High Emotional Intelligence: A Blessing or a Burden?

People who have high emotional intelligence, can really manage to ‘walk in another person’s shoes’. This sets room for their increased empathy, but can this empathy be overwhelming?

We know that the term emotional intelligence (EI) defines one’s ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. 

Beyond that, experts conclude that emotional intelligence also refers to the ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others. 

Emotional intelligence has become quite a famous word especially during the recent years, with emotional learning programmes even being incorporated in school programmes and becoming part of standard curriculums. 

According to researchers, there are four different levels of emotional intelligence including emotional perception, the ability to reason using emotions, the ability to understand emotions, and the ability to manage emotions. 

Although having these qualities and being an emotionally intelligent person sounds pretty empowering, the same research has found that “a core facet of emotional intelligence — emotion-regulation knowledge — can promote both prosocial and interpersonally deviant behaviour”.


The Pros

Yes, having emotional intelligence does provide you with countless benefits both in your personal and professional life. 

People who are emotionally intelligent, tend to succeed in life because of their ability to think before reacting in certain situations. They analyse the pros and cons of their reaction, weigh down their expectations or results, and they come up with a well-mannered, mature response to even the most ambiguous situations. 

This is because they rely a lot on reasoning, and they have the ability to calm their emotions. Which leads us to another great quality that thrives as a result of emotional intelligence, and that is a greater sense of self-awareness. 

Being able to calm your emotions, means that you are also able to look deeply within yourself, understand who you are and what exactly is triggering you, and you do not allow external factors to determine your well-being.

 In most situations, emotionally intelligent people are not only aware of their feelings, but also of the feelings of others, which allows them to feel a great amount of empathy. 

The empathy they tend to have for people, may keep them from commenting or pointing out their weaknesses without purpose, saying something wrong and hurtful, or it can simply provide a sense of soothing and understanding for others. 

Anybody can become angry – that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way-that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” – Aristotle

Furthermore, emotionally intelligent people can also work with their friends, colleagues or relatives to help them identify negative emotions and help them realize the impact that these emotions have in their lives. 

The emotional knowledge they possess helps themselves and other people to remain at peace with the world and get to know how and when to react. Yet, all of these attributes sometimes do come with a certain price.


The Cons

I read a piece from Harvard Business Review, from Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Adam Yearsley which was quite relevant and portrayed some very emotionally intelligent people I know, and how in fact, this trait impacts them negatively.

The article explained that: “Because of their high interpersonal sensitivity, people with high EI struggle to give negative feedback, and their cool-headedness and positivity means they also have difficulty receiving it. 

“They can be reluctant to ruffle people’s feathers, which puts them at a disadvantage when they need to make unpopular choices or bring about change”.

 I see my friends through this description, because as much as they thrive in consistency, details, relationships with people and stress management – they do tend to not have time for themselves that much, and do not set time aside to invest in their creativity. 

This is because they are highly responsible, and are instead, probably investing their time for the general good. 

Beyond this, high emotional intelligence is also believed to be linked to manipulating skills and tendencies to avoid risk. Emotionally intelligent people like to have everything ‘under control’. Hence, taking risks is something that creates aversion for them.

Of course nowadays people are constantly encouraged to develop their emotional intelligence, to help them succeed in life, as it’s a trait that can be improved over the course of life. 

However, I admit that sometimes I do wonder whether it’s better off to simply be a well-read, modest human being, yet get to live with a slightly non-harmful mind, by not really understanding what everyone in the room may or may not be thinking! Indeed, as much as it’s needed, emotional intelligence can overwhelm too.

Want more on this topic? How about this on emotional intelligence and success.

Emotional Intelligence: A Vital Trait For Success?

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