Debunking 7 Myths About Emotional Intelligence

Photo by Markus Spiske

Emotional intelligence (EQ, learn more about it here) is a relatively new area of study and there are quite a few myths surrounding it. In this fact check article we will explore some of the myths about emotional intelligence and dispel them once and for all. If you have an EQ fact you would like checked please leave it in the comments below.

Note: I was recently sent “proof” of a myth. The myth was a heading in the article and the reader understandably mistook it as fact. So here I outline the myth and corresponding truth in the heading. Learning something new is tough and can be confusing. I want to make sure you’re set up for success!

Truths we are uncovering:

  1. I can’t believe I even have to say this… emotional Intelligence exists.
  2. Emotional levels and capability are not gender determined.
  3. Emotional intelligence is just for career and business.
  4. You cannot hide from emotions. Your choices are to work though emotions or manage them.
  5. Showing emotion can be a sign of strength.
  6. Emotions are always there.
  7. Steve Job’s DID have emotional intelligence.

Myth: Emotional intelligence doesn’t exist.
Truth: I can’t believe I even have to say this… emotional Intelligence exists.

Emotional intelligence as a field of scientific study is relatively new – starting in the 90s. However, psychologists and researchers have been making reference to it since the 40’s, and inspirational quotes have been referencing it before the beginning of time.

Just because the concept is “new” doesn’t mean it hasn’t been around for centuries. We slapped the name “emotional intelligence” on the ideologies that have been taught by philosophers, psychologists sages and gurus alike for ages. Which is great because we make these items more accessible to all.

For example, understanding what you can and cannot control is part of emotional management (a concept of EQ). This concept is derived from Stoicism and has been incorporated into Catholicism (serenity prayer, anyone?). EQ is not only real, it is a great way to create a field of study for these life changing ideologies separate from a religious or philosophic school.

Myth: Women are more emotional than men.
Truth: Emotional levels and capability are not gender determined.

There is a myth that women are more emotional than men. If we look through the lens of current, cultural narrative it would be clear this myth is derived from societal norms and influences. I.e. men are taught to hide emotion while women are portrayed as being emotional. However, if we look at this logically, scientifically and factually we know that one sex is no more emotional than the other.

It is true that each sex has been trained to express emotions differently and society brands men’s emotions differently than women. But it is not true that women are more emotional than men. To be succinct and explicitly clear: evidence suggests men are just as emotional as women.

Picture of the cover of Steve Job’s Biography written by Walter Isaacson next to an iPhone 11. Photo by AB
Myth: Emotional intelligence is just for career and business.
Truth: Emotional intelligence affects every aspect of your life.

In fact, if you focus on increasing your emotional intelligence in general you will see benefits in every area of your life. When emotional intelligence gained popularity people automatically started studying it’s effects on productivity and work. Makes sense since we are a society obsessed with productivity and work.

However it is more productive and beneficial for us to take a holistic view of emotional intelligence. When we focus on generally increasing EQ we carry those skills to every area of our life. We also benefit by having a more well rounded mental health leading to reduced stress.

Myth: We can turn emotions on and off and force them away at will.
Truth: Your choices are to work though emotions or manage them.

Despite common belief, we can’t leave emotions “at the door.” I once ended a 2 year relationship the night before starting a new job. It wasn’t planned, just the climax of fights and deteriorated love.

When I went to work I did not deny I had emotions or “leave them at the door”, I didn’t sit at my new job crying either. (I actually excelled and received two raises in 1 year.) What I did do was acknowledge that, while I am understandably upset, my focus is needed at work and I can reflect on my feelings when I leave.

The break-up was real no matter if I thought about it at work or not. I knew the feelings were going to be there until I worked through them. Work was not the time for that so I managed them accordingly. If I tried to push them away I would have been focused on them. Just like you stat to see yellow cars when you are told not to look for yellow cars.

Myth: If you are emotional or show emotions you are weak.
Truth: Showing emotion can be a sign of strength.

Emotions are generally not accepted in society and we are raised to push emotions aside. So much so that if someone show emotions in front of us we may get uncomfortable. Our discomfort, which is likely derived from our fear of being vulnerable or appearing weak, may result in us projecting onto the person showing emotion and misidentifying their action as weakness.

However, if someone chooses to be vulnerable and show emotion they are likely expelling an extreme maturity, confidence and strength. They are also being a leader and embodying the change I assume they want to see in the world (pats self on back).

This is not to say someone displaying emotions in a fit because they cannot control them is strength (Karen and Kens). This is in regards to those who choose to be vulnerable. Who choose to say “I love you, I’m in love with you,” like Alexis said to Ted in Season 4 Episode 11 of Schitt’s Creek.

Myth: If we push emotions away they will go away.
Truth: Emotions are always there.

Humans are emotional creatures and we will always have emotions. It’s a good thing. Think, if you didn’t feel emotions you’d be dead. Anyway, we either work through our emotions or they continue to effect us. It may not be now but it could be years later, or the next time you are in a situation that elicits the emotions similar to the one you’re forcing away.

For example, the thought that women are sad right after a break up and guys get sad much later. This could be because the guy is celebrating his “freedom” he is going out and partying and living it up but once the revelry subsides the emotions of the break-up are there to welcome him. Please note, this is not exclusive to genders. Typically after a break-up I have the urge to go out and party (woo hoo) but I force myself to feel the feels.

While we are on the topic: the whole “getting under someone to get over someone else,” does NOT work and is crap advice. While you may will temporarily avoid feelings they will still be there. The only way to get rid of them is to work through them and the higher EQ you have the easier this process will be.

Myth: Steve Jobs didn’t have emotional intelligence.
Truth: Job’s had career centric emotional intelligence.

Someone, somewhere made the deduction that Steve Job’s did not have emotional intelligence. They therefore concluded that EQ is NOT what people need to be successful. Quite the reach! They are drawing on a one-dimensional plane and it is obvious they did not have a clear grasp of what EQ actually is.

Recalling when I read Job’s biography. I can remember he had a daughter he was not so kind to and his colleagues were not fond of him. But guess what, he didn’t care. Why? Because he had the strong sense of self that comes with EQ. He knew what he wanted, career success, and he was not focused on anything else. Later in his life he developed empathy for others as he increased his EQ.

In order for Job’s (or anyone for that matter) to raise to incredible success like he has you need to have EQ. During his career he received a lot of negative feedback, but he didn’t let it bother him. Because he had EQ. It’s not that Job’s didn’t have EQ, it was that his EQ was work centric. He is an example of why we need EQ in all areas of our life.

Have an EQ truth you’d like to fact check? Let us know in the comments below.

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Published by Lyndsey Getty

I enjoy psychology, philosophy, self growth and seeing others succeed. This space is where all that combines.

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