Hallmarks of Low Emotional Intelligence

Being aware is better than being smart. Doors of opportunity in our lives, open or close because of emotional intelligence-or its absence. A door of awareness in your brain swings open, and closes in tandem with doors that open or close in the physical material world. That door of awareness stands between your emotional and rational self. When this door is closed, the emotional part of the brain can sabotage and poison all your efforts.

The rational part of your brain will then begin to rationalize every word and deed you used to sabotage and poison your own efforts. With this door of awareness closed we make poor decisions, and we expend rational energy in justifying those wrong decisions.

However, when the door of awareness in the brain is opened, the emotional and rational sectors of the brain begin to act in harmony. The emotional part of the brain becomes subservient to the rational. Emotional energy is channeled in healthy and productive manners, and you become a much easier person for others to deal with because you are more at ease with yourself. Doors to success and achievement, are opened to you by being aware of, and mitigating the issues that can, and do often derail you in your pursuits and relationships. Virtually everybody has goals or targets (things they want to do, achieve or attain in life).

Companies, business concerns, mega corporations, individuals, families, communities and the society at large all want to acquire something, do something, or become something or someone. People want to get married, have children, be healthy, make profit, acquire material things, build houses, buy cars, and travel to places etc ad infinitum. The main issue then is this: how do you reach your target? By what means, or with which skillset will you be able to attain the goals you have set for yourself?

A main critical skill you will need, is your ability to navigate the emotional landscape with people (clients, coworkers, siblings, neighbours, relatives etc), and to keep your own negative emotions in check. Think of your goals as a target and, think of your emotional competencies as the arrow that will help you to reach that target. If your arrow is crooked or broken, no amount of strength training, concentration on taking aim, hype, and motivation about the target will help you reach that target. Without a straight arrow, everything else is futile and will only lead to frustration. It is therefore of utmost critical importance that you randomly, and routinely carry out checks on the state of your emotional competencies.

This is why emotional intelligence is of paramount importance, and turns out to be a major, if not the main predictor of future success.

Hallmarks of low emotional intelligence

The following are signs you either lack emotional intelligence or are of low emotional intelligence:

1- You fail to manage negative feelings appropriately: When you bottle up your ill feelings, it makes you uncomfortable and builds up stress, tension and anxiety. The human mind and body is strained and drained by unaddressed emotions. Emotional intelligence (EQ) skills help you manage stress by identifying and tackling potentially explosive situations before they escalate. If you fail to use EQ skills due to the fact that you lack them, you will have a tendency to utilize other less effective means of managing your moods. Consequently, you are twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety, substance abuse or even contemplate suicide.

2- You have difficulty asserting yourself: 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 and resolving conflict. When you are crossed, if your EQ is low you may automatically default to being passive and docile thereby condoning unacceptable behaviour.

This is borne out of fear or low self-esteem, and will ultimately result in self-sabotage. At the other end of the emotional spectrum, if your EQ is high you will remain balanced and assertive by steering yourself away from unfiltered emotional reactions. This will enable you neutralize difficult and toxic people without creating enemies.

3- You have limited emotional vocabulary: Everyone experiences emotions, but few can accurately identify them as they occur. Research shows only 36% of the human population are able to do this. This is problematic because if your EQ is low and you do not properly label your emotions, you will misunderstand them which in turn will lead you to take irrational decisions and counterproductive actions.

If however, your EQ is high, you will master your emotions because you understand them and use an extensive vocabulary of feelings to do so. If for instance your EQ is low you might describe yourself as simply feeling “bad” whereas if your EQ were to be high you would be able to pinpoint whether you feel “irritable”, “frustrated”, “downtrodden” or “anxious”.  The higher your EQ is, the more specifically and accurately you can identify how you feel, resulting in better insight. You will know what caused it and what to do about it.

4- You make assumptions quickly and defend them vehemently: If your EQ is low, you will form an opinion quickly (albeit the wrong one), and then succumb to confirmation bias. This means you will unconsciously gather evidence that supports your opinion while ignoring any evidence to the contrary. You will even argue to defend your position. This will prove fatal for you if you happen to hold a leadership position as your faulty ideas will form the strategy that will drive your team (usually into oblivion).

