Emotional Intelligence: The Good, the Bad, and the Feely

Emotional IntelligenceThe more sensitive sibling of the Intelligence Quotient (IQ), emotional intelligence, often abbreviated EI or EQ, has emerged as an additional measure of what employees bring to the table. Put most simply, emotional intelligence measures a person’s ability to recognize and manage their own emotions and the emotions of those around them. This soft skill allows individuals to harness their emotions and utilize them for the task at hand, rather than being immune to them or controlled by them.

As of late, studies have demonstrated that hiring managers are putting more and more emphasis on emotional intelligence, citing that those with high EQ exhibit stronger communication skills, collaboration skills, and overall creativity. Women in the workforce in particular have drawn attention to EQ since their lack of inclusion and acceptance at the boardroom level is often attributed to their emotional instability and lack of “masculine” objectivity. Multiple think-pieces have attempted to reframe women’s more emotional sensitivity not as a weakness, but as a great strength, and research has proved it.

Those with high EQs are infinitely more self-aware of their strengths, weaknesses, performance, and influence on others compared to those with low EQ who can’t “feel” how certain behaviors or actions are perceived by coworkers. To that end, those with high EQs exercise better self-regulation and are more perspicacious concerning how they make others feel with their presence, words, and behavior.

Contrary to what you may think when you hear the phrase “emotional intelligence,” those with high EQs actually react less emotionally to disagreements and criticism than people who lack emotional intelligence. Higher EQ is associated with being able to recognize and control emotions as they arise, so those who can identify and compartmentalize how they’re feeling from the facts at hand function better during disagreements than those who cannot separate the two.

Emotional intelligence is not the measure of a perfect employee, though, and high EQs are associated with some less-than-stellar character traits. For one, those with high EQs are so concerned with how their words make others feel that their ability to deliver negative but necessary feedback is impaired. This hyper-awareness can also inhibit these individuals’ inclination towards taking risks, since their instinct is calm calculations rather than impulsive gut feelings. Similarly, such individuals dislike making unpopular decisions for fear of how they’re perceived and the potential discomfort both they and those affected by those decisions will endure.

Worse yet, individuals with keen emotional intuition could easily use their EQ to manipulate the people around them. Not all with high EQ use their powers for good — sometimes, they use their insight into how certain words and information will make their peers “feel” to forward their own agenda.

Just as with any measure of personality traits, there’s upsides and downsides to emotional intelligence, and the ideal occupation or rank of those with high EQs may time some time to find. EQ should not be viewed as a weakness or a mark of intellectual inferiority; rather, it is a measure of self- and social-awareness and should be viewed as no more or less than that.