Adaptable people have a way of making everything look easy: They’re calm while everyone else is overwhelmed, they’re quick to embrace change and make the most of it, and when the stakes run high, they always seem to rise to the occasion.

Research from the University of London confirms that much of what we see in adaptable people is true: they really do handle their stress more effectively, make less mistakes in their work, and outperform their coworkers.

Being adaptable isn’t an unreachable trait that you’re either born with or not. Many of the behaviors that make someone “adaptable” are closely tied to the personal competence side of emotional intelligence (EQ). By practicing the right EQ strategies and developing better habits, you can teach yourself to respond more nimbly to the all the curveballs the world throws. To help get you started, we did some digging to uncover the key behaviors that emotionally intelligent people engage in that make them so adaptable. Here are eight of the best.

They label their emotions in real time. Uncertainty, fear of change, frustration, and anxiety are often treated as “enemies” of adaptability. When you think about it though, adaptable people experience the same emotions as everyone else—that’s human nature. The difference is in how they process these emotions. One of the healthiest and most practical ways to stay on top of negative emotions, and one adaptable people live by, is to learn to recognize and label your emotions in real time. Research shows that people who are skilled at labeling their emotions are more flexible in their management of negative emotions, better at handling fear and anxiety, and less likely to have angry outbursts. All the calm and cool that we see in adaptable people begins when they first experience their emotions and acknowledge them with intention.

They don’t suppress their emotions. They drill deeper. Rather than shove their emotions down, adaptable people acknowledge their emotions as indicative of something bigger and drill deeper to learn more. Leaving an emotion alone “until it goes away” is like the famous study where psychologists told people not to think about a white bear—it will actually make you think incessantly about that emotion (or white bear). Emotions are valuable information that can cue us into our tendencies and perspectives. Exploring your emotions as they arrive comes with an added bonus: those emotions end up taking less of your time and get out of your way in the long run.

They practice self-care. When the world gets overwhelming and fickle, adaptable people are sure to create as much stability as possible in their personal lives. They practice physical, psychological, social, and spiritual self-care. Things like a healthy diet, exercise, good sleep habits, prayer, meditation, or some time to reflect all go a long way to bring more positive emotions into your life. They also bring a sense of internal peace among all the external chaos.

They’re open and curious about the world. In times of stress and change, it’s all too easy to get bogged down by negative possibilities. One of the best ways to prevent negative “what-ifs” from bringing you down is to consider all the possibilities for learning and growth in the face of a challenge. Adaptable people stay as open and curious as possible because they know that “differences” and “change” can often be powerful catalysts for improvement and growth.

They act fast…Failure is the best way to learn. Adaptable people know, perhaps better than anyone, that to weather the storms of change you have to be prepared to act fast and fail. In a famous spaghetti experiment, researchers pitted teams of kindergarteners against teams of MBA students in a spaghetti tower building contest. While the MBA students plotted out their approach, assigned roles, and talked strategy, the kindergarteners got to work putting spaghetti together until their tower fell then adjusting their approach. Time and again, kindergarteners won, building taller towers than the MBA students. The difference was simply that they jumped to action and learned from their mistakes as they went.

…But they’re also sure to set aside time for reflection. One of the biggest differences between adults and children is our ability to think critically and reflect. So, while we there’s a nice lesson to be had from children, adaptable people also take the time to get more intentional after the fact. They carve out time each day to reflect and learn from the work they’ve done. Setting aside time, even as little as fifteen or thirty minutes, can help you learn and grow faster. It’s often the difference between “working hard” and “working smart.”

They get out of their comfort zone. Adaptable people always seem calm under pressure because they put themselves out there all the time. By leaning into their discomfort constantly, they train themselves to feel okay with failure and mistakes. Now they can get on with working through them.

They’re resilient. What we mean by resilient is “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” We don’t mean that they suppress their emotions or grind through them at the expense of self-care and relationships. The big picture keeps you flexible in the face of change because day-to-day stumbles don’t loom quite so large compared to your end goal.

From Insights to Action. Adaptable people are invaluable. They flow through their work, get your team out of a tight pinch, and spread a sense of calm and fun around the office. Apply as many of their strategies to your own life, as often as you can, and watch your adaptability begin to build! You will feel more calm and more equipped to rise to the challenges that come your way.   

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmartEQ’s products and services, contact TalentSmartEQ at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmarteq.com/contact/.