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The Myths of Emotional Intelligence

Separating facts from fiction

The term emotional intelligence has grown in popularity over recent years. However, along with this growing recognition, many myths have emerged surrounding what it actually means to be emotionally intelligent.


So, what does the term emotional intelligence mean? Emotional intelligence can be defined as a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.


Here are 4 prominent myths surrounding emotional intelligence.


1) ‘Women are more emotionally intelligent than men’.

A common misconception surrounding emotional intelligence is that women are inherently more emotionally intelligent than men. However, research using the EQ-i 2.0, an assessment that measures emotional intelligence, has shown that men and women do not differ significantly in terms of their total emotional intelligence. Whilst group differences do exist for specific areas of emotional intelligence, these are relatively small so it is not appropriate to assume a person’s level of emotional intelligence based on their gender.


2) ‘If you have high IQ, then you will also have high emotional intelligence’.

It is important to recognise that IQ and emotional intelligence are distinct concepts. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is a measure of our cognitive intelligence and mental abilities, whereas emotional intelligence is a measure of how well we perceive, understand, use and manage our emotions. Whilst the two concepts do complement each other, emotional intelligence and IQ are not highly correlated. This means that there is no evidence to suggest that if an individual’s IQ is high then their emotional intelligence will be also high, and vice versa.


3) ‘You can't develop emotional intelligence; you're born with it’.

An individual’s emotional intelligence is not an innate trait, instead it should be seen as a set of skills that can be developed. Typically, a person's emotional intelligence tends to rise with age as they gain work and life experience. With the help of psychometric tools, such as the EQ-i 2.0, emotional intelligence can be assessed, identified, and developed to help people experience benefits in the workplace such as improved job performance and wellbeing.


4) ‘Emotional intelligence is just about being emotional’.

Emotional intelligence is not about being emotional. In fact, a tendency to be highly emotional, and to struggle managing your emotions can indicate a lower level of emotional intelligence. For example, someone with low emotional intelligence may find it difficult to control their emotions and may not understand the impact of their emotions on others. In contrast, someone high in emotional intelligence is more likely to express their emotions in a constructive, effective, and appropriate way.


Emotional intelligence is a strong indicator of performance, leadership, and wellbeing in the workplace. But to get the full benefit, it is important to understand what it truly means to be emotionally intelligent.


If you are interested in learning more about emotional intelligence, click here.

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