If you are high in EQ, you will allow your thoughts marinate because you know that initial reactions are usually driven by emotions. In such a case you will give your thoughts time to develop and consider the possible consequences and counter arguments that may arise as a result of your actions. Once this is done you can then communicate your well-developed ideas in the most effective way possible, taking into account the needs and opinions of your audience.

5- You keep grudges: The negative emotions you experience as result of holding on to a grudge is actually a stress response. Infact merely thinking about the event sends your body into fight or flight mode. This is a survival strategy that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with an imminent threat. However, when a threat is ancient history, holding on to it wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. Studies show these often results in health challenges like high blood pressure and heart disease. People with high EQ try to avoid this at all costs.

6- You refuse to let go of mistakes: If your EQ is high, you will put a healthy distance between you and your mistakes without forgetting them. This helps you adapt and adjust for future success. However, it takes refined self-awareness to walk this tightrope between dwelling and remembering.

If on the other hand your EQ is low, you will keep rehearsing your mistakes in your mind and punishing yourself which will make you anxious and indecisive. The inverse is also true, forgetting your missteps completely makes you doomed to repeat them. This unfortunately is the common fate that will tend to befall you if you exhibit very low EQ. The key to balance in your life lies in your ability to transform failure into gem stones of improvement. Consequently, you will bounce back and get back up, almost right away whenever you fall.

7- You often feel misunderstood: When you lack EQ, it will be very hard for you to understand how you come across to others. This is an aspect of the human psyche effectively depicted and captured by the Johari window. The Johari window which has 4 quadrants, has the 2nd upper right quadrant rightly called the Blindspot. Here, the person may display offensive or inappropriate behaviour which is visible to all but of which the person may be totally unaware.

This phenomena though common to all humans will be negatively highlighted if you lack EQ. You will feel misunderstood simply because you failed to deliver your message in a way others can understand or in a manner that was very inappropriate or offensive. This will result in you developing a “persecution complex” if you are not careful. You will develop the notion that nobody likes you, everyone is against you and nobody is willing to support or assist you.

Nobody can communicate every idea perfectly all the time not even people with high EQ which is why they keep practicing and improving. If you strive to develop high EQ, you will sense when people don’t understand what you are saying, adjust your approach and re-communicate your ideas in a better way that will enhance understanding.

8- You don’t know your triggers: This is still a throwback to the Johari Window discussed earlier. Are you aware of hidden sides to your nature that are visible to all and sundry? Do you know your triggers? Everyone has triggers- situations and people that push your buttons and cause you to act impulsively. If you develop high EQ you will be able to study your triggers and use this knowledge to sidestep situations and people before they get the best of you.

9- You suppress anger: EQ is not about being nice, it is about managing your emotions to achieve the best possible outcomes. Sometimes this means showing people that you are upset, sad or frustrated. Consistently masking your emotions with a façade of happiness or positivity is neither genuine nor productive. People with high EQ employ both negative and positive emotions intentionally in the appropriate situations.

10- You blame others for how you feel: Your emotions come from within you as a response on your part to external stimuli. It is very tempting to attribute your low feelings or “blue moods” to the actions of others. This is classic low EQ behaviour, however you must take responsibility for your emotions. The truth is no one can make you feel anything you do not want to feel. Thinking otherwise will only hold you back.

11- You have a short fuse:  Unfortunately, studies show low EQ people easily get offended. If you have a firm grasp of who you are, it will be difficult for someone to say or do something that makes you flare up. High EQ people are self-confident and open minded which makes them have a pretty thick skin. You are mentally able to draw the line between humour and degradation.

Unlike IQ, emotional intelligence EQ is highly malleable. You can grow and develop high EQ (which is essentially training your brain), by repeatedly practicing new emotionally intelligent behaviours. This done consistently over a period of time, builds the pathways needed to convert them into habits. As your brain reinforces the use of these new behaviours, the connections supporting previous destructive behaviours wither away and die off. Inadvertently and unconsciously you will begin responding to situations and circumstances in your environment with proper EQ reactions. This becomes entrenched, established habitual behaviour that delivers great dividends.