9 Signs of Low Emotional Intelligence

Low emotional intelligence is a problem that can have an influence on a wide variety of social relationships. Some experts even suggest that emotional intelligence may actually be more important than IQ in determining overall success in life.

Think about the last time you got into an argument with someone else because they did not understand how you felt. Or consider the last time you had conflict with another person because you could not understand what they were feeling. In both cases, emotional intelligence might play a role in the underlying conflict.

Emotional intelligence can play a major role in how we interact with others. Sometimes coworkers, employers, friends, family members and other acquaintances might struggle with poor emotional skills that make social situations difficult and fraught with tension. In other cases, it might even be your own emotional intelligence skills that need a little work.

An individual’s level of emotional intelligence is often referred to as his or her emotional intelligence quotient, or EQ. Here are some of the classic signs of low emotional intelligence.

signs of low emotional intelligence
Illustration by JR Bee, Verywell

Frequent Arguments

You probably know someone who always seems to get into arguments with others. Friends, family, co-workers, and even random strangers find themselves embroiled in disputes with these argumentative individuals.

Because low EQ individuals struggle to understand the emotions of others, they often find themselves arguing without considering how others are feeling.

Disregard for Emotions

People who have weak emotional intelligence skills have a lack of awareness and are often completely oblivious to the feelings of other people. They don’t get that their spouses might be angry at them or that their co-workers are irritated. Not only that, but they also feel very annoyed that other people expect them to know how they are feeling.

Emotions, in general, tend to exasperate people who have a low EQ.

Insensitive Behavior

People who are low in EQ often think that other people are overly sensitive. They might crack off jokes at inappropriate times.

For example, they might make a joke at a funeral or right after a tragic event. When other people react to such out-of-line jokes, the low EQ individual may feel like others are simply being too sensitive.

Because they have difficulty understanding the emotions of others, it's no surprise that they are unable to interpret the emotional tone after such events.

A Self-Righteous Attitude

Low EQ individuals often refuse to listen to other points of view. They feel that they are right and will defend their position with great vigor, yet refuse to listen to what others have to say. This is particularly true if other people are critical of how the individual does not understand what others are feeling.

They are often pessimistic and overly critical of other people’s feelings.

Frequent Blaming

People with low emotional intelligence have little insight into how their own emotions might lead to problems. When things go wrong, their first instinct is to blame others.

They often blame characteristics of the situation or the behaviors of other people for their actions. They might suggest that they had no other choice for what they did and that other people are simply not understanding their situation.

This tendency to not take responsibility often leaves them feeling bitter and victimized.

Poor Coping Skills

An inability to cope with emotionally-charged situations can be an indicator of low emotional intelligence. Strong emotions, whether their own or those of others, are difficult to comprehend for those with low emotional intelligence.

These individuals will often walk away from such situations to avoid having to deal with the emotional fallout. Hiding their true emotions from others is also very common.

Emotional Outbursts

The ability to regulate emotions is one of the five critical components of emotional intelligence. People with low EQ often struggle to understand and control their emotions. They might have unexpected emotional outbursts that seem overblown and uncontrollable. They might lash out reactively without understanding what they are really feeling or why they are so upset.

Strained Relationships

Because low EQ people often come off as abrasive and unfeeling, they have difficulty maintaining friendships. Close friendships require a mutual give-and-take, sharing of emotions, compassion, and emotional support, all of which low EQ individuals struggle with.

Lack of Empathy

Because people with low emotional intelligence do not understand the emotions of others, they experience little empathy for other people. They do not get what others are feeling, so it is impossible for them to place themselves in another person’s shoes.

A Word From Verywell

Low emotional intelligence can cause problems in many areas of your life. Fortunately, there are things you can do to increase your emotional intelligence. Sharpening your skills can improve your personal and professional relationships.

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  1. Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. Emotional Intelligence: What it is and Why it Matters