IQ and EQ


I’ve never had my IQ measured. Have you? I’m not going to ask people to share results, but I’m curious as to how many of us have been tested. How about a quick poll?

Everybody knows what IQ is: a measure of how smart you are. We use it to measure both ends of the spectrum: genius starts at 130 or 140; mental retardation starts at 70 and goes down from there.

K and J bumper carJulianna’s IQ is 60, as measured last year. It can change a bit in the first few years of elementary school, so she’ll be tested again, but for now that’s the number we use.

But have you ever heard of Emotional Quotient? It’s a self-reported test, so it’s not scientific, but if you’re interested, you can take a survey here to see how you measure.

People with Down syndrome are often really emotionally intelligent. When I’m asked to talk about Julianna, one thing that always comes up is her ability to connect with people. She’s all heart, both good and bad–when it’s bad, the world is ending, even if it’s just a scraped knee. But oh, how she loves. And loves complete strangers as well as loved ones and friends.

We went to visit my grandmother on the 4th of July, when she was recovering in the nursing home. I remember visiting my great-grandfather in a nursing home when I was about her age. I found it positively terrifying. As we walked in the door, Alex and Nicholas clearly felt the same intimidation. Their body language sucked inward; Nicholas drew very near my side and didn’t venture away as we passed the ring of elderly in their wheelchairs, sitting in the foyer. One man smiled widely and tried to engage us in conversation. The boys shrank.

Julianna, however, made a beeline for him. “Oh, hi gway gee-paw, hi!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. (Great grandpa.) “I be see!” (I be six.) Of course, he had no earthly idea what she had said, but his face lit up. A brief encounter that brightened his day and gave her joy.

More willing than her brothers to brave the cannula on her great grandma.

More willing than her brothers to brave the cannula on her great grandma.

She seems to find the person in any room who most needs a hug, and if you’re crying she comes right over to comfort you. “Doh cwy, Mahk-oh,” she’ll say to Michael, who is less than enthusiastic about her as a comforter; his favorite people in the world are, in order: Mommy, Alex, and Daddy.

It’s hard to measure emotional intelligence by any objective standard, but even considering that, we as a society place little value on this trait. And that’s a shame, because it’s at least as important as the more traditional form of intelligence. Maybe more so. Intelligence is great, but empathy, compassion, kindness–these are the things that make life worth living.

As a society, we pay lip service to the importance of people with intellectual disabilities, but I’m not sure we really mean it. What we value is the high IQ. Everybody wants to meet, shake the hand of, and honor people of high intelligence. People whose contributions can be measured in dollar signs or publicity or glory. The overflowing person-to-person love shown by people with low IQs and high EQs makes us uncomfortable. They don’t always understand and observe the conventions and boundaries the rest of us cling to.

For me as a parent of a child whose love knows no bounds (except dogs. She’s terrified of dogs), I face a daily conflict. I want her to learn that the rules apply to her, too. Yet in some ways I think the boundaries are a little silly, and worse, they force her to dampen that which makes her most valuable to the world.

I suppose my point is that we really ought to rethink the things we prize. High IQ is good. Achievement is good. But neither of those is more important than empathy, kindness, or compassion. We have things we can and should learn from people we label as “retarded,” “simple-minded,” “handicapped” and all other manner of dismissive, derogatory labels. Because a lot of times, they’re way better than we are at the things that matter most.

15 thoughts on “IQ and EQ

  1. Diana

    Well said! I agree with all that you have emphasized here! I feel that regardless of your IQ, if you are not empathetic, compassionate, and self-sacrificing you are not “smart” enough to figure out your own worth, much less the worth of others! I know a few “geniuses” who aren’t smart enough to figure out that if their character is not honorable and charitable and their talents not used in service of others then they are wasting the gifts they’ve been given! I don’t care how “smart” you are if you don’t use that intelligence to contribute to society and instead think you are “too good” for certain jobs or to interact with other people! That being said, I have never had my IQ tested, nor do I feel the need to to know that I am “smart”! A genius by those standards? I do not know, nor does it really matter to me. I know some “gifted” people and I appreciate the ones who use that to be amazing people that make a positive difference for themselves and others instead of become arrogant and obnoxious. I also know some people with seemingly very low IQ (I have never asked them what their IQ is!) who make this world a much more wonderful place just by their personality. I wouldn’t trade them for a genius. Einstein was a genius who used his talents to improve lives for many, even after he was told he was not very smart by a teacher who wasn’t smart enough to understand his genius, or his value first and foremost as a human being! One of my favorite quotes is “The most important ability is availability”! Without that, who cares what you CAN do if you DON’T do it?!

