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EQ vs. IQ: What’s the difference, and why are they important?

Last updated

19 November 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Warren Jonas ACC

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Most people are familiar with intelligence quotient (IQ) when it comes to measuring intelligence. But over the years, another form of intelligence has gained prominence: emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient (EQ).

Unlike IQ, which primarily focuses on analytical thinking, EQ measures your ability to understand and manage emotions effectively. Having a high IQ can help you in academia or technical professions. Meanwhile, studies have shown that people with high EQ tend to excel in social interactions and leadership roles.

Many experts argue that EQ is just as important as IQ if you want to be successful—especially in your career.

This article will help you understand IQ and EQ, the differences between them, and how you can improve them to meet your goals.

What is EQ?

While IQ is widely recognized as a measure of intellectual capability, EQ focuses on the critical aspect of social and emotional skills. As such, EQ refers to your ability to understand and manage your emotions and empathize with others.

In a professional context, EQ plays an essential role in effective leadership, decision-making, and building successful relationships. People with high EQ demonstrate self-awareness by recognizing their emotions and understanding how they affect their behavior and interactions with others. They display emotional self-control by managing stress and keeping calm under pressure.

EQ is also a measure of your empathy skills. Empathy allows you to understand the feelings of those around you, communicate well, persuade others through influential conversations, resolve conflicts amicably, and build trust within teams. Therefore, EQ is crucial for professionals to thrive in diverse and dynamic workplaces.

What is IQ?

IQ is a numerical value used to measure your cognitive abilities and intellectual potential. It’s thought to represent your overall intelligence.

IQ tests are designed to assess various aspects of mental functioning, including the following:

  • Reasoning ability

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Memory capacity

  • Linguistic proficiency

The standardized nature of these tests allows for comparisons among people of different ages and backgrounds. However, it’s important to note that IQ scores are not meant to define you completely. Instead, they provide an indication of your abilities within the specific domains measured by the test.

Additionally, factors such as cultural background and socio-economic status can impact how a person performs in these assessments. As a result, you should interpret IQ scores in conjunction with other measures and consider multiple aspects of human intelligence for a comprehensive understanding.

Why are EQ and IQ important in the workplace?

EQ and IQ are key to success in today’s dynamic and interconnected work environments.

While IQ measures your cognitive abilities, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making, EQ focuses on your ability to understand and manage emotions effectively.

In the workplace, a high IQ can help you excel in technical tasks and contribute innovative ideas. Meanwhile, a well-developed EQ enables you to navigate complex social interactions, build strong relationships with colleagues and clients, and display empathy and adaptability during stressful situations.

Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, effective communication skills, and empathetic behavior are key employee characteristics that enable companies to create a harmonious work culture that promotes productivity and collaboration.

Moreover, balanced EQ and IQ allow you to make sound judgments based on objective reasoning while considering how your decisions impact others. Ultimately, employers value people who exhibit high IQ and EQ as they contribute to an inclusive work environment that fosters growth and teamwork.

How to measure EQ and IQ

Measuring EQ

To measure EQ, assess the components below:

  • Self-awareness can be assessed through questionnaires that prompt people to reflect on their emotions and personal reactions.

  • Social awareness can be evaluated by observing your ability to pick up on non-verbal cues and empathize with other people’s emotions.

  • Self-management can be measured through self-report assessments that gauge your level of impulse control and adaptability in stressful situations.

  • Relationship management can be evaluated by conducting 360-degree feedback assessments. This involves colleagues, supervisors, and subordinates providing insights into your interpersonal skills.

Try a combination of these methodologies to measure EQ accurately and holistically understand your emotional intelligence competencies. They will also reveal which areas you can improve on.

Measuring IQ

Measuring IQ is a complex process that requires a high level of professionalism. Standardized procedures must be followed.

Intelligence tests designed to accurately assess cognitive abilities are the most widely used and accepted method. These tests, such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, measure the following:

  • Verbal comprehension

  • Perceptual reasoning

  • Working memory

  • Processing speed

A professional administering an IQ test must have specialized training in psychological assessment to ensure accurate results. The test environment should be controlled and distraction-free, allowing the person being tested to concentrate fully on the tasks at hand.

Professionals need to follow strict ethical guidelines during the testing process, ensuring confidentiality and informed consent. Understanding cultural differences is also crucial to mitigate any biases related to the person’s background.

Can you improve your EQ and IQ?

EQ and IQ have long been thought of as fixed traits. Experts didn’t think they could be significantly improved. However, recent research suggests they can be enhanced with focused effort and practice.

