November 30, 2023

Smart But Stupid? Time to Develop Your EQ

Is it possible for someone to be smart but at the same time stupid?

  • June 24, 2020
  • 6 min read
Smart But Stupid? Time to Develop Your EQ

Very much so! You see, there are various kinds of “intelligences.” On this occasion, I will discuss two of them: intelligence quotient (IQ), used as a measure of intellectual intelligence, which relies on cognitive abilities; and emotional intelligence (EQ), which involves the “heart” and feelings.

Why am I interested in this question? Because recently, some friends whose intellectual intelligence could not be doubted, lashed out at me. Suddenly they seemed to have lost their ability to reason and become possessed by uncontrollable emotions, making wild, arbitrary and false accusations. They were also extremely self-righteous.

Despite the discomfort of suddenly becoming the target of a negative emotional outburst, I did not respond, let alone retaliate. I immediately understood, they must be stressed. Maybe unwittingly I had said something that had triggered a past trauma or pressed some of their hot buttons.

Some examples of hot buttons: mentioning the name of someone who had hurt them, or making them feel insecure  or jealous. If someone is anxious because of reduced income due to COVID-19, and even the possibility of losing their job, then money will be a sensitive topic for them. The sense of helplessness caused by the pandemic also makes people frustrated and angry, which they can take out by lashing out at an unwitting target.

Unfortunately, the ones most often targeted are those closest to the attacker, because albeit subconsciously, they are certain that the person they attack loves them unconditionally and will always provide support. Yes, it’s cowardly, and also unfair. But these people, especially when emotional, seemingly regress into a three-year-old child with a tantrum. It would be unwise to react; and the best thing to do is simply to ignore them until they cool off and regain their senses – hopefully!

When a person feels anxious, afraid or angry, a commonly used mechanism is projection which is most commonly manifested by blaming others.

According to an article in a 2017 issue of  Pijar Psikologi, projection is “a mechanism of self-defense, when someone reflects their anxiety or guilt on others to reduce their discomfort. Projections occur when we criticize others, when actually we are unconsciously criticizing ourselves. “

So, it is not surprising that the attacks, accusations or recriminations are in fact a reflection of the attacker themselves. If they accuse us of insulting or hurting them, degrading their dignity, being condescending, untrustworthy, hypocritical, inconsistent, unable to accept criticism, being too critical, lashing out, selfish, petty, heartless, jealous, etc., most likely the characteristic or emotion they mention pertains to them.

Why is it that it’s highly intelligent people who tend to spiral emotionally out of control more easily? Possibly because the intellect is closely related to the ego. We live in a time which greatly exalts the “intellect”, making it a fertile ground for huge egos to develop. An extreme form of this phenomenon is called narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), of which the most extreme example is the president of the United States, Donald Trump.

While not as bad as Trump, the use of social media also tends to make us narcissistic. Social media is a platform for narcissism, to show off and divulge personal secrets that in pre-social media days would be private. While it has its uses, social media as an arena of competition and rivalry can be a source of insecurity and unhappiness.

Read more: How to Spot Prince Narcissus

People who are unable to control their emotions are often weak, unstable, insecure, anxious or fearful. Obviously, they really need to crank up their emotional intelligence.

So what exactly is emotional intelligence? It’s the ability to realize, control and express emotions, and handle interpersonal relationships wisely and empathically. How do you develop it?

First of all, when you react emotionally, identify the emotion – anger, sadness, disappointment, fear, hurt, shame, etc. – and the hot button that triggered it. Second, resist the urge to blame others, be defensive or overreact. Third, take responsibility for your negative reaction that is your own emotional response. It’s not someone else’s fault that you are sensitive to certain behaviors or words, and that you have a habitual mental pattern that arises when you interpret certain situations negatively.

If we overreact, for example get excessively angry because of a small mistake, the impact can be quite detrimental. It can damage a relationship, make the targeted person no longer willing to have anything to do with you. At the very least, you run the risk of making yourself look immature and foolish. So, spread your charm, not your toxic energy!

Read more: Facebook Meanies: Time to Unfriend Them

Remember, we can’t control what happens externally. The only thing we can master or choose is our own response. There is a simple “formula” allegedly created by Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) the renown French philosopher: “Between B and D is C”. This is not just an alphabetical order, because B stands for birth, D for death and C for choice. It seems so easy right? But making the right choice is often very difficult, and can determine your failure or success, sadness or happiness, both in the short and long run.

Prof. Peter Salovey, an American psychologist, published a book entitled, Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ (1996) because EQ is indeed the key to personal and professional success.

Yuval Noah Harari, Israeli professor and author of three world famous books, the last one being 21 Lessons for the 21st Century said, with the advent of technological development and artificial intelligence (AI), we will face unimaginable change and challenges. To prepare for this uncertain future, Harari said that there are four things we need to do: know yourself (the “who am I?” question), be adaptive, developing mental strength and emotional intelligence.

What are we humans actually looking for? Usually it’s happiness. But happiness can only be achieved when there is a balance between our IQ and EQ. Actually, there is one more, SQ (spiritual quotient) that is, spiritual intelligence, but I will discuss it at another opportunity.

I want to close by citing my friend Dr. Neng Dara Affiah, a sociologist from the Nahdlatul Ulama University who also calls herself “a woman on a spiritual journey”. She is a rare person, because she has a high as well as balanced IQ, EQ and SQ.

“Not all smart and intelligent people have a good and clean heart. Being too intellectual can sometimes even be detrimental, because it can lead to egoism. This attitude can become ‘hell’ for others and possibly harm them. When you feel superior, it implies that others are inferior. Indeed, it’s not easy to live ‘right’.”

Becoming “whole” is not easy, but if we can refrain from becoming a slave to our emotions, but master them instead, that is the first step.

About Author

Julia Suryakusuma

Julia Suryakusuma adalah penulis buku “Agama, Seks, dan Kekuasaan”.