10 Signs You Or Someone You Know Has Low Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) plays a crucial role in relationships with others, and can be developed to improve over-all well-being.

A lonely man sits among empty sits as he wonders why he is alone diy13 / Shutterstock

Our intelligence is put to the test every single day, and it's not just about being a bookworm. You've probably heard the words "emotional intelligence" (EQ), but what does it really mean?

Emotional intelligence helps us to further react and understand the world. And it doesn’t have anything to do with knowing math equations or remembering something that happened so long ago.

Like intellectual intelligence, we are all not on the same level of emotional intelligence. Here is a look into what EQ is and some signs that show if someone has low emotional intelligence.


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Factors of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence, also known as EQ, refers to your capacity to comprehend and empathize with others, identifying their motivations, and effectively collaborating with them.


In a study published in 2018, researchers claimed "emotion and intelligence are heavily linked" and defined emotional intelligence as "the ability to identify, understand, and use emotions positively to manage anxiety, communicate well, empathize, overcome issues, solve problems, and manage conflicts." Empathy is associated with emotional intelligence as it relates to one connecting their personal experiences with others.

In discussing models of emotional intelligence, researchers from the same study also highlighted Daniel Goleman's 25 elements that fell under five clusters:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

According to counselor Audrey Tait, “Your EQ affects every aspect of your life, from your basic human emotions to the way you relate with others.” This is because the extent to which you know how to read people defines your ability to experience any peace, love, joy, or chaos that you might experience.

Tait also explains that the environment you grew up in affects your EQ.


“If you grew up in a fairly healthy emotional environment, you're like to have a fairly healthy EQ as a result," Tate says. "If you don't tend to experience much in the way of emotions, however, you may have been so traumatized by past experiences that your unconscious mind shut down your emotional capacity. In such instances, you may generally go about life feeling frozen or numb.”

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Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with inherently high emotional intelligence. If you encounter someone who has a difficulty time understanding their own emotions or the emotions of others, it could be that they struggle with low emotional intelligence.

10 Signs of Low Emotional Intelligence

1. Holding grudges.

This may an initial response to stress and, in a way, can be used a wall against perceived threats.


2. A lack of emotional control.

Someone with a low EQ may lash out without understanding their emotions or even why they are upset.

3. A lack of self-awareness.

They may be unaware of their emotions and/or not want people to know how they are feeling.

4. A tendency to frequently jump to conclusions.

They may have a distorted view of situations, which causes them to make sweeping, dramatic assumptions.

5. Being easily offended.

People with high emotional intelligence are more resilient in the face of criticism, while those who have a lower EQ may feel hurt more easily.

6. Frequently offending others unknowingly.

Someone with low EQ may not hold themselves accountable for the effect of their words and actions on others, which leads them to say things without thinking.


7. Typically feeling unmoved by sad movies or stories.

Part of having low EQ is having a low understanding of nuanced emotion, as well as a lack of empathy. Someone with a low EQ doesn’t know how to put themselves in another person's situation. To them, it’s just a movie and separate from reality.

8. An inability to maintain friendships.

People with a low EQ may have a hard time keeping up with friends, as they are guilty of misunderstandings and constant conflicts. They may come off as abrasive as a result.

9. Difficulty reading the room.

Often out of touch with others, they only think about themselves. They don't often put themselves in other people’s shoes. When they are told they are being rude, they may not see anything wrong with in the situation.

10. Assuming everyone thinks the same way they do.

People with a low EQ may assume everyone is on the same page they are, even when that couldn't be further from the truth.


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How to Improve Low Emotional Intelligence

Just as you can read books to increase your intellectual intelligence, EQ is also a learned skill.

Researchers published the findings of their study in 2019, involving an emotional intelligence training for company senior managers that "demonstrated significant improvements in their ability to perceive, understand, and accept their own and others’ emotions in an effective way, be self-reliant, achieve personal goals, manage stress, have a positive attitude, and control and manage emotions" with several indications for "promising practical implications."


Relationship coach Jordan Gray suggests mindfulness as a strong way to improve your EQ. "Raising your emotional intelligence is predicated on you slowing down, and gradually becoming more aware of yourself and others," he explains.

In practice, this includes slowing down to feel your feelings, fully processing your negative emotions, communicating your emotions to people you trust, observing your reactions to others (both internal and external, and learning to trust yourself.

It's also important to note that some of the signs listed above may be due to emotional or mental health-related conditions, such as autism, which can only be diagnosed by a qualified, licensed professional.

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Isabell Tenorio is a writer who studied mass communication at Stephen F. Austin State University with a focus in journalism and advertising.