  2. Another well said. I have worked with many people who have a high IQ and little, if any, people skills (EQ). Their intellectual contributions were lost due to their inability to interrelate with other people (customers, investors, team members, etc.).

    Regarding your question, if I ever had my IQ tested — I believe it was required by the school district where I attended school — but I am not aware of what it is and do not have a desire to know. My life experience has shown me that it is not a measure of wisdom, drive, motive to learn, ability to work well with others, and be a contributor to society or to a team.

    • I have a burning curiosity to know what my IQ is, but I’m becoming peaceful with not knowing, because I’m pretty sure that high or low, either way, it would be bad for my pride. I’m better off not knowing. 🙂

  3. thedamari

    I think you’re right. People today, in our society place way too much emphasis on a number they received for some questions they answered one afternoon in second or third grade.

    If you do much research at all on the history of IQ testing, you won’t worry about your score. The first IQ tests were devised in a matter of weeks during WWI, as a quick way to sort out large numbers of people into different jobs. They haven’t really changed all that much. In their current form, the high scorers tend to resemble (to a remarkable degree) the people who formulate and score the tests. The scoring is also more subjective than most people realize. The person doing the scoring often gets to decide whether an answer is right, wrong, or partially right, and different scorers will make different decisions.

    Here’s a question my daughter got “wrong” on a test. She told me about it after the test was over and knew she would get marked wrong. A picture of a bald man and the question “What is he missing?” Taking a stand on the issue of respecting all people regardless of appearance, she answered “nothing” reasoning that she didn’t want to suggest there was something bad about being bald.

  4. Great post! I have a sister-in-law that is a psychologist, and we talked about IQ and the arbitrariness of the measuring stick in that test, and how it really is a one-dimensional way to look at a person.

    I’ve bookmarked this post and will link back to it in the future, I’m sure!


  5. Mary Kurre

    Kate, I have to say that I absolutely love, love, love reading all the stories about your family that you blog about. Thanks You so much for sharing so much about your personal life & your perspectives. I heartily agree with you & can give testimonial too about Julianna being so loving. Just wish your stories didn’t always make me cry! They are so wonderful!

  6. Fantastic post. I work in a nursing home and have been considering education on emotional intelligence. Why? the number one thing that caregivers need when it comes to the elderly is the ability to connect emotionally with our elderly residents. Its a simple fact about dementia, that people with Alzheimer’s feel their way through life, they will not trust you if you do not emotionally connect with them first. Emotional intelligence is essential for proper care giving and communicating respect.

    • I’ve been thinking about the elderly lately, too, because of my grandmother’s recent health issues. It’s so wrong that people are all but abandoned when they come to the completion of their years…good for you for thinking of this.

  7. my nephew is an adult with down syndrome. my niece reposted a video on instagram from @eicherumba and that started me down the internet rabbit hole. below is the email i just sent to my niece.

    “years ago before Paul was even born, I heard a story on the public radio station KUT here in Austin. These UT researchers were talking about down syndrome. I have tried to find that program. One thing I remember and it was so beautiful was they were talking about how people say ‘oh, isn’t it nice that down syndrome people are compensated for their lack of intelligence by being so sweet and loving.’ The researchers said they had found that actually down syndrome people have a more evolved emotional sense, that it’s not compensation at all, that their brains are more evolved in the emotional realm.

    after seeing that video you posted I was doing a search seeing if I could come up with further research on the emotional intelligence and I came across this article.”

  8. oh, no … i’m so sorry. i’m laughing out loud … i forgot to mention to you that i was referring to YOUR article, THIS article. i have been having terrible problems sleeping so i’m going to blame my lapse on that.

    you did get the lisa eicher (@eicherumba on instagram) video, right? the psa she made.

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