Emotional Intelligence

What happens when someone doesn't have emotional intelligence?
Answered by Susan Sherwood and Discovery Fit & Health
  • Susan Sherwood

    Susan Sherwood

  • Discovery Fit & Health

    Discovery Fit & Health

  1. Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize, monitor, assess and influence emotions in oneself and others. It's simple to define but harder to measure. There are tests that identify individual EI abilities, such as reading body language. Other, more generalized assessments cover a range of skills. Emotional intelligence can also be recognized through behaviors, as when a parent is able to keep an angry child from exploding into a temper tantrum.

    Emotional intelligence is a character trait or ability, like musical talent, that is reflected in the population. A few people have a tremendous amount or essentially none, while the rest fall somewhere in between. Lack of emotional intelligence does not automatically turn someone into a psychopath, without empathy, remorse, love or honesty. Psychopaths do seem to be disconnected from some emotions, especially those that are positive toward the outside world. But there are plenty of emotions dwelling within them, such as pleasure, disdain, irritation and jealousy. Furthermore, psychopaths often excel at interpreting the emotions of people. This is what makes them experts at manipulating others' behaviors [source: Sun].

    Someone with a true lack of emotional intelligence is disengaged from all emotions, inside and out. Being unable to regulate one's anger or adequately recognize when someone else is sad can make life difficult, but it doesn't necessarily result in a prison sentence or reclusive existence. There are challenges to being deficient in emotional intelligence, but it doesn't entirely preclude success. Deep connections to other people would likely be limited, so social and family life would suffer. However, an emotionally "unintelligent" person could be highly successful in the workplace because of professional skills and a strong work ethic [source: Mayer].

    In extreme cases, the lack of connection to emotions can appear as alexithymia, a brain disorder that prevents understanding or expressing emotions. There is an emphasis on rationality but not a lack of desire for interaction. Alexithymia could be caused by an overactive left hemisphere, an under-active right hemisphere or poor communication between the two brain halves [source: Edmonds]. It can appear after a brain injury or an emotional trauma. There may also be links to eating disorders, substance abuse or depression [source: Health Services at Columbia]. In any case, alexithymia seems to be the ultimate lack of emotional intelligence.

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  2. A study released by psychologist Robert Hare asserts that psychopaths could well have brains that are wired differently. Even though psychopaths know the rules that govern society, they are devoid of emotional intelligence. Hare's analysis of psychopaths' brain waves, including how they reacted to certain words that bring up emotions for most people, revealed that the areas of the brain involved in emotion had no activity. This study implies that there's a neurological cause for certain serious crimes. This theory is in oppostiton to the one that explains criminal behavior by pointing to environmental factors. It's likely that the IQ scores of psychopaths are normal in comparison with the general public, but the disturbance in brain health reveals itself in a lack of emotional intelligence.

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