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Signs of High and Low EQ

Listed below are general characteristics of people with high and low EQ. It is important to note that by "EQ" we mean a person's level of emotional skill and emotional health - in other words, how well his innate level of emotional intelligence has been developed. There is an important distinction between a person's early potential for high EQ and their actual development of it. A person's actual emotional development is affected greatly by their environment, and it can be significantly improved during their lives.

These are generalizations, but are helpful as guidelines. Please note that these lists include general signs of high and low self-esteem, as well as other variables which have not in fact been specifically correlated to emotional intelligence as defined by Mayer and Salovey.

Signs of High EQ

A person with High EQ:

  • Expresses his feelings clearly and directly with three word sentences beginning with "I feel..."
  • Does not disguise thoughts as feelings by the use of "I feel like...." and "I feel that...." sentences.
  • Is not afraid to express her feelings.
  • Is not dominated by negative emotions such as:
		Fear, Worry, Guilt, Shame, Embarrassment, Obligation, Disappointment, Hopelessness, Powerlessness,
			Dependency, Victimization, Discouragement
  • Is able to read non-verbal communication.
  • Lets his feelings lead him to healthy choices and happiness.
  • Balances feelings with reason, logic, and reality.
  • Acts out of desire, not because of duty, guilt, force or obligation.
  • Is independent, self-reliant and morally autonomous.
  • Is intrinsically motivated.
  • Is not motivated by power, wealth, status, fame, or approval.
  • Is emotionally resilient.
  • Tends to feel optimistic, but is also realistic, and can feel pessimistic at times.
  • Does not internalize failure.
  • Is interested in other people's feelings.
  • Is comfortable talking about feelings.
  • Is not immobilized by fear or worry.
  • Is able to identify multiple concurrent feelings.


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Signs of Low EQ

A person with Low EQ:

  • Doesn't take responsibilities for his feelings; but blames you or others for them.
  • Can't put together three word sentences starting with "I feel..."
  • Can't tell you why she feels the way she does, or can't do it without blaming someone else.
  • Attacks, blames, commands, criticizes, interrupts, invalidates, lectures, advises and judges you and others.
  • Tries to analyze you, for example when you express your feelings.
  • Often begins sentences with "I think you..."
  • Sends "you messages" disguised as "I feel messages" For example, "I feel like you ...."
  • Lays guilt trips on you.
  • Withholds information about or lies about his feelings. (Emotional dishonesty)
  • Exaggerates or minimizes her feelings.
  • Lets things build up, then they blow up, or react strongly to something relatively minor.
  • Lacks integrity and a sense of conscience.
  • Carries grudges; is unforgiving.
  • Doesn't tell you where you really stand with her.
  • Is uncomfortable to be around.
  • Acts out his feelings, rather than talking them out.
  • Plays games; is indirect or evasive.
  • Is insensitive to your feelings.
  • Has no empathy, no compassion.
  • Is rigid, inflexible; needs rules and structure to feel secure.
  • Is not emotionally available; offers little chance of emotional intimacy.
  • Does not consider your feelings before acting.
  • Does not consider their own future feelings before acting.
  • Is insecure and defensive and finds it hard to admit mistakes, express remorse, or apologize sincerely.
  • Avoids responsibility by saying things like: "What was I supposed to do? I had no choice!
  • Holds many distorted and self-destructive beliefs which cause persistent negative emotions
  • May be overly pessimistic; may invalidate others' joy.
  • Or may be overly optimistic, to the point of being unrealistic and invalidating of others' legitimate fears.
  • Frequently feels inadequate, disappointed, resentful, bitter or victimized.
  • Locks himself into courses of action against common sense, or jumps ship at the first sight of trouble.
  • Avoids connections with people and seeks substitute relationships with everything from pets and plants to imaginary beings.
  • Rigidly clings to his beliefs because he is too insecure to be open to new facts.
  • Can tell you the details of an event, and what they think about it, but can't tell you how she feels about it.
  • Uses his intellect to judge and criticize others without realizing he is feeling superior, judgmental, critical, and without awareness of how his actions impact others' feelings.
  • Is a poor listener. Interrupts. Invalidates. Misses the emotions being communicated. Focuses on "facts" rather than feelings.

Adapted from EQ for Everybody by Steve Hein, 1996,