Studies have shown that engaging in stimulating mental activities such as reading, puzzle-solving, and learning new skills can help increase your cognitive abilities over time, boosting your IQ.

Similarly, to improve EQ, you can participate in emotional intelligence training programs or engage in activities that promote self-awareness and empathy-building.

These practices can enable you to:

  • Better understand and regulate your emotions.

  • Manage interpersonal relationships more effectively.

  • Make sound decisions based on social cues.

You can enhance your EQ and IQ levels for greater personal and professional success by actively striving for growth through intentional learning and consistent practice.

What’s more important: EQ or IQ?

For employees

Both EQ and IQ come into play when evaluating an employee’s capabilities and determining their potential for success.

EQ often takes the lead in determining an employee’s success in a professional setting. This is because it contributes to teamwork, communication, leadership, and resilience in the face of challenges Employees with high EQ levels are more likely to:

  • Build strong relationships with colleagues and clients.

  • Display excellent interpersonal skills, which are needed for conflict resolution and fostering a positive work environment.

  • Have the empathy necessary for understanding other people’s perspectives.

  • Adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

Employers shouldn’t disregard the significance of IQ as it influences problem-solving abilities and a person’s aptitude for learning new skills.

However, while both attributes are crucial in assessing an employee’s performance potential within an organization’s framework, EQ arguably holds greater importance when cultivating a productive and harmonious workplace environment.

In summary, a strong IQ helps you in your job, while a strong EQ will help you progress through the layers of leadership.

For managers

Many experts believe that EQ holds greater value for managers. While IQ plays a role in problem-solving and critical thinking abilities—both essential for managerial decision-making processes—EQ ultimately takes precedence when striving for exceptional leadership.

A manager’s ability to empathize with their team members, communicate effectively, and navigate through complex emotions can greatly impact team dynamics and overall productivity. High levels of empathy and self-awareness also enable managers to identify and address potential conflicts within the workforce before they escalate.

Effective managers cultivate strong emotional intelligence skills by maintaining open lines of communication, actively listening to their employees’ needs and concerns, and adapting their leadership style accordingly. These are key ingredients in fostering a positive work environment conducive to growth and success.

How can managers balance EQ and IQ?

Managers with high EQ can communicate effectively with their teams, empathize with their concerns and motivations, and build a positive work environment that fosters collaboration and productivity.

On the other hand, managers with high IQ have strong technical and strategic thinking abilities that enable them to set clear goals, devise business strategies, and drive innovation.

Each situation demands a unique blend of rationality and emotional acumen. By integrating both of these intelligences, managers can strike a delicate balance between logic and empathy. This helps them make informed decisions while empowering and inspiring their teams.


Does high EQ equate to high IQ?

EQ and IQ are distinct constructs that measure different aspects of intelligence. Equating them risks oversimplifying the complexity of human cognition.

However, research suggests a positive correlation between EQ and certain aspects of IQ—particularly in social awareness and interpersonal communication. If you have high EQ, you are probably good at self-regulating. You may also find it easier to display empathy. These characteristics can positively impact your intellectual performance by helping you navigate social contexts.

Ultimately, while there may be some overlap between high EQ and high IQ in certain areas, it’s best to consider these constructs as complementary rather than interchangeable.

How rare is having high IQ and high EQ?

People rarely have high IQ and high EQ simultaneously. Most tend to lean toward one end of the spectrum, focusing more on either intellectual capabilities or emotional intelligence.

The reason for this is the fundamental differences between these two types of intelligence. While IQ primarily measures cognitive abilities such as logical reasoning, problem-solving, and analytical skills, EQ refers to your aptitude for understanding and managing emotions, empathizing with others, and building effective interpersonal relationships.

Although both are valuable traits in different contexts, they require distinct competencies that don’t usually appear in the same person.

However, having balanced IQ and EQ offers unique advantages in various aspects of life, especially in professional settings. For example, in leadership roles, cognitive abilities need to be harmonized with effective communication and social skills.

Are people born with high IQ or EQ?

There will always be a debate about nature versus nurture, but evidence suggests that both IQ and EQ have a significant genetic component. Studies have found a strong heritability factor in cognitive abilities, suggesting you can be born with varying degrees of intellectual potential.

Similarly, research has also unveiled genes associated with emotional processing and regulation. This suggests some people are more likely to acquire emotional intelligence traits.

On the other hand, environmental factors such as upbringing, education, and life experiences significantly shape both IQ and EQ throughout your life. Therefore, while you might naturally gravitate toward either intelligence type, the interplay between genetics and environment ultimately determines your cognitive and emotional capabilities.

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