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low emotional intelligence

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What is emotional intelligence?

According to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence is generally said to include at least three skills: emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.”

A person with minimal emotional intelligence can be difficult to maintain a relationship with, especially if you’ve already done the work, as Iyanla would say. Here are five tell-tale signs a person has low emotional intelligence and how to deal with them.

low emotional intelligence

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They’re argumentative

People with low emotional intelligence are a constant source of conflict. Not only are they easily offended, but their inability to read or understand the emotions of others means that they frequently offend others. Oftentimes, they will try to win an argument at any cost while giving little consideration to the feelings of the opposing party.

low emotional intelligence

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How to deal: Pick and choose your battles

It can feel like some low EQ people are always looking for a fight, but that doesn’t mean you have to engage. Stand up for what you believe in, but recognize that you don’t have to show up to every fight you’re invited to.

“It would be easy to react defensively or angrily yourself,” Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. told Psychology Today. “Remind yourself that this is someone who argues for the sake of argument, and just let those attacks go.”

low emotional intelligence

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They lack empathy

Empathy is defined as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.” Since people with low emotional intelligence have limited emotional awareness, they struggle tremendously to empathize with others. As a result, they often come off as callous and dismissive.

low emotional intelligence

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How to deal: Distance

Dealing with people who struggle to understand the feelings of others can be painful and in many instances, the only remedy is distance. Of course, it’s completely up to you how much distance you will need. While some may opt to end a relationship completely, others choose to limit contact. Regardless of which path you choose, it’s important that you stop trying to get them to understand your feelings.

low emotional intelligence

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They never take accountability

People with limited emotional intelligence struggle to accept blame for anything. Regardless of the circumstances, they will find a way to place blame on others while making excuses for themselves. This inability to perceive how their actions and attitudes may have contributed to certain outcomes leaves them feeling as though they are the victims and everyone else is to blame.

low emotional intelligence

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How to deal: Give honest feedback

While you may never be able to convince someone to step up and accept accountability for their actions, you can offer honest feedback, or as leadership coach Hannah Cooper puts it, critical feedback.

“Providing critical feedback points observable behaviors and their impact,” Cooper explained. “Criticism instead attacks the person, versus focusing on their behavior.”

low emotional intelligence

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They can’t sustain relationships

Those who have low EQ often struggle to manage long-term relationships and even when the relationships are long-term, they experience frequent fall-outs. The reason for their challenges in this area can be attributed to a host of different reasons — including their argumentative nature, inability to empathize, and their reluctance to accept accountability.

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How to deal: Remove yourself

Ultimately, this is a personal decision but remaining in a relationship with low EQ individuals can be emotionally taxing. Many decide that it is not worth the hassle and choose to sever ties. However, this can a more difficult decision to make when the individual is a family member.

low emotional intelligence

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They’re easily angered over nothing

As Psychology Today points out, it’s much easier to be angry than it is to be sad. Further, people with low EQ are more likely to lash out in anger before even taking a full inventory of what they’re feeling. They are offended often and easily.

low emotional intelligence

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How to deal: Give empathy where possible, but don’t tolerate abuse

“Everyone deserves the same amount of empathy and understanding. If we can just give the same kindness instead of shutting down, we can understand that it’s not personal, but that they do have their own work to do,” Licenses Marriage and Family Therapist Marissa Nelson told Madame Noire. “What you can do is love them the best that you can and try to understand where they’re coming from so that you don’t completely shut them out.”

Of course, being empathetic doesn’t mean subjecting yourself to abuse. Maintaining healthy boundaries is key.


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