Judging EQ – Should You?

Emotion - Mind
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By Ed Hennessy

Over the last year I’ve begun to see a trend in articles and blogs with people stating that “so and so has a high EQ or low EQ” simply by what they’ve seen, heard, or read about that person. Do we want someone judging our overall level of EQ by observation of a limited aspect of our life?

A high EQ is not a guarantee of success just as a low EQ is not a guarantee of failure. Success comes from the Latin word succedere or succeed, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as to do what you are trying to do: to achieve the correct or desired result”   We determine our success in life. Others may provide their input, opinion, or judgement but ultimately our view of success is our own. Success in life is impacted by many things and our emotional intelligence is one of them. However, we need to take a closer look at what we mean by EQ to understand the impact the unique emotional Intelligence profile within each of us has on our life.

The concept of Emotional Intelligence has been presented in various models for about the last 30 years. The model I use and refer to is the EQ-i 2.0® (Emotional Quotient Inventory).  The EQ-i 2.0® model is one of the rare few that is scientifically validated and recognized by the American Psychological Association. This model generates an overall EQ-i score based on our usage of 15 different skills of emotional intelligence contained within composite groups of Self Perception, Self Expression, Interpersonal Relationships, Decision Making, and Stress Management. The model also includes a Well Being score that is separately generated.

One figure in particular that seems to draw a reference to a perceived low EQ is Steve Jobs. Most EI assessments do generate an overall EQ score but what’s more important for us to understand is how someone uses the 15 different skills of emotional intelligence. Simply stating “so and so has a high EQ or low EQ” is not the most accurate way to discuss emotional intelligence. If Steve Jobs took an emotional intelligence assessment and allowed his overall score to be published we could then say whether it was high or low. However, it is a flawed assumption to say he had a high or low EQ without having his score to reference. What I have observed when most people state Steve Jobs had a low EQ comes from what they’ve seen, heard, or read about him and his interaction with others. This is only one aspect of our overall EQ and originates in the Interpersonal Relationship Composite.  As I mentioned earlier, there is much more to our emotional intelligence than interpersonal ability.

Emotional Intelligence is also about our Self Perception which is our inner confidence, our passionate pursuit of things that bring joy and meaning to our life, and our emotional self-awareness. The Self Expression composite is our ability to express ourselves both verbally and non-verbally in a socially acceptable way and includes our ability to navigate ourselves through life. The Decision Making composite gives us an understanding on how emotions impact our ability to solve problems, fosters our objectivity, and allows us to respond to situations in a timely manner. Lastly, the Stress Management composite creates our resilience and adaptability as well as generating our optimism towards the challenges life brings our way.  Looking at ourselves and the people around us we can observe actions and behaviors such as confidence or optimism but neither one, or even both working together should be considered our overall EQ.

To accurately view emotional intelligence in action we should view EQ as not being a singular construct such as an IQ score which is high or low but we should reflect on what specific emotional intelligence skills we are observing in action, at what level of usage, and with what resulting impact. Are we seeing a low usage of Interpersonal skill such as someone being self-centered, transactional, and insensitive? While Interpersonal ability is very important to success for most of us it is only one part of someone’s overall emotional intelligence profile and should not be the sole basis for saying someone has a low EQ. The more correct statement is that “so and so is demonstrating a low usage of interpersonal skill”. Most people would agree that Steve Jobs may have been one of the most driven and confident people in recent history as he demonstrated high levels of Self-Regard and Self- Actualization. His ability to be objective and understand the desires of the consumer for products that were yet in existence was unparalleled and this was aided by the skills of Reality Testing and Empathy. Did Steve Jobs always use empathy in his interactions with others? I think most would agree he did not. His ability to create a positive vision of the future that people bought into is still clearly seen today and contributing to this were high levels of optimism and emotional expression. While I’ve mentioned several individual EQ-i skills these actions and behaviors he demonstrated come from a combination all 15 EQ-i emotional intelligence skills in action.

Ultimately, this is not about Steve Jobs. Emotional Intelligence is a set of skills we all use that creates an impact in our lives and on the people around us. These skills are dynamic and our usage of them can be measured. If there is an area of your life where you would like more success or something about yourself you’ve considered working on then focusing on certain skills may be the opportunity for you to discover and realize greater potential. If we choose we can create an action plan based on leveraging our strengths as well as identifying opportunities for development. Personally, I am actively working on a greater use of Empathy and Interpersonal Relationships. My assessment showed I had a score consistent with the level where most people would be but I know being more understanding, appreciative, and compassionate will bring greater depth and success in my relationships. For others greater comfort expressing emotion, becoming more confident, being more positive, identifying and pursuing meaningful life goals, or generating an overall greater degree of happiness in life might be areas of opportunity.  Emotional Intelligence is something we all have and our usage of the 15 skills is unique to each of us. While we may see others using or not using these skills to a certain extent would we want someone judging our overall level of EQ by observation of a limited aspect of our life? I know when I see someone not at their best I am going to use Empathy to try and understand what they might be experiencing as I know it’s not their overall EQ I am seeing but simply one piece of a great work in progress like the rest of us.

This article was reprinted with permission from the author.

Ed and HRDQ-U are hosting a free webinar on May 18th a 2pm ET. Register here!


Ed Hennessy is a Master Trainer in Emotional Intelligence and CEO of Leadership Call, LLC the leading provider of EQ-I 2.0 & EQ 360 Emotional Intelligence Certification in North America. He leads EI based leadership and performance improvement programs with corporate clients and organizations as well as training & credentialing other professionals as experts in EI. He is a U.S. Army Veteran and served 9 years with several assignments leading elite aviation units. He also has 13+ years Executive Recruitment experience working nationally with Fortune 1000 companies for mid to senior level positions. In his community Ed is a speaker with the University of North Texas Professional Leader Program as well as a participant in the Tour De Cure.  He graduated from Norwich University, The Oldest Private Military College in the Nation.

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