How to Communicate With Someone Who Has Lower Emotional Intelligence Than You

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on July 06, 2020

Have you ever felt deeply misunderstood in a conversation? As if the person you’re talking to doesn’t recognize what you’re feeling, and is unable to put themselves in your shoes? Well, that’s a common situation when you’re dealing with someone with lower emotional intelligence than you.  

You see, under the Myers and Briggs personality system, Feelers and Thinkers have different approaches to communication. While those who lead with their Feeling function can demonstrate higher emotional intelligence (EQ), meaning they have the ability to use their emotions in positive ways to communicate and make themselves understood, Thinkers can have a lower EQ. This doesn’t mean Thinkers are cold-hearted people. What it means is that—contrary to their Feeling counterparts—Thinking types tend to approach conversations starting from the head, not the heart.                        

So, how can people with low and high EQ communicate more efficiently? If you’re struggling to express yourself when dealing with someone with lower emotional intelligence than you, we have a few tips that might help.

Listen, really listen

As a Feeler, you can use your empathic nature to listen attentively to what others are saying. This is a great strategy for dealing with people with low EQ, because they often don’t voice their feelings for fear of being misunderstood. It’s also important to remember this behavior doesn’t come from a bad place. Sometimes, Thinkers are completely oblivious to what you’re experiencing.

Often, all it takes to make them open up emotionally is to listen. So, instead of cutting them off when they’re telling a lengthy story, acknowledge that you’re paying attention with empathy and kindness. If you can demonstrate that you’re present and restrain yourself from judgment, not only will you leave the conversation feeling good about yourself, but you’ll also make them feel validated for their worth: a win-win situation!

Choose logic over emotion (and get straight to the point)

This is a tough one for those who lead with their Feeling function, but choosing logic over emotion can prevent countless misunderstandings. From a Feeler’s perspective, Thinkers may seem cold and insensitive, but you’ll have to keep in mind they’re highly rational and analytical people. That’s their way of approaching questions and problems: sensibly and quickly.

So, when you come across a friend, relative, or loved one who operates this way, don’t waste time waiting for them to pick up the emotional cues and nuances in a conversation—because they won’t. You may be thinking that your body language or your tone of voice says it all, but it’s actually quite difficult for someone with a lower EQ to grasp that.

The solution? Meet them halfway by being the most explicit and straightforward you can be. If you choose verbal over emotional dynamics, a Thinker is more likely to understand you and connect with the message you’re trying to convey.

Don’t take everything personally

I know, I know. You’re a Feeler, how can you not take things personally? Feeling types are generally highly critical of themselves and they can interpret any constructive feedback as a personal attack. As sensitive and emotional individuals, it’s hard for us not to read criticism as an offense.

Still, keep in mind that when you’re dealing with someone with a lower EQ, taking things personally won’t lead to great results. As a Feeler, you’ll either rush to closure too quickly—just to maintain peace—or feel judgmental towards the person who’s criticizing you.

The key to success is to keep a calming attitude. More often than not, someone with a low EQ is clueless about what you’re feeling. They probably don’t even realize they have offended you, so try to detach yourself from the situation. By being more assertive, you can conduct the conversation in the direction you want and then later, if you wish, let them know how their actions affected your feelings.  

If things get heated, redirect the conversation back to the topic

When arguments get heated, people with lower EQ can have a tendency to shift the focus of the conversation to themselves, by assuming the role of the victim and putting the blame on others. Or, they may get hyper focused on one small aspect of the conversation and lay it on hard with the facts.  

This behavior is not always intentional. It often comes from fear of judgment and rejection, or from previous traumatizing emotional experiences. In fact, people with lower EQ often can’t tell how their behavior might lead to a problem, so their first instinct is to blame others.

Feelers can have a hard time dealing with conflict too, struggling to separate themselves from the situation. Still, as someone with higher EQ, your role here is to redirect the conversation back to the topic. What were you two talking about in the first place? What is it that you really want to say? If you know the person, standing across from you is feeling victimized, focus on the cold, hard facts. This way you can avoid emotional outbursts, and keep the conversation alive.

The bottom line: it all comes down to collaboration

As a Feeler or a Thinker with mature EQ, you don’t have to change who you are to communicate with someone who leads exclusively with their Thinking function. The key to finding common ground is empathy and flexibility. The more willing you are to listen and understand a Thinker’s point of view, the more you’re showing them that they can trust you to open up about their feelings and be vulnerable. This can speak volumes to someone who restrains their emotions for fear of judgment, or being misunderstood.

