eager to learn new ways of doing and being.

4. ‘This is what really matters’ 

Emotional intelligence competency: Self-management (achievement orientation)

Keeping your eye on your big-picture goal, despite the distractions of the day, helps you achieve it.

5. ‘I have these thoughts because … ’ 

Emotional intelligence competency: Self-awareness

Having self-awareness means you understand what triggers your moods and how they make you think, feel, and want to act. You can recognize, for example, when your thoughts stem from feelings of anger, anxiety, or sadness.  

Self-awareness is a prerequisite for better emotional self-control and self-management more broadly. 

6. ‘I get it—and I care about you’ 

Emotional intelligence competency: Social awareness (empathy)

There are three kinds of empathy: 

  • Knowing how someone thinks about what’s going on
  • Sensing their feelings
  • Having concern for that person

Together, these three aspects of empathy build closeness and trust in any relationship.

7. ‘So that’s how things work around here’ 

Emotional intelligence competency: Social awareness (organizational awareness)

Knowing who makes the decisions you care about offers you a key to the crucial dynamics of your organization. If you understand who’s involved and how things work, you’re often able to have influence. 

8. ‘What if you tried doing it this way?’ 

Emotional intelligence competency: Relationship management (influence)

You know how to convince someone to see things your way. You don’t command, but rather suggest, how a person might do something better. 

9. ‘That means so much because … ’ 

Emotional intelligence competency: Relationship management (inspirational leadership)

Outstanding leaders get the best efforts out of others by speaking about a shared purpose from the heart to the heart, in a way that resonates.

10. ‘We can work this out’ 

Emotional intelligence competency: Relationship management (conflict management)

Talent at handling conflict means you don’t ignore it, can listen to all perspectives, and come up with win-win solutions.

11. ‘We have each other’s backs’ 

Emotional intelligence competency: Relationship management (teamwork)

Feeling like we belong and having a sense of psychological safety on our team means we can give our best efforts and take risks to be innovative without fear of being ostracized or put down.

No matter what your role on the team, you know how to pitch in and collaborate, sharing both responsibilities and rewards. 

12. ‘This could help you’ 

Emotional intelligence competency: Relationship management (coaching and mentoring)

Coaching or mentoring is a key part of helping develop leaders for the future, strengthening your team and organization in the long run. You do it by giving feedback, offering support, and motivating people to learn and grow. 

Keep honing your emotional intelligence 

The more these phrases come up in your mind, the more emotionally intelligent you already are and the better your performance is likely to be. 

Each of us has strengths and limits across these 12 must-have EI competencies. To find out yours I recommend a “360” assessment — where people you know and trust rate you anonymously. It’s the best way to see your own EI profile. You can try the Emotional and Social Competence Inventory.

You might not be a natural in every competency that makes up emotional intelligence. But understanding EI as a broad set of skills and abilities and getting a snapshot of where you stand on each one will help you see what you can build on and where you have room to grow.

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