When emotional intelligence first appeared to the masses, it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time. This anomaly threw a massive wrench into what many people had always assumed was the sole source of success\u2014IQ. Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack.\r\n\r\nHow much of an impact does emotional intelligence (EQ) have on your professional success? The short answer is: a lot! It\u2019s a powerful way to focus your energy in one direction with a tremendous result. Of all the people we\u2019ve studied at work, we've found that 90% of top performers have high EQs. You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but the chances are slim.\r\n\r\nEmotional intelligence is the \u201csomething\u201d in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is made up of four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence.\r\n\r\nPersonal competence\u00a0comprises your self-awareness and self-management skills, which focus more on you individually than on your interactions with other people. Personal competence is your ability to stay aware of your emotions and manage your behavior and tendencies.\r\n\r\n \tSelf-Awareness\u00a0is your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen.\r\n \tSelf-Management\u00a0is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behavior.\r\n\r\nSocial competence\u00a0is made up of your social awareness and relationship management skills; social competence is your ability to understand other people\u2019s moods, behavior, and motives in order to respond effectively and improve the quality of your relationships.\r\n\r\n \tSocial Awareness\u00a0is your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on.\r\n \tRelationship Management\u00a0is your ability to use awareness of your emotions and the others\u2019 emotions to manage interactions successfully.\r\n\r\nDespite the significance of emotional intelligence, its intangible nature makes it very difficult to know which behaviors you should emulate. So I\u2019ve analyzed the data from the million-plus people\u00a0TalentSmart\u00a0has tested in order to identify the habits that set high-EQ people apart.\r\n\r\nThey\u2019re relentlessly positive.\u00a0Keep your eyes on the news for any length of time, and you\u2019ll see that it\u2019s just one endless cycle of war, violent attacks, fragile economies, failing companies, and environmental disasters. It\u2019s easy to think the world is headed downhill fast. And who knows? Maybe it is. But emotionally intelligent people don\u2019t worry about that because they don\u2019t get caught up in things they can\u2019t control. They focus their energy on directing the two things that are completely within their power\u2014their attention and their effort. Numerous studies have shown that optimists are physically and psychologically healthier than pessimists. They also perform better at work. Remind yourself of this the next time a negative train of thought takes hold of you.\r\n\r\nThey have a robust emotional vocabulary.\u00a0All people experience emotions, but it is a select few who can accurately identify them as they occur. Our research shows that only 36% of people can do this, which is problematic because unlabeled emotions often go misunderstood, which leads to irrational choices and counterproductive actions. People with high EQs master their emotions because they understand them, and they use an extensive vocabulary of feelings to do so. While many people might describe themselves as simply feeling \u201cbad,\u201d emotionally intelligent people can pinpoint whether they feel \u201cirritable,\u201d \u201cfrustrated,\u201d \u201cdowntrodden,\u201d or \u201canxious.\u201d The more specific your word choice, the better insight you have into exactly how you are feeling, what caused it, and what you should do about it.\r\n\r\nThey\u2019re assertive.\u00a0People with high EQs balance good manners, empathy, and kindness with the ability to assert themselves and establish boundaries. This tactful combination is ideal for handling conflict. When most people are crossed, they default to passive or aggressive behavior. Emotionally intelligent people remain balanced and assertive by steering themselves away from unfiltered emotional reactions. This enables them to neutralize difficult and toxic people without creating enemies.\r\n\r\nThey\u2019re curious about other people.\u00a0It doesn\u2019t matter if they\u2019re introverted or extroverted, emotionally intelligent people are curious about everyone around them. This curiosity is the product of empathy, one of the most significant gateways to a high EQ. The more you care about other people and what they\u2019re going through, the more curiosity you\u2019re going to have about them.\r\n\r\nThey\u00a0forgive, but they don\u2019t\u00a0forget.\u00a0Emotionally intelligent people live by the motto \u201cFool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.\u201d They forgive in order to prevent a grudge, but they never forget. The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Holding on to that stress can have devastating health consequences, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs. However, offering forgiveness doesn\u2019t mean they\u2019ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Emotionally intelligent people will not be bogged down by mistreatment from others, so they quickly let things go and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.\r\n\r\nThey won\u2019t let anyone limit their joy.\u00a0When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they\u2019ve done, they won\u2019t let anyone\u2019s opinions or accomplishments take that away from them. While it\u2019s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don\u2019t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people\u2019s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain\u2014you\u2019re never as good or bad as they say you are.\r\n\r\nThey are difficult to offend.\u00a0If you have a firm grasp of whom you are, it\u2019s difficult for someone to say or do something that gets your goat. Emotionally intelligent people are self-confident and open-minded, which creates a pretty thick skin.\r\n\r\nThey quash negative self-talk.\u00a0A big step in developing emotional intelligence involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that\u2014thoughts, not facts. You can stop the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says by writing them down. Once you\u2019ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity. You can bet that your statements aren\u2019t true any time you use words such as \u201cnever,\u201d \u201cworst,\u201d and \u201cever.\u201d If your statements still look like facts once they\u2019re on paper, take them to a friend and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out.\r\n\r\nBringing It All Together\r\n\r\nUnlike your IQ, your EQ is highly malleable. As you train your brain by repeatedly practicing new emotionally intelligent behaviors, your brain builds the pathways needed to make them into habits. Before long, you will begin responding to your surroundings with emotional intelligence without even having to think about it. And as your brain reinforces the use of new behaviors, the connections supporting old, destructive behaviors will die off.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAbout The Author\r\n\r\nDr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book,\u00a0Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of\u00a0TalentSmart, the world\u2019s leading provider of\u00a0emotional intelligence tests\u00a0and\u00a0training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.