People with ‘low emotional intelligence’ always use these 7 phrases, says Harvard psychologist

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Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive and evaluate feelings accurately in ourselves and in others.

The most emotionally intelligent people can access and evoke emotion, understand non-verbal cues, and regulate their feelings to build stronger relationships. As a Harvard-trained psychologist, I’ve seen firsthand how this is key to long-term professional and personal success.

So how can you tell if you need to work on these skills? If you use any of these seven phrases, you may have low emotional intelligence:

1. “I’m not changing. This is who I am.”

Emotional intelligence is associated with an ability to change over time as you learn and grow.

People with low emotional intelligence are often more rigid and will fight efforts to shift or evolve. Strong convictions are important, but so is being open to new possibilities.

What to say instead: “I need to think more about what you’re saying. I want to be open to feedback about myself, even when it’s hard to hear.”

2. “I don’t care how you feel.”

Having a blatant disregard for other people’s feelings is a sign of low emotional intelligence.

Displaying a lack of empathy for others, especially when they are going through a tough time, makes it hard to develop mutually beneficial, supportive relationships.

What to say instead: “I’m sorry to hear you’re feeling upset. How can I be helpful to you right now?” 

3. “It’s your fault I’m feeling this way.”

People with strong emotional intelligence don’t blame the outside world for their feelings. They understand that their emotions are linked to how they internally perceive their circumstances.

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Our emotions are not someone else’s responsibility to fix. They’re an opportunity to understand ourselves and set boundaries.

What to say instead: “I’m feeling very emotional right now. My perception of the situation is that …”

4. “You’re just wrong.”

When given feedback, emotionally intelligent people will make the effort to look for nuance.

Instead of getting stuck in extremes, they focus more on understanding the other person’s lived experience.

What to say instead: “I want to hear your perspective even when I don’t see things the way you do. Can you help me understand why you’re feeling this way?”

5. “Stop being crazy!”

Being able to hear someone else’s experience without overreacting or taking it personally is a key sign of emotional intelligence. It means that you have a high sense of self-awareness and self-esteem.

What to say instead: “I understand you’re really struggling right now. Although I hear that you’re upset with me, I think that your reaction may have more to do with your past than it does with what I’m doing right now. Do you think that’s true?”

6. “I can’t forgive you.”

Emotionally intelligent people can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. This makes them more open to forgive the other person for any perceived mistakes, compared to someone who is less secure.

What to say instead: “I’m having a hard time forgiving you right now. But I’m actively working to let go of this resentment and anger, because I’d like us to be able to repair this and move forward.”

7. “Your feelings are irrational.” 

People who are emotionally intelligent can interrogate their feelings, step outside themselves, and analyze the rational and irrational aspects of their thoughts.

They are also good at acknowledging other people’s feelings, even if they don’t quite get where they are coming from.

What to say instead: “I hear that you have strong emotions right now, and they are valid. I don’t fully understand why you feel this way or agree with your perspective on this situation, but I want to. Can you tell me more?”

Dr. Cortney S. Warren, PhD, is a board-certified psychologist and author of the new book “Letting Go of Your Ex.” She specializes in romantic relationships, addictive behavior, and honesty. She received her clinical training at Harvard Medical School after earning her doctorate in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter @DrCortneyWarren.

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