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Emotional Intelligence Tests and Credibility

Some debate the validity of emotional intelligence due to the word ‘intelligence’ and what that means.

And some people will go as far as to say that emotional intelligence is pseudoscience or “crooked psychology," as did an anonymous writer for an article in Inc. entitled: It’s Time to Stop Talking About EQ Because It Doesn’t Actually Exist.

This article presents highly biased and, ironically, emotional rhetoric around the topic of EQ (which stands for emotional quotient), stating there is NO evidence to support it. And while there are many things I could dissect and debunk in this piece of content, I want to address the primary argument about the ability to measure EI and the meaning behind the word intelligence, which tends to prevent a handful of people from accepting it as a valid skillset or science.

While the argument that there is no evidence supporting the validity and effectiveness of emotional intelligence is entirely untrue, I share similar disapproval and criticism for most tests that claim to be able to accurately measure EI or EQ as it is known.

I have had my share of conversations with individuals who have taken several different EI tests and claimed to have scored high in self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, etc. Yet quickly into our conversation, they demonstrate a strong lacking of these skills through mindless rambling, interruption, lack of awareness, understanding, and a clear need to feel superior in many cases.

My frustration is not in the validity of emotional intelligence as a skill or science but in how it is portrayed, marketed, and measured.

I have taken numerous EI/EQ tests to compare the data and went through various certifications, not to administer these assessments to others but to gain clear insight into how EI/EQ is being taught and tested. And while many of the tests have provided similar results, I largely believe it’s because my answers were consistent. The problem isn’t as much in the questions, I suppose, as it is the honesty of those taking the test. Unfortunately, many of the questions being asked are subjective, situational, and easily manipulated. For example, “Are you able to accurately identify your emotions?” In this case, someone might say, “Yes. I know when I am mad, sad, happy...” However, what if they felt envy instead of anger and misidentified that emotion?

An example of a situational question might be, “If your friend is discussing something you strongly disagree with, would you: A) interrupt and correct them? B) Hear them out before telling them they are wrong. C) Listening without interruption and calmly talk through the issue.”

Again, while some people may answer honestly, individuals who lack self-awareness might struggle to identify and admit their faults. Or, an individual may answer based on how they would like to see themselves respond versus how they would realistically respond.

My concern with administering EI/EQ tests is that if an individual tests high due to conscious or unconscious manipulation, any attempt in the future to address an issue or develop their EI will likely result in dismissal or hostility. “I don’t have a problem! I tested high in self-awareness.”

Instead, I believe that an individual’s EI should be primarily determined qualitatively by a collection of data acquired from surveying their peers, friends, relatives, etc., and not quantitatively. While nothing is 100% accurate in testing EI, we can gain a strong baseline understanding of whether an individual demonstrates emotional control, has an accurate representation of themselves based on how their opinion of themselves aligns with that of others, and how effective they are at articulating, etc., through surveying those closest to them. Instead of labeling someone as having high or low EI, I believe identifying areas for improvement would be more beneficial in helping the individual accept and develop this essential skill.

I believe the ‘need’ or push to test and assess “soft skills quantitatively” is primarily based on society’s dismissal of anything that can’t be cleanly measured, especially when we are trying to convince organizations to invest in intangible skills.

Human behavior and emotions are messy. Many factors play into our thought processes, beliefs, and choices. One hundred individuals may react similarly to the same situation for one hundred different reasons. It’s not something that can be easily streamlined, nor can it be taught at an intellectual level. It must be felt, embodied, and embarrassed individually at a level of understanding and wisdom that resides at a different place of conscious awareness, which leads to the dispute over the term intelligence.

Yes, indeed, emotional intelligence is not a traditional form of intelligence. It is not something that can be accurately measured, like IQ. But why do we need it to be? The results of developing this skill should speak for themselves.

It seems we are getting too caught up in irrelevant details, as we usually do in an unconscious and ego-driven society. Tom-ay-to, Tom-ah-to… It doesn’t matter how you say it. We are talking about the same thing. In the case of emotional intelligence, call it what you will. Some prefer emotional competency. Whatever you want to call it, the contents and results are the same.

The question I am left with is this: What causes certain people to resist the idea of EI?

Could it be the fear that their intellect will no longer carry them? Or maybe it’s their fear of looking within themselves, which can be painful if they lack self-compassion or suffer from unaddressed traumas. I doubt their obvious objections are the root of their dismissal.

What are your thoughts on the topic?


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