During our formative years, many of us took IQ tests for school. As a result, nearly everyone has heard of “intelligence quotient” or “IQ.” Not everyone, however, has heard of “emotional quotient” or “EQ,” IQ’s inter- and intrapersonal counterpart.

EQ, also known as emotional intelligence, is a measure of how well an individual understands and manages emotions in themselves and others. Having a high EQ is clearly valuable; emotional intelligence can make everything from collaborating with others to managing a disciplinary situation at work easier to navigate. But just how important is it? Is it more valuable than IQ? And what can be done about a low score in either area?


What Is IQ?

IQ measures an individual’s mental prowess and capacity for logic and reasoning. A person with a high IQ can typically do things like grasp new concepts easily, identify patterns and trends, infer the purpose of a device or tool, and understand complex instructions. IQ scores are frequently used in the school system to identify both exceptional students who defy norms and students with intellectual deficits who may need special assistance.

The average human has an IQ score at or near 100, with scores beyond 140 typically indicating genius-level intellect.


Measuring IQ

The most common test used for measuring IQ in English-speaking nations is the Wechsler Intelligence Scale, which comes in two forms, an adult test and a test for school-age children. In addition to raw IQ scores, the test also measures aptitude in five areas: verbal comprehension, visual/spatial recognition, fluid reasoning, working memory, and processing speed.

While IQ scores gathered via the Wechsler scale (and other similar tests) are considered statistically reliable, there are some problems with using them as an indicator of intellectual capacity. Among these is IQ being treated as a static value; to the contrary, there is strong evidence that suggests IQ can fluctuate, increasing or decreasing over time.

What’s more, IQ tests struggle to account for certain forms of mental capacity, such as social awareness and creativity. For example, test questions are usually designed with a single “correct” answer, even when there are several potential avenues for meeting the question’s requirements. An uncommon, outside-the-box answer that is technically correct will still result in the unusual solution being marked incorrect.


What Is EQ?

As we mentioned above, emotional intelligence is a measure of how well you understand emotions, and why you or other people feel them. It’s also a measure of how well you handle your own or other people’s emotions. Someone with a high EQ usually shows empathy towards others. He or she also understands that the emotion a person is demonstrating externally may actually be caused by a different emotion internally.


Measuring EQ

The main problem with emotional intelligence is that it’s hard to quantify. It is qualitative by nature. That said, there are some systems of measurement in use, though there is no consensus on which system is most effective. There are three primary models for measuring EQ: the ability model, the trait model, and the mixed model.

  • The ability model places primary importance on an individual’s ability to perceive, understand, and navigate complex social interactions. It has thus far proven notoriously difficult to measure quantitatively.
  • The trait model instead measures perceived ability—individuals are issued a test asking questions about the feelings that might be experienced in hypothetical situations, and the individual self-reports to indicate their level of understanding.
  • The mixed model hybridizes the two, though it’s currently considered “pop psychology” by most experts.

While EQ has proven difficult to measure, high EQ has still been correlated to better, more-fulfilling relationships for the individual in nearly every aspect of life: at school, at work, in families and intimate relationships, and even in public. Psychologists are still trying to develop methods for measuring and identifying the correlations between emotional intelligence and its potential benefits, but there clearly is a correlation between how well an individual can handle emotions and how happy they are in their lives.


Which Is More Important?

High IQs have long been associated with academic and professional success, but the correlation between high IQ and happiness and fulfillment in relationships doesn’t seem to be as direct. That’s where EQ comes in. A high IQ enables you to accomplish tasks and achieve goals, but it’s your EQ that enables you to deal with failure, connect with people, and make the most of your successes.

Being exceptionally smart does not always mean you’ll go far, especially in business. You may be a top performer, but if you lack the ability to control your own outbursts or help people with their frustrations, you will end up with fewer friends and supporters. Low EQ makes you a less-effective manager. It leads to resentment and grudges. Ultimately, individuals who use their emotional intelligence at work—that is, those who can be patient with others and empathize with their emotions—are more respected by the people around them.


Can IQ or EQ Be Increased?

Here’s the most important point: IQ and EQ are both malleable. Developing emotional intelligence and IQ requires effort and practice. For IQ, it’s a matter of learning new things and teaching your brain to do new tricks. For EQ it’s similar but in a different context. Much of it has to do with attempting new things and dealing with the failure that comes with being a novice.

There are some activities, however, that have a strong correlation to high levels in both areas. The biggest among them is reading, which is consistently linked to high levels of raw intelligence, emotional intelligence, social intelligence, and more. What you read has an impact on which score is most affected, with nonfiction doing the most for IQ, and fiction doing the most for EQ.

Wherever you sit on the scales, know that success and happiness—in school, in business, and in life—are largely tied to your efforts to engage and increase your capacity in both areas.


With over 35 years of experience, CMOE has the knowledge and resources to help your organization improve. Contact us today to see how we can help you improve leadership and performance in your organization today.

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About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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