The Emotional Intelligence Controversy: Five Misconceptions Explored


Some people don’t accept that emotional intelligence is a measurable ability or predictor of success in life, while others see it as a breakthrough in psychology. This has created something of an emotional intelligence controversy. Let’s explore common misconceptions surrounding emotional intelligence and how we use the concept today.

Emotional Intelligence Controversy: Is EQ A Predictor of Success?

One of the major controversies surrounding emotional quotient (EQ) is that it is a principal predictor of success. For those who have a hard time connecting with others and regulating their emotions, this might cause trepidation or derision. Some will be quick to point out that you don’t need empathy to be successful; in fact, one forensic psychologist noted up to 20% of top executives are “successful psychopaths.”

Here is the reality: Emotional intelligence makes it easier for people to recognize, regulate, and respond to their emotions, as well as the emotions of others. This makes it easier for them to create and maintain professional and personal relationships, which is one measure of success. However, the idea that EQ is the “best” predictor of success seems unsubstantiated.

Is Emotional Intelligence Accurately Measured?

One inventory for emotional intelligence has 133 questions with five possible answers for each question; it measures a person’s reaction, as well as his or her attempts to manipulate the results. However, some people claim they knew how to manipulate the test to score a high EQ, bringing the measure’s validity into question.

In truth, several inventories measure emotional intelligence and pass scientific guidelines for validity. These inventories don’t provide an in-depth analysis of a person’s capabilities, but are tools for introspection and improvement.

Is EQ Actually a Form of Intelligence?

We live in a world driven by rationality and thirst for meaning. For some, this means IQ and EQ are at direct odds with one another, and even the true meaning of intelligence itself. If we define intelligence as a person’s ability to acquire and apply knowledge, then emotional intelligence is indeed a central part of our overall intelligence. EQ involves the ability to recognize and apply emotions appropriately, which enhances relationships, and may contribute to professional gains.

Can We Trust EQ In Hiring Decisions?

There’s some controversy around the idea that employers will use an EQ inventory to guide hiring decisions and see if an employee is a good fit. Again, with the variety of testing instruments out there, these tests may be easy to manipulate. In general, EQ inventories are for introspection and finding areas for self-improvement. Companies may use them to see if employees are a good fit with their company culture, so long as they use them in addition to a thorough interview process.

Does EQ Have The Final Word?

Intelligence is a complex construct, of which EQ is only a part. Success and intelligence are relative constructs, and we should never presume to rely solely on one measure to define a person’s health or success. For a more information, check out our guide to emotional intelligence.


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