Emotional intelligence is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behaviour, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.  Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as being the critical factor in organisational success. The connection is so strong that 90% of top performers have high and balanced emotional intelligence.

“No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it.” – Jack Welch

Despite the significance of emotional intelligence, its intangible nature makes it very difficult to know your levels and what you can do to grow it if you’re lacking. You can always take a scientifically validated test, such as the EQi.20 and get one-on-one feedback on the results with an Accredited Practitioner; including a leadership-focused assessment and also 360 Degree perspectives.

Analysis of the data from the million-plus people asseded byTalentSmart in the USA has revealed the behaviours that are the hallmarks of a low EQ and here they are:

Getting stressed easily. When your feelings are running high, they quickly build into the uncomfortable sensations of tension, stress, and anxiety. Unaddressed emotions strain the mind and body. Your emotional intelligence skills help make stress more manageable by enabling you to spot and tackle tough situations before things escalate. People who fail to use their emotional intelligence skills are more likely to turn to other, less effective means of managing their mood. They are twice as likely to turn to substances such as drugs/alcohol, experience anxiety and even depression.

Difficulty with being assertive. People with high EQ balance good manners, empathy, and kindness with the ability to assert themselves and establish boundaries. This tactful combination is ideal for handling conflict and for getting more done, as they can say ‘no’ while maintaining relationships. When most people are in conflict with others, they default to passive or aggressive behaviour. Emotionally intelligent people remain balanced and assertive by steering themselves away from unfiltered emotional reactions. This enables them to neutralise difficult and toxic people without creating enemies.

A limited emotional vocabulary. All 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 unlabelled emotions often go misunderstood, which leads to irrational choices and counterproductive actions. People with high balanced EQ 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 “bad,” emotionally intelligent people can pinpoint whether they feel “irritable,” “frustrated,” “downtrodden,” or “anxious.” 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.

Making assumptions quickly and defending them vehemently. People with low or unbalanced EQ form an opinion quickly and then succumb to confirmation bias, meaning they gather evidence that supports their opinion and ignore any evidence to the contrary. More often than not, they argue, ad nauseam, to support it. This is especially dangerous for leaders, as their under-thought-out ideas become the entire team’s strategy. Emotionally intelligent people let their thoughts marinate, because they know that initial reactions are driven by strong emotions. They give their thoughts time to develop and consider the possible consequences and counter-arguments. Then, they communicate their developed idea in the most effective way possible, taking into account the needs and opinions of their audience.

Holding onto grudges. The negative emotions that come with holding on to a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event sends your body into fight-or-flight mode, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. When a threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival, but when a threat is ancient history, holding on to that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. In fact, researchers at Emory University have shown that holding on to stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Holding on to a grudge means you’re holding on to stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs. Letting go of a grudge not only makes you feel better now but can also improve your health.

Not letting go of mistakes. Emotionally intelligent people distance themselves from their mistakes, but they do so without forgetting them. By keeping their mistakes at a safe distance, yet still handy enough to refer to, they are able to adapt and adjust for future success. It takes refined self-awareness to walk this tightrope between dwelling and remembering. Dwelling too long on your mistakes makes you anxious and risk adverse, while forgetting about them completely makes you bound to repeat them again. The key to balance lies in your ability to transform failures into nuggets of improvement. This creates the tendency to get right back up every time you fall down.

Feeling misunderstood. When you lack emotional intelligence, it’s hard to understand how you come across to others. You feel misunderstood because you don’t deliver your message in a way that people can understand. Even with practice, emotionally intelligent people know that they don’t communicate every idea perfectly. They catch on when people don’t understand what they are saying, adjust their approach, and re-communicate their idea in a way that can be understood.

Not knowing emotional triggers. Everyone has a set of emptional triggers: situations and people that ‘push their buttons’ and cause them to act impulsively without thought to consquence. Emotionally intelligent people study their triggers and use this knowledge to deal with the triggers in a proactive and more positive way.

Not getting angry. Emotional intelligence is not about being nice; it’s about managing your emotions to achieve the best possible outcomes. Sometimes this means showing people that you’re upset, sad, or frustrated. Constantly masking your emotions with happiness and positivity isn’t sincere, positive or productive. Emotionally intelligent people employ negative and positive emotions intentionally in the appropriate situations.

Blaming other people for feelings. Emotions come from within. It’s tempting to attribute how you feel to the actions of others.  Higher levels of EQ allow you to take responsibility for your emotions. No one can make you feel anything that you don’t want to. Thinking otherwise only holds you back. It’s a choice to feel as you do, and you are the only one who can make that choice.

Easily offended. Emotionally intelligent people are very self-aware, understand their emotions and have a high sense of self-regard. If you have a firm grasp of who you are, it’s difficult for someone to say or do something that makes you feel offended. . Emotionally intelligent people are self-confident and open-minded, which create a pretty thick skin. You may even poke fun at yourself or let other people make jokes about you because you are able to mentally draw the line between humour and degradation.  If you are naturally a sensitive person, growing your resilience through emotional intelligence will help you here enormously.


Unlike your IQ, your EQ is highly malleable and can be grown. As you train your brain by repeatedly practising new emotionally intelligent behaviours, it builds the pathways needed to make them into habits. As your brain reinforces the use of these new behaviours, the connections supporting old, destructive behaviours die off. Before long, you begin responding to your surroundings with emotional intelligence without even having to think about it.  (Dr. Travis Bradberry, author on Emotional Intelligence 2.0)

To find out more about Emotional Intelligence (all 15 dimensions), to assess your current levels; find out if you have the levels for success in leadership or learn what others in your organisation have observed about your EI in practice, make contact with Anne Marie, an accredited Practitioner. EQi certification