Intelligence Quotient (IQ) vs. Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ)

Intelligence is one of the most difficult concepts to qualify. Intelligence can mean so many different things: from the ability to add 2+2, to the ability to realize when someone is lying to you. In fact, for psychologists, sociologists and anyone else who studies what it means to be human, intelligence is a relative term. The two most widely used measures are the Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ) and the Intelligence Quotient (IQ).

Most people are familiar with IQ—it’s the mainstream quantifier for intelligence. What they don’t realize is that EQ is its binary opposite: an equally important measure of intelligence. Here’s a closer look at what makes them different and how they relate to one another. 

What is the Intelligence Quotient (IQ)?

When the subject of an IQ score comes up, most people immediately think of people like Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein or Leonardo da Vinci. These high-minded thinkers are usually associated with their IQ scores: all genius level (over 130). We correlate their achievements to high IQ and they’re well-regarded as history’s greatest thinkers because of what their brainpower allowed them to achieve. 

The fact is, IQ measures a niche set of intelligence: problem-solving and abstract thinking. Having a high IQ usually means you’re someone who excels at applying knowledge. You can solve math problems, engineer inventions or speculate on high-level concepts with authority. IQ is a measure of how well you absorb, process and use information, and your ability to draw conclusions and create results in the process. Some examples of IQ at work include:

  • Following order of operations to solve a complex math problem.
  • Creating a strategy to address a multi-step problem with many variables.
  • Understanding and speculating on abstract ideas or loose theories.
  • Learning a second language or playing a musical instrument.
  • Using data to form an opinion and make educated guesses about results.

If you’re planning on being a MENSA member or want a career in a STEM field, you need a high IQ. This typically means testing high on crystallized intelligence and fluid intelligence exams, which measure neurolinguistics and problem-solving ability, respectively. 

What is the Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ)

EQ is less understood by the general public, but just as important as a measure of intelligence. High EQ individuals excel at interpersonal communications and tend to be more empathetic, because they have a keen understanding of emotion—both in themselves and in others. It’s an important measure of a person’s intelligence because it can dictate how they relate to the world around them: people, situations and variables. 

While IQ measures problem-solving, it could be said that EQ measures a person’s ability to recognize the problem, even before it’s presented to them. These individuals are sensitive to the many dynamic variables of a situation and cognitive when it comes to how their actions affect those around them. Some examples of high EQ in practice include:

  • Recognizing when someone is exhibiting certain emotions.
  • Controlling your own impulsive tendencies or motions. 
  • Adapting to change in situations with dynamic, complex variables.
  • Communicating with others in a way they can easily understand.
  • Empathizing with other viewpoints, even when you don’t agree.

High EQ individuals are more aware of their place in the world, and strive to act consciously of that. Measuring this level of intelligence is usually the result of situational testing, nonverbal diagnostic testing and similar tests of emotional resonance. Those with mastery over emotions and the ability to self-analyze rank high for EQ.

How IQ and EQ work together

As measures of intelligence, IQ and EQ are two sides of the same coin. One is analytical; one is emotional. Together, they unlock a well-rounded individual. 

Think about an aerospace engineer. This is a person who likely has a very high IQ: the ability to solve complex problems and engage in high-level thinking in pursuit of innovation. Now, imagine that this person has no EQ. They’re oblivious in social situations and temperamental in their own personality. They don’t get along with anyone and have difficulty empathizing. Would you hire this person? It’s a simple example, but one that’s becoming very relevant in the modern workforce. 

For more and more companies, IQ is only useful when it comes with a measure of EQ. The two don’t need perfect balance—and they rarely are. What’s more important is cognizance of both. Companies want talented individuals who can do what’s asked of them, and do it with regard to the people and environment around them. Can an engineer communicate effectively with a salesperson to answer questions and provide insight at a lower technical level?

Hire with whole intelligence in-mind

Companies can hire for both IQ and EQ by looking at candidates’ hard and soft skills. A strong résumé of schooling, work history and professional accomplishments is a clear sign of IQ. The ability to conduct themselves personably and with poise in an interview demonstrates a measure of EQ. Consider the whole person when hiring—especially as you hire for the c-suite and other high-level leadership positions.

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