Deconstructing EQ — Why there is no Emotional Intelligence without Intelligence

Cecil (CJ) John
Mar 13, 2019 · 5 min read

Emotional Intelligence is a ground-breaking concept that has had a tremendously positive impact on industry and academia. Nevertheless, at its core is an unnecessary false binary discrete opposition. This premise is built on the notion that we have two minds, one emotional, the other rational. The subtitle of Daniel Goleman’s book says it all: “Why [Emotional Intelligence] can matter more than IQ”. Emotions have no initiative; their sole capability is to respond to reason or instincts. The faux dichotomy of reason vs emotions is academically and intellectually destructive. Goleman’s work sets the ground for a slew of false oppositions such as emotional mind VS rational mind, emotional brain VS rational brain, reason VS emotions and of course intelligence VS emotional intelligence.

Here are a few examples of how the Reason VS Emotion opposition causes critical thinking mistakes:

1. Women are often said to be emotional while men are rational, or at the very least are said to be more emotional than men. This has perhaps the unintended consequence of implying that women are less intelligent. The reality though is that both men and women are emotional and I do not know of any data to prove that women are far more so. Perhaps women are more “instinctive” than men?

2. Pundits of EQ go as far as to imply that EQ is more important than IQ. One only needs to refer again to the subtitle of the book Emotional Intelligence. The reality is that IQ is a capability required to be emotionally intelligent and the two are therefore interdependent. You can have IQ without EQ, while the converse is not true¹. EQ is a skill; a domain of knowledge that requires IQ to develop. It is not an autonomous form of intelligence in it’s right.

3. I once heard a CNN reporter describe President Obama as rationally intelligent and Donald Trump as emotionally intelligent. If EI is defined as the capability to manage one’s emotions and the emotions of others, I think most would agree that Trump is anything but. Donald Trump is emotional for sure and certainly appears to operate from his instincts. He does not however in my opinion demonstrate the hallmarks of EQ which are empathy and emotional self-regulation.

4. I attended a business class last week where the lecturer defined needs as emotional and wants as rational. This is misleading because needs can be both emotional and rational and the same applies to wants.

Let’s turn now to a few quotes from Ayn Rand²:

“…Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious; emotions are estimates of that which furthers man’s values or threatens them, that which is for him or against him — lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss….”

“..An emotion is an automatic response, an automatic effect of man’s value premises. An effect, not a cause. There is no necessary clash, no dichotomy between man’s reason and his emotions…”

Rand clearly puts emotions in their place as a response to a rational/intuitive concept or to a sensational/instinctive percept.

As further evidence that EQ is a form of IQ, consider two introductory examples of applied EQ; empathy and emotional self-regulation. There are two forms or empathy; empathetic distress and empathetic care³. Both of which are essentially emotional responses (i.e. feelings) to cognitive processes. Goleman in his treatise of empathy, fails to distinguish between the cognitive process and the emotional response⁴. Goleman lists cognitive empathy as the rational capability to understand how another feels. A psychopath for example has cognitive empathy but lacks the ability to respond to this concept emotionally. Goleman then goes on to essentially define emotional empathy as the ability to respond to cognitive empathy.

Consider emotional self-regulation.

According to Wikipedia: “The process model of emotion regulation is based upon the modal model of emotion. The modal model of emotion suggests that the emotion generation process occurs in a particular sequence over time. This sequence occurs as follows:
1. Situation: the sequence begins with a situation (real or imagined) that is emotionally relevant.
2. Attention: attention is directed towards the emotional situation.
3. Appraisal: the emotional situation is evaluated and interpreted.
4. Response: an emotional response is generated, giving rise to loosely coordinated changes in experiential, behavioral, and physiological response systems.”

If you examine the sequence here, you will see that steps 2 and 3 are essentially a cognitive process followed by a step 4 which is an emotional response. EQ is the cognitive capability to govern and manage one’s emotional responses. The following quote from Wikipedia further buttresses this process as cognitive:

“Cognitive change involves changing how one appraises a situation so as to alter its emotional meaning. Situation modification involves efforts to modify a situation so as to change its emotional impact. Situation modification refers specifically to altering one’s external, physical environment. Altering one’s “internal” environment to regulate emotion is called cognitive change.”

Goleman suggests that we have “two minds”. We certainly have at least two sources of ideas be there concepts or percepts but the dichotomy here is not reason VS emotion. I would suggest that the two sources are reason and instincts. This alternative dualism in my opinion maps neatly to what man experiences when they talk of “head VS heart”, “spirit VS flesh”. I include intuition as a subconscious form of reason.

There is very little documented about the science and psychology of the instincts. Wikipedia defines it as such:

“Instinct — Instinct or innate behavior is the inherent inclination of a living organism towards a particular complex behavior. Any behavior is instinctive if it is performed without being based upon prior experience (that is, in the absence of learning), and is therefore an expression of innate biological factors. Sea turtles, newly hatched on a beach, will automatically move toward the ocean.”

Both instincts and intuition are influences of behavior and can be more formidable than the faculty of reason. Emotions are a response to both reason and instincts and I wager that one can not truly be emotionally intelligent without factoring for these.

Cecil (CJ) John is an architect, technologist and innovator and has worked with some of the largest companies in the world including the IMF, US Federal Government and some of the top 5 consulting companies. If you like what you have read, you can follow me on Medium for more great content. You can also sign up for my newsletter or contact me by email, Linkedin or Twitter.


  1. The Role of Intelligence Quotient and Emotional Intelligence in Cognitive Control Processes
  2. Rand, A (1976). The Ann Rand Lexicon from A to Z. New York, Meridian.
  3. Brain scans differentiate two types of empathy
  4. Emotional Intelligence

New Intellectual

Optimizing well being through mental health, cognitive…

Cecil (CJ) John

Written by

Author - The Social Currency (Blockchain/FinTech) | CEO, LLC a Microsoft Managed Partner. Blockchain | Azure Cloud | Records Management .

New Intellectual

Optimizing well being through mental health, cognitive fitness and social interdependence.

Cecil (CJ) John

Written by

Author - The Social Currency (Blockchain/FinTech) | CEO, LLC a Microsoft Managed Partner. Blockchain | Azure Cloud | Records Management .

New Intellectual

Optimizing well being through mental health, cognitive fitness and social interdependence.

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