Emotional intelligence vs. intellectual intelligence: Where do you stand?

Illustration of two sides of brain
Nishali Naik/Staff

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Alright, so society is really attracted to this thing known as intelligence. To be intelligent is desirable. With intelligence one can understand, comprehend and reason with a problem or situation that they are met with. Humans are often congratulated for their intelligence with prizes, a high-five, university admissions, food,  promotions, grants, money … yada yada yada. People tend to like intelligent people. 

Many of us at UC Berkeley are quickly categorized as intelligent people. We are intelligent people; most people are intelligent in some way, shape or form.  But this is not a question of whether or not we are intelligent, but instead a curiosity about how or in what ways we are intelligent. It is one thing to solve a hard math problem and another to understand or be empathetic to a person who is being incredibly rude to you. It is one thing to write an acclaimed dissertation about nuclear ecologies in the Marshall Islands and another to be self-aware enough to know when you are taking up too much space during a conversation. It is one thing to be intellectually intelligent and another to be emotionally intelligent. 

Reasonably it is not as binary as being one or the other, as most people possess both intellectual and emotional intelligence. But it is interesting to see where you fall on the spectrum of intelligence. How do you view your emotional and intellectual intelligence, and in what ways are you emotionally and intellectually intelligent? 

Below is a list of five characteristics of both types of intelligence. Feel free to think about how many characteristics of each type of intelligence you possess, and make sure to note which characteristics they are. For those of you who are reading this instead of finishing your homework assignments, this can be a fun little thought experiment. We will begin with intellectual intelligence. 

Intellectual intelligence

  • Great ability in problem-solving
  • Continuous learner
  • High retention rate of knowledge/teachings/concepts
  • Question-based
  • Adapts easily to new situations 

Emotional intelligence

  • Self-awareness 
  • Self-regulation 
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

While these are not all of the characteristics that form an “intelligent” person, they are a few big ones. How many of those characteristics apply to you, and where do you see yourself improving? 

Intelligence is a very fluid phenomenon meaning it can fluctuate. We always have the ability to strengthen the different aspects of our intelligence. We also may have lost some of the characteristics that informed our intelligence. For instance, children tend to be more empathetic to one another than many adults are to each other. Regardless, if society is attracted to intelligence, we should make it one of our priorities to be the most alluring, intelligent people we can for ourselves and each other. 

Contact Gina Wright [email protected].