Emotional intelligence is emotional and social skills that influence how we perceive ourselves, express and manage our emotions, maintain social relationships, make rational decisions and cope with daily challenges.  In our last blog, we started to discuss the dark side of emotional intelligence.  Although it is important to have high emotional intelligence in the workplace,  having high EQ scores doesn’t always mean that it is a real strength. There is such a thing as the dark side of emotional intelligence – using one’s knowledge of emotions to strategically achieve self-serving goals.

Dr. Steven Stein, is a clinical psychologist, and the Founder and Executive Chairman of Multi-Health Systems (MHS), which is a leading publisher of scientifically validated assessments.  Multi-Health Systems, developed two assessments we use to measure and assess emotional intelligence, the EQ-i 2.0® and the EQ-360®.  Both are based on the model of emotional-social intelligence pioneered by Dr. Reuven Bar-On during the 1990s.

There are many measures of emotional intelligence out there, but only a handful of them have been assessed for reliability and validity like the EQ-i 2.0®.

The EQ-i 2.0® model illustrated, shows that emotional intelligence is comprised of five major composite scales:  self-perception (how we perceive ourselves), self-expression (how we express ourselves), interpersonal (how we develop relationships), decision making (how we solve problems), and stress management (how we cope with stress or change).

In our last blog, we discussed the dark side of self-perception.  Let’s now break down the dark side of the second composite scale – Self Expression, and illustrate how its three respective competencies – Emotional Expression, Assertiveness, and Independence, show up when over-exaggerated.

Emotional Expression

Emotional Expression is the ability to express your emotions constructively.  For instance, people who have a high level of emotional expression are able to calmly state that they are angry, without yelling or cursing.  These are professionals who can considerately challenge their manager at a meeting or advocate their position during negotiations without getting too emotional. They have the ability to narrate for others what they are noticing internally. 

In the HBR article, Good Leaders Get Emotional, Sundheim states, “Emotions are critical to everything a leader must do: build trust, strengthen relationships, set a vision, focus energy, get people moving, make tradeoffs, make tough decisions, and learn from failure. Without genuine emotion, these things always fall flat and stall. You need emotion on the front end to inform prioritization. You need it on the back end to motivate and inspire.”  In other words, we need to let our emotions out respectfully and professionally, in order to let people in.  Emotions are an integral part of what makes us who we are, and they connect us all.

But, are you too emotional?  Too much emotional expression can be too much.  Being too expressive with your emotions, can lead to making others feel uncomfortable and pressured to reciprocate. In her book, “The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connections and Courage,Brene Brown calls this floodlighting or oversharing.  She states a lot of times we share too much information as a way to protect ourselves from vulnerability.

There’s a big difference between feeling anger versus sadness versus disappointment. In the book, “Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life,” Dr. Susan David discusses the importance of determining the nuances between how we are feeling.  Only then, can we start to actually become effective at managing those feelings. Once you can name it, then you can tame it.



Assertiveness is the ability to say what you want to say when you want to say it, in a non-offensive way.  This involves speaking up for your beliefs and communicating your thoughts and feelings politely. Being assertive means you can express yourself effectively, stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others.  An assertive person also will defend their personal values, and what is right from a company perspective, and in an ethically appropriate manner.  For instance, if you are highly assertive, you have no problem speaking up when you disagree with something in a meeting or negotiating a pay raise with your boss.  Assertiveness is about controlling yourself and not having the need to control others.

Assertiveness is critical in the workplace for effective communication and relationship building.  The challenge is sometimes people have trouble speaking up and communicating to others how they feel, as they are worried it may come across as aggressive. It is not easy to stand up for yourself and put yourself and opinions out there.  However, being assertive shows that you respect yourself and you are willing to take a stand.

When overplayed, being too assertive can lead to hurt feelings, damaged relationships, intimidation and dominating discussions.  Too assertive can lead to aggression. And aggression can take on many forms – from intimidating tactics in meetings to sexual overtures.  Aggressive people tend to adopt  the “my way or the highway” stance, and can come across as hostile and abrasive.  To help create positive, productive work environments, we must all stand up and speak out against aggressive behaviour, so we can make our work world safe for all.




Independence is about being self-directed; not needing reassurance from others or caring about what people think.  It is about being free from emotional dependency. Independent people are self-responsible and are able to complete daily tasks like decision making and planning on their own.  Bosses want independent and self-sufficient workers. They don’t want employees always asking for help and/or doing things the same way they would do it, that just creates clones, not smart, capable employees.

Although there are countless stories of resourceful people, mavericks or pioneers, who have created a life on their own terms and beat the odds with their bravery and perseverance, being too independent can be a limitation.  Having too much independence results in never asking for help, which can make others feel untrustworthy, unneeded and unwanted.  When you are too independent, you come across as non-collaborative and/or not a team player.

Now it’s time to reflect on your own self-expression competencies. If you’re not sure where you rank, take a look at our EQ Assessments, where you will receive a personalized debrief with a certified EQ coach. You can also check out our online emotional intelligence training courses, to begin or continue your own emotional intelligence journey!

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