I was reading an article the other day about hiring practices. The article discussed how people used to hire for IQ, until they learned that it was better to hire for EQ. An example they gave was how brilliant leaders would rarely fail for a lack of IQ, but failed often for a lack of EQ. Interesting. The article went on to talk about how people are now hiring for LQ, or a learning quotient. Now they’re talking my language. In an age where your ability to acquire knowledge is worth 10x your ability to retain it… this is the age of learning.
But I digress.
What inspired this entry was the article’s brief comparison between EQ and IQ, suggesting that EQ is a better predictor of job performance than IQ. I can’t help but disagree with that. And I can’t help but think that EQ, as the general public understands it, has become overvalued.
Before the Justin Trudeau ran for Prime Minister, I remember hearing all these comparisons to Pierre Trudeau, his dad who had also held the role of Canadian Prime Minister. The one which stood out for me was from John Oliver and it was about IQ vs EQ. Where Pierre Trudeau was intellectually brilliant, Justin Trudeau had Emotional Intelligence. I’ve been paying very close attention to the value of EQ since and I’ve noticed a few things.
I guess the first thing we should do is define the term EQ. Google defines it as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” It’s the first time I’ve seen that definition and I quite like it. Actually, I really like it. Let’s break it down. The first part is about self-awareness, self-expression, and the ability to control your emotions. So often, someone who is highly emotional qualifies themselves as having a high EQ but that doesn’t seem to be the case. If being aware of your emotions and having an ability to control them is part of EQ, that makes a lot of sense. The second part is about being able to understand the emotions of others while handling those relationships fairly. This is where things get interesting.
Emotions are part of the human blueprint. To assume they don’t exist is incorrect. To assume they can be suppressed indefinitely is unhealthy. To be aware of, to be in control of, and being able to experience emotions seems to be the philosophy of emotional intelligence and I can get behind that. Being able to understand the emotions of others, as a non-verbal language… I can get behind that, too. Where I think the modern understanding of EQ falls apart is when handling interpersonal relationships judiciously.
I’m often criticized for being insensitive. I’m also recognized as being very honest.
If you were presented with the option of telling someone what they wanted to hear and making them feel good about themselves, or telling them a hard truth and making them feel bad about themselves, which would you choose?
When people discuss individuals with a high EQ, they seem to be discussing people who are skilled at telling people what they want to hear. It’s like a comedian walking into a room, being able to feel out the crowd, and then delivering the kinda jokes they want to hear. When you hear what you want to hear, you feel good about yourself, and when you feel good about yourself, you tend to think highly of the person who helped you get there. That’s what I see when I see EQ being discussed in the mainstream,and it’s wrong.
In the age of thought bubbles and echo chambers, we desperately need to move away from the people who are skilled at telling us what we want to hear. Those who prioritize telling us what we want to hear are selfish. For them, our long-term well-being is secondary to feeling good in this moment. And feeling good in this moment almost always produces what they’re actually looking for.. a date, a sale, a vote.. and even a presidency. And it’s extremely unhealthy.
There’s a 50 Cent song from back in the day called A Baltimore Love Thing. 50 raps from the perspective of heroin. If you’d like to know what a relationship looks like when the other person cares more about making you feel good in the moment than your long-term health, that’s it. And if you’re looking towards the other end of the spectrum, think exercise. It always sucks at first, and the harder the exercise, the more it burns. But the more you do it, the better you feel about and the healthier you are.
And this brings me back to my personal struggle, perhaps why this topic is of such interest to me.
Over and over, I’m labelled as low EQ because being capable of understanding and controlling my emotions is perceived as suppressing or not engaging with them. Over and over, I’m labelled as insensitive because I’m unafraid of delivering the hard truths that help people the most. Over and over I’m told that I’m not empathetic towards others because I’d rather motivate and inspire than offer blind support. I’m done accepting those criticisms.
I am not without room for improvement, but I am not without EQ.