As a Feeling type who is naturally empathetic and truly cares for others, you can show the other person that you understand their language and can adapt to their communication style. This helps someone with low EQ develop emotional awareness. It may require you to be a bit more pragmatic and straightforward than what you might be used to, but it also opens up the path for a stronger connection between you two.

When you leave space for collaboration, you’ll learn that together you complement each other. As a Feeler, you might need to be more practical and rational at times. And as a Thinker, you may need to let go of the fear of showing your emotional side. Ultimately, it's all about understanding what each part is going through and helping each other out by maintaining an open and honest relationship.  

Andreia Esteves

Andreia is an introvert (INFJ) who spent most of her life thinking she was the only person in the world terrified of answering the phone. She works as a freelance writer focusing on mental health, and literature content. When not writing, you'll find her with her nose in a book, indulging in a cup of tea. Talk to her about untranslatable words, cupcake frosting, and stationery supplies. Find her at: andreiaesteves.com.

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.

Comments

Diane Fanucchi says...

Nice article, Andreia.

It can be frustrating when the other person doesn't seem to be listening or responding with empathy, but you helped turn it around and empower us

to use our emotional intelligence to improve the interaction. We just need to be careful that we don't always do all the compromising and work in a relationship.

Great insights though.

 

Andreia Esteves says...

Thanks Diane, glad you found it useful! :)

Michelle (not verified) says...

How does one find that line of not doing all the compromising when they did for a long time? How to know 'enough'?

Gaara (not verified) says...

My partner has a high EQ while my EQ is really low and this gap caused and still causing conflicts between us, so my partner is always the one who's fixing, solving problems and giving me chances. To me, the real problem is that all this time I haven't learned how to solve our problems nor how to avoid them so this question of yours makes me really scared.

Tesa (not verified) says...

This is very helpful, thank you!

Andreia Esteves says...

My pleasure, Tesa! :)

ClaireS (not verified) says...

Hiya,

As a Thinker I'd like to see a similar article written from my POV.  Being told I have a low EQ was quite patronising.  I find Fs just a frustrating as you find Ts!  How can I be responsible for how you chose to feel? And all this walking around on eggshells never gets anything achieved.  Hahaha

Wen (not verified) says...

As a thinker, who is married to a thinker, who both don't have the best EQ, I still relate to the thoughts you've penned. The both of us could definitely use a lot more detachment from a conflict, listening while withholding judgement, and avoid rushing to closure without resolving the hurt.

I wonder if your way to solve relational disagreement places a lot of the emotional burden on the practitioner though. I'd be interested in your perspective on communicating how you would like to be treated.

Andreia Esteves says...

Thanks for your comment, Wen :)

There's not a one-size-fits-all solution, but in my experience, setting boundaries and being vocal about what you're okay, and not okay with, can go a long way.  

Guy Masters (not verified) says...

I've taken the Briggs Meyers test several times over the last four years. Twice I came out as ENFJ, then INFJ as moods or life changes occured and once during this period as ENFP-T. I only took the free test, if that makes a differnce. Over forty years ago I read a book/studied Kinetics (Body Language) and realized of my own actions that I was more introverted. Knowing myself I can actually understand those changes, however, for N.O.. S...ial, I made big mistates. I was wrong, the book I spoke was wrong, I hurt a few verbally, that was wrong as not my style at least the second half of my life. Procastination is not always a good thing, however in this instance it got you to where you needed be and thats a happy and good thing. I should've just said so sometime ago, so to you and your happiness and blessing, Always.

Janis Ann Gabbert (not verified) says...

I am the INTJ, my exHusband is ISFJ, our daughter is INFJ. These Fs don't speak to me anymore. Collaboration is impossible. I am out-numbered! The best I can do is beg for responses to my persistent requests for compassion and empathy. What to do !?!?!

CHRISTOPHER LYNCH (not verified) says...

Janis,

For years I thought I was predominantly a Thinker, but after doing some DBT/CBT therapy I found that I had been in denial about how my own emotional needs were entering into my interactions with others.  I was also very poor at communicating those needs and at meeting the needs of others in this area.  I say this not to tell you what to do or even tell you what is going on, but just saying how valuable it was for me to have the help of a professional to get some insight into the dynamics that I had with others, and opportunity to practice in a "safe space" some new skills that frankly I am still not used to.

