You may not be aware of it. It may be something you wouldn’t really bother to know.
But what does having low emotional intelligence imply? Does having it mean disaster?
To set a bit of groundwork, let’s use the definition of emotional intelligence by John Mayer and Peter Salovey—two people who have made a significant contribution on the subject:
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.
Other definitions of the term have come out, but they all basically have the same gist.
Also, discussions on emotional intelligence won’t be complete without mentioning Daniel Goleman, whose 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” made the term popular to this day.
Having low emotional intelligence could take its toll if you don’t watch out for it. Times may be tough, but you can be tougher. Needless to say, that doesn’t mean you have to deal with everyday life compromising your emotions and wellbeing.
Below are thirteen signs you might be having low emotional intelligence.
1. You consistently perform poorly at work.
Studies show that around 90% of top performers in the workplace have high emotional intelligence, while the bottom 20% of the list also do have the same. Someone with low emotional intelligence may still perform well, but the odds are much lower.
Focus requires managing emotions or feelings that may only get in the way, like what mental focus would also require.
2. You criticize others on every chance you get.
Do you like to gossip? Aside from the truth that a person who gossips with you will also gossip about you, consider this: Criticizing people—whether they know it or not—will never do anyone good. The only exception is, of course, constructive criticism, which could even be delicate at times. Constructive criticisms are usually required in some workplaces—sometimes, only when someone isn’t efficiently working anymore.
In any case, being critical of others is definitely not the way to go.
Proactively finding solutions would be your best immediate response. If you think about it, does creating unnecessary buzz help at all?
Emotional intelligence is about empathy. Everybody lives on the same planet. Why not just help in making it better rather than find fault in others?
3. You just lose it—almost every time.
Some people say anger management doesn’t exist. Well, I also wouldn’t advocate suppressing your emotions. That would simply be impossible. And inhumane. Life is too short to live like a robot.
But what if every word your spouse, or a close friend, or even a stranger, says just irks you, and your mood eventually changes as if you’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed? Do other people, whether inside or outside the house, easily irritate you? Do you easily form mixed emotions when you accidentally eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations? Do you feel offended when someone politely disagrees with your views? Do you hate it when someone offers a hand without you asking for it?
Yes, those could all be a solid sign of low emotional intelligence.
4. You can’t lead, or work in, a team.
Not a leader in your little circle? No problem! Here’s the thing: Leadership skills aren’t always necessarily possessed only by the group leader. You belong to a group or organization for a reason, which, most probably, is what you can uniquely contribute to it—your skills, your character, or your visions. Sure, you may have some reasons for yourself, but joining groups that interest you also means you want to reach out to others, to interact.
And part of that leadership is being able to communicate your mind and heart out. To persuade those who listen. To make them understand a purpose you’re bringing to the table.
If you can’t do all that due to your inability to manage your emotions, then think twice if you happen to be literally offered a managerial opportunity.
Leaders who don’t consider what their subordinates think, regularly manifest emotional outbursts, or abuse their power and authority to lead others—however competitive these leaders are—most probably won’t be effective.
5. You’re not mindful of others’ feelings.
Another example in which empathy is simply neglected, which, by the way, might already be taking place at your office right now. (Some leaders are indeed tough empathy has no place to them.)
Consider your manager, or superior. Can you openly tell him about your concerns? Are you comfortable telling him your sentiments without reservations? Do you actually look up to him? Does he inspire you to be better?
The truth is, your superior could be the most qualified person you’ve ever come across. He might’ve earned that position through hard work. But if he isn’t sensitive to how you feel or think, tension may only arise, and you may not work well as a team.
Being mindful doesn’t mean he has to give in to every request his team may ask of him. It’s making sure that everybody else understands situations, and when the group makes a decision, everybody respects that decision. A direction has to be taken.
A superior with low emotional intelligence can make a decision for his company, but will hardly tell how his subordinates would think about it.
Okay, so you’re the superior? You run your own business? Same things will apply.
6. Blaming others comes naturally.
A person with high emotional intelligence keeps their emotions under control—in any situation—to think clearly, and look for solutions to problems that arise. They think that blaming others is inappropriate, it does absolutely nothing. They know that circumstances that happen to them are a product of their own actions, whether directly or indirectly, even if it’d seem that someone else is the cause of some ugly event.
A person with low emotional intelligence will easily blame what they call their “misfortune” on others, as easily as not making an effort to understand their emotions.
Reflect on yourself a bit. It’s never too late. Even old age doesn’t mean it’s too late. You are the manager of your life. Start acting it by reminding yourself that you are responsible for your actions.
7. You’re afraid to try anything new.
People with low emotional intelligence won’t get out of their comfort zone. They’re happy with things and routines they’ve been having for a long time. It may be due to their unique capabilities or personal preferences after all. But they won’t easily entertain new ideas, experiences or philosophies. They wouldn’t like to be challenged in unfamiliar ways. What they haven’t heard about before, they’ll most probably disregard it in a heartbeat.
