Personality and Emotional Intelligence

One of the main challenges to getting EQ (Emotional Quotient) recognized as a legitimate measurement of an individual's ability to function and interact on an emotional level is the role that personality plays in these types of actions. The study of personality examines the issue from the perspective of the Big Five personality traits commonly accepted in psychological circles. The Big Five are considered to include: openness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness. Virtually every personality test there is relies to some degree on these five characteristics; whether or not they are predictive and broad-ranging enough is a common concern within the psychological community and, at times, come into conflict with the concept of EQ.

The Big Five are essentially broad scope characteristics that often represent an individual's personality. In turn, it is assumed that someone's choices -- and thus their future -- can be predicted to some degree by evaluating the Big Five in that person. The Big Five are as follows:

  • Openness to experience - Openness typically reflects an individual's willingness and predisposition to exploring a variety of experiences. This is often expressed through intellectual curiosity, a range of emotion, appreciation for art, a level of adventure-seeking, and so on. Generally speaking, someone who has a high level of openness will often seek new experiences, rather than engaging in a high level of routine. It is important to note that some experts classify openness relating more directly to intellectual stimulation, than general experiences.
  • Agreeableness – Someone who is described as being agreeable typically tends to be compassionate to others and cooperative, rather than antagonistic and suspicious. The people who tend to be agreeable are often trusting and helpful, as well as generally well-tempered. Someone with a low level of agreeableness may simply be hesitant to trust others, limited in their likelihood of compromising, and often assume that people are, by nature, unfriendly.
  • Conscientiousness - Although many people tend to think this particular personality trait relates to a person's social conscientiousness, it actually is about the decisions someone makes with regard to being conscientious about all aspects of their lives at any given time. This type of conscientiousness could include being highly scheduled, well organized, dependable, disciplined, and restrained. Consequently, those who are less conscientious tend to be highly spontaneous, easygoing, and sometimes careless.
  • Extroversion - Extroversion refers to an individual's likelihood to engage willingly in the company of others, and how comfortable they are doing so. Often, this characteristic goes along with whether the person tends to be energetic, positive, talkative, and generally seems to excel best when in the company of others. Those who are considered not to be extroverts are often introverts (meaning they value time alone and often prefer their own company to that of strangers or large groups). Being an introvert, however, doesn't indicate that an individual has no interest in social relationships, but rather that they are more likely to have a few close friends or relationships rather than enjoying a large group.
  • Neuroticism - Although the term neurotic is sometimes used unfairly, this aspect of personality does have a distinct role to play when considering the likelihood of someone's choices and certain types of success. Individuals with high levels of neuroticism tend to be more sensitive emotionally and are often more nervous by nature. People that are highly neurotic often struggle socially and tend to be challenged by their negative emotions. Anger, anxiety, vulnerability, and depression are all common concerns when dealing with neurotic individuals. The difficulties of someone who is more neurotic may include a level of emotional instability and impulse control. Those who are not neurotic or score low on this aspect of personality tests are typically much more emotionally secure and often have higher levels of self-esteem. Some researchers argue that those who demonstrate little neuroticism also enjoy a lower likelihood of depression and suicidal ideation during their lifetimes.

The Big Five model was initially discovered by several different scientists who were completing independent research into personality traits. The fact that the Big Five was determined by individual researchers, and has also been given credence by a number of researchers throughout the world, supports its validity in the psychological field. This measure of universality helps provide support for its use on an international scale, regardless of cultural differences. That said, there is also some dispute as to whether the Big Five is as significant as we have assumed it to be. Some researchers argue it is too narrow in scope, and lacks a number of other distinct personality characteristics, such as seductiveness, religiosity, honesty, thriftiness, conservativeness, gender stability, and so on.

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It's also important to note that the Big Five model has been the subject of a tremendous amount of research, including how it relates to personality disorders. Because most personality disorders are based on an extreme level of one or two particular characteristics, they are likely to impact an individual's EQ. In fact, using the five-factor model, one can predict all 10 personality disorder symptoms, as well as outperform specific testing when predicting particular personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, and dependent personality disorder.

So how does the Big Five impact EQ? In many ways, the two are closely related. Certain personality characteristics identified in the Big Five may have the ability to positively or negatively impact an individual's EQ. Likewise, the Big Five can typically predict a tremendous amount of information about an individual, such as their academic success and relationship patterns. In fact, some researchers and psychologists consider EQ to be useless or unnecessary compared to using the five-factor model. Nevertheless, there's one particular component of EQ that differentiates it from the Big Five in an important way: While our personality traits are generally set and can be documented by the time we are five or six, EQ you can be strengthened and developed as we grow older. Granted, we can also work to overcome any negative consequences of our basic five personality traits, but when the two are used in conjunction with each other, there is far more likelihood of success in implementing new patterns and learning Emotional Intelligence. Just as our IQ reflects our natural intellect, we are nevertheless given the capacity to learn in order to supplement our natural ability. Similarly, we are able to use information about our own personalities in order to supplement our natural Emotional Intelligence.

In fact, one of the main criticisms of Emotional Intelligence theory is that it is simply a repackaging of personality traits, rather than a true intelligence, and that some theories of Emotional Intelligence do integrate and rely heavily on personality traits. Proponents of Emotional Intelligence theory typically claim that while a person's personality, much like their IQ, dictates a certain level of potential, EQ is distinct from in that it measures how well a person is able to use their personality characteristics and traits when handling the emotions of themselves and/or others. Put simply, a person's IQ does not necessarily dictate what kind of grades they will get in school. Similarly, a person's personality does not dictate how well they interact with others and how well they are able to control emotions.