My relationships have improved by leaps and bounds as a result.

Hope this helps.

Blessings,

-Chris

KimA (not verified) says...

Please take this with a grain of salt/ if I am making assumptions, I apologize. As an INFJ daughter, the way you worded this question, my best advice for you would be to actually listen to what your daughter says to you. For me, the issue is, I tell my mother things, and over the years I've learned I have to be as specific as possible because of her thinking nature, and quite often, she will decide whatever I specify "doesnt make sense" to her and she will do something completely opposing to what I asked. I am 29 years old, if there is something I am asking, it is usually something pretty important/ emotionally involved. So if my mother does not do what I asked while saying she will (I obviously know she has her own life and do not expect her to say yes to helping me every time I need it), but every time this happens, my trust for her is eroded just slightly more, causing me to lose the ability to have compassion and empathy for her in situations she needs me to help out with- and she, like you, is very much confused why.   I may be wrong, every family dynamic is different, I just want to say I hope you have asked the exact question you've asked here to your daughter- and if you haven't, please do, and please try to actually listen what she says if she decides to explain these things to youm

Barbara M. (not verified) says...

I'm with you 100%. I'm married to a man for 45 years with very low emotional intelliegence. He has NO empathy, NO emotional reciocity, N  Shows  "ZERO" affection, NEVER apologizes and is ghostly silent unless it is someting logical and can have melt downs when I express my dismay. 

It took me a very long time to connect the dots. 

My well- being continues to be compromised.

Mandy (not verified) says...

Hi! 
My heart goes out to you. 
My ex was very similar. Turned out he is on the autism spectrum. It was 10 years (off/on)  after being together, and a baby, that I had had enough. I requested an evaluation by a neuropsychologist. Back then, they still called it Aspergers. He's a physician and functions well enough at his job. However, relationally, and EQ, he is clueless. Mark Hutten on YouTube has some helpful videos on Aspergers. 
 

Another consideration, regarding your husband, look into Dismissive avoidant attachment style. My ex fits the criteria for that too (and the childhood history). Dr Diana Poole Heller and The Personal Development School on YouTube, have super helpful info regarding attachment style dynamics. 

It helps to have that info, to help take others behavior less personally. It is more about their internal issues than it is about us. 
 

Healing my self, my connection to myself, developing self agency, and healing my own attachment style, has empowered me.

I wish for you healing, empowerment and peace.  
 

alice chu says...

As a thinker, and a learner, I agree that not all not thinkers are alike (there is always diversity, not matter the stereotype), I am always fascinated by how people interact. My emotional intelligence quotient is not on the low side (above average), meaning I am not emtionally low.

Unsure (not verified) says...

It's all well and good to try to be logical. But what do you do to protect yourself when heated turns to yelling? And what do you do if you suspect they are a narcissist?  

Nikkimgal9171834 (not verified) says...

I am wondering this same thing.

hc (not verified) says...

Responding to some of the discussion, it's important not to get too caught up in the Thinking/Feeling dichotomy. Remember the MBTI is just a neat model. According to MBTI, I'm more of a Thinker because I prioritize long-term, greater good in my decision-making and ethics. I can still be very emotional, and I recognise the primacy of values and personal experiences.

On the other hand, I have dealt with Feelers who have lower EQ (or at least, who tend to display lower EQ in some circumstances). When we get into conflict, they are quick to assume malintent. It is frustrating and exhausting, and not much can be done because they've immediately jumped into confirmation bias mode. Gentle questioning and attempts to ask them to consider multiple perspectives turns into "you're gaslighting me". It happens.  

Anyone can have low EQ, and EQ is a broad category of competencies. You can be good at some stuff, and rather weak in others (the person above, for example, when not triggered, is a warm and highly altruistic communicator). 

Do your best, try for a while, but set a timeline. Give it 6 months to a year for a long-term relationship. Consider if you'd want your best friend or child to go through the same experience. Then make your decision from there. A parting of ways can sometimes be best and most gracious action. 

Temitope (not verified) says...

This is really helpful. Thank you.

Andreia Esteves says...

Thanks for stopping by. Glad to know it was helpful :)

Taufiq (not verified) says...

Great sharing! Thanks so much

Andreia Esteves says...

Glad to hear it! :)

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