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IQ vs. EQ: Nature vs. Nurture

September 17, 2019
4 Min Read
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Growing up, you likely heard a lot about IQ, also known as the intelligence quotient. Tests were given to students to measure their IQ. Students who scored well were then placed in high achieving programs and classes.

However, over the years, research has concluded that IQ alone is a poor indicator of whether or not a person will find career success in their chosen field. One factor that is an even stronger predictor of an individual’s work performance is their EQ, also known as the emotional intelligence quotient.

To understand the vital importance of EQ in the workplace, let us first examine what IQ and EQ actually represent — and also how they differ.

What Does Your IQ Measure?

IQ measures someone’s abilities to absorb and apply knowledge appropriately to solve problems. It represents your spatial and reasoning skills, verbal comprehension, math abilities, and whether you can think in the abstract and filter out irrelevant information to get to the “meat” of a problem.

In an educational setting, IQ tests are a good way to identify those students who may have learning deficiencies or outstanding mental abilities to help them get the most out of their educational opportunities. But these tests are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to determining which team members will be the most diligent or the best leaders.

What Is EQ?

EQ deals with your emotional development and measures how you identify, control, evaluate, and express the emotions you feel. People with higher EQ scores typically are more empathetic and easily engage with others and understand their perspectives. They tend to take on leadership roles, but also are great team members who are collaborative and great communicators.

Is it Nature or Nurture?

According to researchers in the industry, a person’s IQ is more of a toss of the DNA dice compared to their EQ. While exposure to academic opportunities can influence your IQ, your genetics makeup does have a meaningful impact on your intelligence quotient. To that end, it is more reflective of nature than nurture.

On the other hand, your EQ is more strongly linked to your early childhood experiences and thus is considered to be more of a product of nurturing than your IQ. The good news is that if you come up a bit short on EQ points, there are things that you can do to significantly increase your EQ. Some with inherently lower scores have improved their EQ by taking part in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) activities and classes. These techniques can enhance performance not just in their career path but also in other aspects of their lives.

How is EQ Developed?

When children are taught to share their toys and be kind to others, it helps them develop the social skills that they will need to survive and thrive in the world as future adults. Kids learn empathy and how to cooperate and respect others’ personal space. This makes their peers feel comfortable in their presence and want to spend more time with them.

Adults who had especially difficult childhoods can struggle with expressing their emotions. They may be unable to communicate their feelings or needs clearly with their peers at work and even loved ones at home. They might not relate well to people in the workplace and be challenged by working on teams with their peers.

How to Connect EQ to a Growth Mindset

Embracing a growth mindset in your organization is a vital practice that allows your team members to expand their skill sets substantially. Even for people who have lower EQs, it is possible to encourage this development in the workplace. Team-building exercises might be helpful in this regard, as it forces more independent-minded team members to work together to reach their shared goals.

Team members who have higher EQs are more likely to develop growth mindsets because they can manage their emotions well enough to turn negatives into positives. This ability allows them to rely not only on their own self-awareness, but their awareness of others’ needs, feelings, and abilities. Oftentimes, leaders with high EQ also score very high in skills like inclusiveness, candor, interpersonal communication, and resilience.

How Your EQ Can Be Expanded

  • Practicing Empathy: Assume positive intent. If a peer disagrees with your ideas, try to view the disagreement from their perspective before shutting it down. If your colleague is unresponsive to your emails, instead of assuming that they are a bad team member, try reaching out to see if something is wrong and whether they need your support. Practice reading people’s body language and nonverbal cues to tease out their intentions.
  • Developing Self-Awareness: Self-identify your strengths and also the areas in which you can grow. Better yet, ask your peers for feedback on how you can be a better leader, communicator, listener, and the list goes on. Accepting that you're not perfect shows your team that you're someone who's willing to hear feedback and incorporate them to become a better team player.
  • Becoming Proactive and Not Reactive: Leaders who remain proactive in a crisis remain in control far more than those playing Whack-A-Mole by frantically reacting to each ensuing event. Developing the skills to self-manage your emotions can help your growth in all areas of your life.
  • Embracing A Growth Mindset: Treat every failure or setback as a learning opportunity. Grit and resilience enable leaders with high EQ to thrive in high stress situations because they are able to quickly get back up and apply their learnings. For these reasons, high EQ individuals are seen as more creative, adaptive, and inspiring.
  • Objectively Evaluating Each Situation: Don't make it personal. Not everything has to be about you. Rather than labeling a feedback, issue, or problem with a name, try viewing each situation through the perspective of others. Oftentimes, you're going to innovate and grow more from constructive feedback of dissenters rather than compliments from peers who are afraid to be honest.
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