What’s Living With Low Emotional Intelligence Like?
Source: Susan Spritz Meyers
It’s too easy to be misunderstood.
Do you always seem to offend people, or feel awkward at emotional situations? Are you spending a lot of time trying to analyse what people meant, and constantly worry about missing out on some undercurrent?
Interacting with other people has always been a minefield to me; one careless step or word can completely ruin a relationship carefully cultivated over months and years.
Although I love socialising, I don’t have many super close friends because people don’t understand me, or they don’t like my vibes. No one likes admitting they’re a loser, and I’m a big one, emotionally.
Yes I’ve been part of groups, teams, temporary cliques, but it’s usually at the fringe where I’m wondering what stroke of luck made these people accept a weirdo like me. Yes I’ve been called a weirdo, and many many other descriptions which aren’t very nice.
I chose to attend a girls-only secondary school due to its strength in the only sport I was half-decent at. But life there was nothing short of horrendous from Sec 2 onwards. I made a bad choice to think everyone was a friend and accommodating to my quirks, that what I could do in Sec 1 with my small clique (we were all regrouped into different classes in Sec 2) was the same modus operandi in Sec 2.
Within a month, I unwittingly alienated myself from almost all my Sec 2 classmates, and it was only after facing a wall of silence for a week that one classmate had the courage to tell me not to be so loud, or embarrassing. That was the start of my personal wall of silence, knowing that releasing too much of my personality scares others.
Sometimes people think I’m hiding something, protecting myself from the world. I think sometimes I’m actually protecting others from facing the brunt of my low EQ.
I became very awkward with shows of affection because in secondary school, girls who used to hug me a lot, suddenly turned the other way when seeing me walk in their direction. It took me some time to have trust in a simple hug.
There was also a lovely girls school thing called a little black book, where girls who weren’t ostracised and in the inner circle would circulate among themselves and bitch about people they didn’t like. There were also unofficial rumors that spread very easily.
With all these undercurrents that I wasn’t privy to and didn’t understand, I tried to hone the craft of being a bit more emotionally intelligent with my peers outside school. I found that guys are much easier to navigate emotionally, and the majority of girls don’t feel comfortable with me.
I’ve heard things like, “You’re like a man”, ” You’re alpha”, “You’re weird, but got X factor” when people try to describe my odd personality without offending me.
One issue an emotionally-unintelligent person has is the lack of moderating one’s actions and words to be tactful and sensitive. My default mode is to say it as it is, A is A.
It’s by learning through trial-and-error and copying how other popular people navigate relationships, that I’m sort of accepted wherever I am. Even so I don’t completely trust the status quo to remain, knowing how people can throw away years of friendship because I once said something they didn’t like.
It took me a long time coming to terms with feeling lonely, unaccepted and ostracised with people bitching behind my back. It’s actually quite irritating not being able to understand emotional undercurrents as easily as others.
Being straightforward offends many people, but it’s hard to lie when you’ve been taught not to. Honesty is a trait that isn’t really valued much.
When I think I’m being considerate by asking a question or doing something extra, it is sometimes met by suspicion and offence. But consideration for others is something we’ve been taught too. So conflicting.
Many quarrels arise because I tried to ask or do something with good intentions, but others think I’m being stupid, or evil, or undermining them, or questioning them, or trying to make them look bad. Seriously, I have many better things to do than sabotage people.
But more often than not, good intent doesn’t mean much when people look at your mode of delivery, whether it’s packaged nicely for them to receive or not.
I think my ex-boyfriend had captured the frustration of dealing with an emotionally-unintelligent person back in the days when he would say, “Jules, you’re so stupid, how can you even get into uni?”
It’s not that I can’t feel and think.
I cry at sad scenes, I feel the movement of emotion in music, I experience ups and downs in novels, and I have also been told I’m oversensitive.
The last is probably due to a thermostat effect where I swing back and forth between insensitive and oversensitive because I can never get the moving average of emotions right.
I just lack that ability to navigate the emotional minefield, when people expect me to read their minds, or how to package and deliver words and actions nicely without sounding too formal.
To me, the best gift I can give and receive is honesty and hard work, not lies wrapped in pretty words or fake actions without real feelings.
But this is real life, and besides continuing to learn like Artificial Intelligence robots on how to read others’ emotions, I can build tolerance against the uncertainty of not knowing when the next emotional undercurrent will hit, and the aftermath of it.
If you ever meet me in person, please accept my prior apology for pissing you off in future. It is just a matter of time for low EQ folks like me.
This article first appeared on Jules of Singapore. It is reproduced with permission.
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