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Name-calling: A Sign of Low Emotional Intelligence

It's easy to be dismissive and judgmental when you don't understand someone else's perspective. But when we do this, it's a sign that our emotional intelligence is lacking.

Name-calling and Labeling Are Counterproductive—In Every Possible Way.

The act of name-calling or labeling someone (out loud or in your mind) may feel satisfying in the moment, but this behavior isn't productive. It is an ineffective way to communicate because it shuts down any possibility for dialogue or understanding. We all want to be seen, heard, and understood—and when we call people names or label them as something they're not, it sends the message that we don't care about their point of view—EVEN if it stays concealed, hidden in the dialogue of our mind.

Why do we resort to name-calling and being nasty?

There are countless underlying reasons why we may be hateful to others or view them as less-than, but some of the most common stems from feelings of insecurity or envy, an inability to articulate our thoughts, reacting on emotional impulse, and believing others aren’t worthy of our kindness—ALL products of the ego.

Insecurity and envy:

If we don't believe we measure up to our peers, we may redirect and express this discontentment by directing it toward others in the form of hatred or animosity. In psychology, this masking of our true feelings of insecurity is known as displaced aggression; when we cannot express our own vulnerable emotions, such as fear or inadequacy, we instead direct our aggression toward an easier target. Name-calling and criticism are two common forms of displaced aggression.

It is important to recognize when we feel insecure and acknowledge our vulnerabilities to address the underlying issues instead of relying on aggressive behavior toward others. A good strategy for dealing with these feelings is to practice self-compassion and be mindful of what we say and do in moments of insecurity.

Recognizing our vulnerabilities with kindness and understanding instead of criticism or aggression can be much more effective in helping us manage our emotions healthily and constructively. Doing so also helps us to prevent further hurtful exchanges and build stronger relationships with those around us.

Failure to articulate our thoughts:

When we can't put our thoughts into words, it often leads to frustration and stress. Stress triggers our fight or flight response, often leading to an impulsive and defensive reaction. In many cases, name-calling.

Before I developed my emotional intelligence and expanded my vocabulary through reading and listening to constructive podcasts and videos, I often used name-calling and belittling others as my fallback. I felt justified in my actions because I perceived their intelligence or reason as a threat or a personal attack on my intelligence. In reality, my ego was the victim and villain in the situation.

If you struggle to put your thoughts into words, this could mean one of two things.

1. You haven’t formed an extensive vocabulary to accurately communicate what you are feeling and thinking. In this case, I recommend spending some time reading, writing, or listening to others who are effective communicators. TED Talks are also a great resource.

2. You are in a state of emotional arousal (emotionally triggered), and your rational brain (the prefrontal cortex) has hypothetically checked out of the conversation. This means that you can no longer “think” and collect your thoughts, so you are at the mercy of your emotions if you haven’t developed the skills to self-regulate and get back to a neutral state with minimal stress.

If this is the case, it’s best to step away or say nothing. While this may make you feel cowardly, it’s a courageous thing to do as opposed to the alternative—name-calling or saying something you will regret. Even if you don’t regret what you said, others will remember you in a not so found light. Is that what you want to be known for? A hot head or loose cannon?

Believing others are undeserving of our respect and kindness:

Let’s say you don’t care or feel bad about what you said because you believe certain people are unworthy of your respect. This is likely due to extreme social polarization. When we reach this stage of polarization, we fail to find common ground and consequently view the other as irrational, ignorant, and in some cases, evil.

Holding this perspective of others makes us feel justified in putting them down because we have stripped them of their humanity. Unfortunately, this belief that they are undeserving is our ego putting itself on a pedestal and opting out of self-restraint, understanding, and compassion. It’s a cop-out because there is nothing anyone can do that gives us the right to be hateful. Hate and intolerance against hate and intolerance only breed more of the same.

Instead, I again encourage you to practice articulating your feelings in a diplomatic way, allowing you to express yourself with dignity, confidence, and assertiveness, which is much more effective when it comes to making a case and being heard.

While we cannot control how another will respond, we can control ourselves. Even if you feel like your message is falling on def-ears, I can assure you; you are more impactful in making an impression with your calm and assertive comeback than you ever will be in battling with impulsive words.


Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith
Oct 31, 2023

Can any of this be proven?

A lot of these ideas on the internet start off as someone offering an opinion. This opinion is then used as a reference during another discussion... and it snowballs from there into gospel without any substantive proof.

The older I get the less tolerant I am of people...this or that person is wasting my time with a spiel that I have heard before.... in the exact same format... from someone was BS back then.... and it is BS now..... why not tell this person they are the village idiot?

See, here is the thing, most people are afraid of physical confrontation....being punched on the nose because they have said something that offended the…

Replying to

There is a way to be assertive without using immature, uncontrolled outbursts like name-calling. Name calling simply shows a lack of personal restraint and understanding of how to deal with the issues in an effective way. It's not able allowing thing to happen that are inappropriate or not addressing them. It's about actually addressing the situation instead of being petty and childish with no outcome but making yourself feel better, justified, or superior. But again, this takes emotional intelligence to understand.


Diana Barnes
Diana Barnes
Sep 24, 2023

I am responding to the comments made by Amfri. This article was published in the Emotional Intelligence Magazine, therefore, it should be assumed that the reader already has the understanding of what it is. The “proof “ you need comes from the authors Bio. It is always your prerogative to discern the information offered. I find the information very helpful and more people should know how to regulate their emotions better.


Amfri Umi-Uchechi
Amfri Umi-Uchechi
Aug 29, 2023

I thought I wanted to reference this article. However, I don't feel confident doing so because it makes claims with no evidence. It never defines "emotional intelligence" but tries to convince the reader that "name-calling is evidence of low emotional intelligence". I guess I've always considered the ability to persuade without using hard evidence as emotional manipulation.

I'll have to meditate upon this article. Something doesn't feel right about it. This doesn't mean the article is wrong. The lack of evidence, lack of fact, just jumps out at me.

Replying to

Hi Amfri, name-calling is, by definition: a form of argument in which insulting or demeaning labels are directed at an individual or group. It doesn't take a study to conclude that insulting someone is a clear lack of emotional intelligence. I would ask you to look in your heart for the answer to your question.

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