Emotional Intelligence: Myths and Reality

“He who knows others is wise.

He who knows himself is enlightened”


If you have emotional intelligence, you know yourself well; you easily recognise emotions in yourself and others; you know how to control yourself; you are motivated and strive to improve yourself or get what you want; and you intentionally influence others. But, is it the greater the degree of emotional intelligence, the greater the likelihood of success at work, higher performance, better health and better relationships with others? 

1. The higher the Emotional Intelligence (EI) the better the Performance?

In the 1980s, Daniel Goleman argued that EI contributed to performance excellence in a 2 to 1 ratio. EI is a determining factor in professional success and leadership in particular. That is, if you have 100 emotional intelligence and 50 intelligence, you will perform better than those who have 100 intelligence. However, results from different studies conducted in 2010 and 2011[ii] indicate that EI only influences performance inconsistently. That is, to perform well it is not enough to be emotionally intelligent (because this factor influences performance inconsistently). Conclusion: People with higher emotional intelligence do not necessarily perform better or have greater success than those considered “only” intelligent.

2. Do people who have an easier time identifying emotions have greater financial success?

A study conducted in 2015[iii] involving 426 people from various professions and organisations, did not prove a relationship between emotional intelligence and financial performance. It is not enough to have an easy time identifying emotions to be economically successful. But the greater their political awareness (one of the qualities associated with empathic ability), the greater their ease in moving socially to achieve greater financial prosperity. Conclusion: We cannot claim that those with greater emotional reading skills will have greater financial success.

3. Are emotionally intelligent people more creative?

Creativity/innovation is one of the characteristics of self-control or self-regulation, which are part of personal competences. The greater the emotional intelligence, the greater the creativity and the greater the capacity to innovate. This relationship is greater and stronger in women than in men. Conclusion: Yes, if you are emotionally intelligent you will possibly be more creative.

4. Are emotionally intelligent leaders more effective in relating to others?

Several studies have highlighted the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership as it requires self-knowledge, self-control, motivation, empathy to lead others. We could thus think that there is a positive influence of those with EI on relationships with others. However, a study conducted in 2017, which related emotional intelligence and rest through sleep and interpersonal relationships, found that those who sleep little or irregularly are less effective in relating to others. Conclusion: Yes, emotionally intelligent leaders are more effective at relating to others as long as they don’t sleep poorly or irregularly.

5. Are people with high emotional intelligence healthier?

In the analysis of the results of several studies, which involved the response of some 7898 people, high EI was found to be associated with better physical and mental health. Conclusion: Yes, a high EI is associated with greater physical and mental health.

6. Are women more empathic than men?

EI, in Daniel Goleman’s terms, is usually generically associated with women. Tania Singer, a neuroscientist, has investigated what might be called an emotional brain and a rational brain. She discovered that as women have greater emotional empathy than men, which is due to a greater development of mirror neurons in what she called the emotional brain. The existence of more brain areas linked to social intelligence, or the ability to identify and deal with the emotions of others, has been confirmed by several studies. Bar-on[1]. for example, in 2002, argued that women’s brains are structured to feel empathy, while men’s brains are more geared towards understanding and building systems. Conclusion: Yes, women are more empathic than men.

7. There is a difference in emotional intelligence between men and women[2]?

There are many studies on the differences in emotional intelligence between men and women. What is found is that although women, on average, have better results in this dimension the results are quite contradictory, which means that we cannot clearly state that there are differences in EI between the genders. In concrete aspects we can identify differences. While women better identify emotions in general through expressions, men more easily distinguish emotions related to specific behaviours related to anger and signs of aggression and threat[3]. Conclusion: There are no gender differences in overall emotional intelligence, but there are differences in EI between men and women in specific aspects.

8. There are differences in emotional intelligence between men and women[i]?

If you have higher EI, you will have better physical and mental health, but EI has not been shown to be directly related to professional or economic success or better interpersonal relationships. There are gender differences in some aspects of emotional intelligence. Women have a greater facility for emotional identification with regard to emotions, greater empathy and creativity. Men are more likely to identify signs of aggression or threat.

9. How to develop your Emotional Intelligence?

If you have read my articles “Qual o impacto da Inteligência Emocional no dia-a-dia” e “Como desenvolver a sua Inteligência Emocional?”, knows that emotional intelligence is a capacity that can be developed. And, although some data can be disconcerting, the truth is that greater emotional intelligence facilitates a better quality of life in various aspects. You can develop your emotional intelligence, but you are unlikely to do so through courses, books or lectures. The best way to develop your emotional intelligence is to start with your self-knowledge. Don’t leave the quality of your life to chance, you can contact me to know and develop your emotional intelligence.

[1] Baron-Cohen in 2002 defended this theory.

[2] Biological sex, in most studies, is what differentiates men and women when asked which sex they are. We have therefore adopted this terminology for ease of exposition.

[3] M.E. Kret, M.E., Gelder, B.,(2012 “A review on sex differences in processing emotional signals”doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.12.022

[i] All the studies consulted referred to participants according to biological sex.

[ii] In Joseph, Dana L.,Newman, Daniel A. .(2010).Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 95(1), Jan 2010, 54-78; O´Boyle Jr. E., Humphrey, R.H., Pollack J.M., Story, Paul, A.S.. (2011). The relation between emotional intelligence and job performance: a meta‐analysis.doi; 10,1002/job.714.

[iii] Momm, T., Blickle, G., Liu, Y., Wihler, A., Kholin, M., & Menges, J. I. (2015). It pays to have an eye for emotions: Emotion recognition ability indirectly predicts annual income. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(1), 147–163. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.1975

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