Are you open-minded? I don’t mean simply engaging in conversations only to find out later that you’ve totally forgotten what you just talked about. Being open-minded is thinking about something you’ve never heard of before—and deciding to apply it in your life. Apollo 11 landed on the moon—it was the first feat of its kind. Your wildest dreams in life may not be falling into place yet, but it doesn’t mean they’re not coming.
8. You let all kinds of negativity get you.
I recently told a friend, without the intention to judge, that she should start looking at things in a different, and positive, light. She simply seems to see things from a negative angle—always—even if a story is supposed to be wonderful and inspiring.
Okay, I won’t deny that sometimes it happens to me, too. But when it happens, I remind myself that my thinking must only be clouded by a bad mood, negative people or some adversity. Being able to recognize that is a very important skill to hone, otherwise, you’ll only get yourself suckered into thinking that there’s simply no hope, when unpleasant moments come.
Low emotional intelligence people would think exactly like that, without bothering to look outside the box. They usually perceive things to be toxic, which they handle with a toxic attitude, too. When stress, anxiety or some other feeling of unrest attacks, they give in. They disregard the truth that taking care of themselves is priority, and it would mean managing their thoughts, their emotions, to work around these attacks productively. It is worth noting to say, however, that I believe in professional help. You may find all these signs I talk about, but as I always say, seeking professional help when you truly need it isn’t something to be embarrassed about—ever.
9. You can’t read people’s facial expressions.
And thus you need to work on your social skills.
This is like a fundamental in emotional intelligence, whether you’re merely socializing in an event or you’re a leader in your industry.
Don’t know how to say something for a response? Afraid they may not like it? You have no idea what they just said because they were smiling?
Emotional intelligence is about connecting to others. It’s discerning how others would behave when you’re around them—because you also know yourself—others become a reflection of you. If done genuinely, it creates harmony. There seems to be a dark side of this, though—mastering emotions could mean the ability to manipulate others. But if you know your values, if you want to play everything fair, then I say there shouldn’t be a problem at all.
10. When adversities come, you give up.
Some four-year-olds were put to the test. A marshmallow was put in front of them and they were told not to touch it until the researcher returned after running some errand. The same children were tested again when they turned adolescents. The children, who followed the researcher’s instructions when they were four, turned out to be better at managing their life when they turned adults, in general, than those who failed to follow.
People with low emotional intelligence, like the kids who failed in the test, will give up when problems come. They won’t face them, or they’ll delay facing them, because dealing with adversities is simply too much. No one wants any hassles, of course, but high emotional intelligence people are not shortsighted. These people understand that problems do exist and overcoming them is actually for the better.
11. You’re bitter.
When you’re bitter about your failures, you’ll most probably be bitter about the success of others, too.
Failures, to people with low emotional intelligence, will include dissatisfaction with results they get from their progress, not realizing that progress is already great as it is. When you do have low emotional intelligence, your failures, or frustrations, tend to be magnified. And you focus on them more than the many other things worth celebrating.
Failures are stepping stones to success—I personally believe this. Sometimes, a positive outlook is all it takes.
12. You keep on arguing—even when there’s no point already.
People with low emotional intelligence think about themselves first, and that means they want to look right, even if the argument already calls for “agreeing to disagree.” They just won’t let it go.
On the other hand, those who have high emotional intelligence know that in the face of disagreement, they’ll still respect everybody’s opinion, and settle on a common ground. They’ll try not to violate anyone as much as possible. They’ll play it fair. They’ll promote a healthy environment.
Low emotional intelligence people mind their ego, big time. They don’t want to appear wrong, even though it’s beside the point. They want the defeat of others. Situations will usually turn awkward with this kind of people, but they won’t mind.
If you find yourself always looking to “win” in all arguments you encounter, perhaps you need a little working on your emotional intelligence.
13. You look for motivation in the wrong places.
Intrinsic motivation is all that matters.
If you have a low self-esteem, you’ll tend to find motivation outside. Now, there isn’t really anything wrong with that, except when you forget your real purpose because you look only for extrinsic motivation.
This may truly be a sign of having low emotional intelligence. When you fully depend on how the world around you goes, without finding your own voice. When you much imitate a person you admire. When you compare yourself with others. When you don’t believe in yourself.
Go back to your goals, especially long-term goals. Enrich the skills you already have. Form good habits that will overcome bad ones. Be motivated from within.
Think About It
But at the end of the day, your goals and outlook in life will work hand in hand with your emotional intelligence.
Do you want peace? Do you want to excel in your industry? Do you want to build better relationships? Do you want to live in the moment?
I guess looking for the right questions will set a right start for you. Remember, people, whether with high or low emotional intelligence, could be successful in their own terms. What you’ll need to choose is the whole process you’re willing to go through to reach the place you want to be.
Just in case you’re feeling down about all this, having a low emotional intelligence isn’t that bad—you can improve it! And if you really want something, you will find ways, and you will get it!
Speak Your Mind
Do you identify yourself as someone with low emotional intelligence? Any other signs I might have missed? Tell us on the comments below!