In some ways, emotional intelligence is actually more important than actual intelligence. Yes, that sounds like quite a claim, but that does not make it any less true. Emotional intelligence, or the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and read those of other people, is vitally important. After all, if it is missing, then there is a good chance that your actual intelligence ends up being pointed in the wrong direction, such as self-destructive acts or in misunderstanding the wants and intentions of others.

To put it a different way, intelligence is like the engine, while emotional intelligence is what sits behind the steering wheel. Now I do not know about you, but I would rather have a good driver in a weak car than an absolute idiot behind the wheel of a monster truck, wouldn’t you?

Of course, that is all well and nice, but how do you actually get a grip on how emotionally intelligent somebody – like your employee – is? That is what we are going to look at next.

How socially awkward are they?

Do they often put their foot in their mouths? Do they have trouble understanding the tone of the conversation? Do they seem oblivious to hints? If these are the case, then you are probably dealing with somebody who has low social intelligence.

If, on the other hand, they seem very clued in to the mood in the room – if they pick up when the energy changes, for example – then that probably means that you are dealing with somebody who has a high emotional intelligence.

If you are not sure, there are ways to actually see how good people are at picking up other people’s emotions. For example, Berkley’s The Greater Good has an Emotional Intelligence Quiz. How people take this and see how well they score.

Of course, that is not the only part of emotional intelligence.


Emotionally intelligent people have a better understanding of their internal emotional life. Of course, that is a difficult thing for you to actually assess. I mean, you cannot actually get inside their heads and find out how much attention they pay to their own emotions, can you?

Therefore, you need a proxy. A good one is to find out how colorful and far-ranging their emotional vocabulary is. Ask them to talk about an emotional episode of their lives. The better they are at describing and exploring it, the more self-aware they are and the better a handle they have on their emotions.

One important point to note: Make sure that you are actually exploring their self-awareness and not their willingness to embarrass themselves. Pick an emotion episode that is loaded, but does not make them feel awkward to talk about.

You do not have to let them talk about it either. Another good strategy is to get them to write about it instead. Then you can take your time to analyze their writing sample and look at how they describe the situation.

Ask them about a bad day

Here the goal is to find out how they dealt with the negative experience. Did they dwell excessively on what went wrong and feel sorry for themselves or did they manage to get past it quickly and move on to finding a solution?

The former struggle at controlling their emotions, while the latter are more emotionally intelligent.

Again, a thing to note, for this question to work at its best, be sure to be sympathetic and avoid making judgmental sounds or noises. The moment you do that, you are going to drive them back into their shell. At this point, you might end up confusing a lack of emotional intelligence with somebody who is introverted. And that obviously is not the goal.

You might even want to start with a bad day you had yourself. If you do follow this strategy, then try to make sure the story is unique so that they do not end up spitting the same story back at you, as that defeats the purpose of the exercise.

Ask them what they’re proud of

Get them to boast a little bit and watch how they do so. Do they talk only about themselves? Then you might be dealing with somebody with low emotional intelligence (or somebody with a narcissism complex, which is equally undesirable).

Do they credit other people or do they admit that there was a big element of luck involved? This is typically a sign of a more emotionally intelligent and mature individual. That is also somebody you would like to have on your team, as people’s ability to appreciate what other people do around them is a good way to keep team harmony (while those who cannot do so can be horribly disruptive).

Get them to talk about a friendship and why they’re friends

How aware are they of why they are friends with the other person? Can they explain what they like about the other person? Do they only talk about their own feelings or do they spend time on the other person as well? Are they humble? Do they appreciate the other person’s role?

This works even better if you know the other person, of course. Even if you do not, you can still figure out a lot. If it is all about them, then that is a bad sign. If they give the other person due credit, then you are probably dealing with somebody who understands the emotional interplay between two people.

Last words

Emotional intelligence is – as you can see by these questions and what they imply – an important skill to possess. So find out if people have it and if they don’t, start working on making it better, by – for example – giving them tips on how to get better at reading people as well as making them better at managing their emotions.

Because fortunately emotional intelligence can be improved, if you are willing to invest the time and the effort. And that seems well worth the investment, don’t you think?

Author: Dante Munnis
BIO: Dante Munnis is a blogger and idea maker from Stockholm who is interested in self-development, web related topics and success issues. In addition, he is a contributing writer on Essay Republic, where he shares his ideas and experience with people. . You can get in touch with Dan via Twitter.


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