Emotional intelligence is being attuned to the emotions of other people. It’s generally considered to be a good thing, but if you have too high of a quotient of it, it can be very stressful.
According to research by psychologists at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, in Germany, being too tuned in with other people’s emotions can result in lots of stress.
One study involved 166 male university students whose emotional intelligence was measured by showing them photos of faces and having them identify their expressed feelings and emotions. The students then presented job talks in front of a panel of stern-faced judges. The researchers measured amounts of the stress hormone cortisol in the students’ saliva before and after their talks.
The students with the highest levels of emotional intelligence also had the highest level of stress while giving their talks. And their cortisol levels took longer to return to normal.
There are a few caveats. First, the study only looked at males of college age. Women and people of different ages with high emotional intelligence may handle stressful situations differently.
Other research also suggests emotional intelligence can have a downside. At least one other study has found that the ability to recognize others’ emotions correlates with depression and feelings of hopelessness.
Being too tuned in to other people’s feelings could make you feel responsible for their emotions. Which can also add stress.
Thank you to Myriam Bechtoldt of the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management for reviewing this episode’s script.