9 anti-social behaviors that show a lack of emotional intelligence

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Emotional intelligence is essential when it comes to successfully dealing with other humans.

It’s not only the ability to manage your emotions but also to better understand the emotions of the people around you.

No wonder that individuals with low emotional intelligence often have trouble fitting in.

You can only fake emotional closeness for so long.

Eventually, others figure out that something is not quite right under the surface.

On that note, here are 9 anti-social behaviors that show a lack of emotional intelligence.

Learning to recognize the red flags can spare you a whole lot of heartache.

1) Inability to empathize with other people

To people with low emotional intelligence (EQ), acknowledging the feelings of others doesn’t come naturally.

They miss out on emotional cues and misread social situations.

Additionally, they might display a lack of sensitivity when someone is going through a tough time and dismiss their emotions, leading to strained relationships.

Back in college, I had a friend who regularly downplayed my emotions to the point where opening up to her felt futile.

If I would tell her I’m stressed over an upcoming test, and she still had trouble accepting that I didn’t want to go out.

Or, I would tell her I’m feeling down following a break-up, and instead of providing support, she would insist that there are plenty of fish in the sea and that I’m blowing things out of proportion.

We drifted apart, and it took me years to realize that she wasn’t trying to be hurtful.

She was simply lacking the emotional intelligence to comprehend what I was experiencing.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but take her attitude personally and question whether I was the one who was too sensitive to function in the world.

Don’t let others’ limited understanding of your emotional landscape bring you down.  

2) Lack of self-awareness

Besides having difficulty interpreting the emotions of others, people with low EQ can also fail to pinpoint their own.

This lack of self-awareness can cause them to be impulsive and unable to see the bigger picture.

People who lack emotional intelligence can’t recognize their triggers or the impact their emotions have on decision-making.

They also struggle to identify their strengths and weaknesses, hindering growth.

Needless to say, this deficiency leads to all sorts of anti-social behaviors, including emotional outbursts and mood swings.  

So, next time someone starts yelling out of the blue in your vicinity, it may not have anything to do with you at all.

There’s a chance their emotional intelligence is low, and they can’t regulate their feelings.

3) Difficulty handling criticism

If someone becomes defensive or aggressive when receiving feedback, having any constructive discussion with them is nothing short of a chore.

That inability to regulate responses shows in many ways, including having emotional reactions when criticized rather than seeing the experience as a chance to improve.

Many people with low emotional intelligence tie their self-worth to external validation, so negative feedback is particularly crushing.

As they can’t identify their emotions well, they miss out on opportunities to build emotional resilience, so they can’t always separate their self-worth from the feedback they receive.

Working with someone like this isn’t a breeze, especially when it’s evaluation time.

Dating them can be even less pleasant.

However, recognizing that they lack emotional intelligence helps you prepare for the possibility that they will become hostile when you suggest they do something differently.

Arming yourself with patience is crucial if you want to help them level up.  

4) Failure to manage stress effectively

Experiencing difficulty recognizing what’s happening inside also means that people with low EQ don’t know how to manage stress effectively.

They are prone to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating or substance abuse.

Moreover, they don’t quite know how to bounce back from setbacks, leading to a long-lasting foul mood.

This can escalate anti-social behaviors. Keep an eye out for the warning signs:

  • They complain of weird physical symptoms like muscle aches, stomach aches, frequent colds
  • They become increasingly irritable and display unexplained anger
  • They change their eating habits (either eat too much or don’t eat at all)
  • They smoke more or consume more alcohol
  • They display anxious pacing, nail-biting, fidgeting

As they struggle to identify their emotions, people with low EQ might not even realize that they’re under a lot of stress.

You will have to point out that they should take it easy for a while.

5) Inconsistency in behavior

Due to their limited ability to understand and manage their emotions, people with low emotional intelligence tend to be inconsistent.

It’s hard to predict their actions and reactions, which can make interacting with them maddening.

For instance, they may overreact to a minor frustration one day but underreact to a significant issue the next.

The college friend I mentioned once raged because I borrowed her pen, yet seemed perfectly fine when she found out she failed one of her final exams.

I gave up on anticipating her reactions, but the inconsistency still haunts me.

Again, the key to keeping your sanity in these circumstances is not to take their reactions too personally.

If dealing with their responses is tiresome, imagine how exhausting riding such an emotional rollercoaster is for them.  

6) Poor conflict management skills

Handling conflict is another thing people with low emotional intelligence don’t do well.

They don’t have the best communication skills, which can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Furthermore, they often succumb to impulsivity and engage in arguments without a solution-oriented approach.

Or, they take the opposite path.

They use passive-aggressive behavior to express dissatisfaction or avoid conflict by all means.

Neither technique is beneficial, and picking fights can be perceived as anti-social by those around.

If you know someone who fits this description, there’s a possibility their EQ is in the dumps.

7) Resistance to change

Individuals with low emotional intelligence sometimes struggle with change, as change comes with a new suite of emotions they can’t interpret well.

The list includes anxiety, uncertainty, fear, or excitement.

Since it’s tricky for them to cope with these intense emotions, it’s also tricky for them to adapt to new circumstances.

Additionally, they might prefer predictability because change disrupts their established coping mechanisms.

Some people with low EQ realize they have a problem and learn to live with it.

Best case scenario, they practice active listening, learn to manage stress, and seek professional help.

Going through change disrupts their routine and pushes them out of their comfort zone, which hinders their progress.

This may cause a negative or hostile reaction.

8) Attempting to control others

The ideal scenario for someone with low EQ is to develop a growth mindset and strive to increase their emotional intelligence over time.

Unfortunately, not everyone takes this road – and some individuals may choose to embrace their anti-social tendencies.

They become controlling, using manipulation tactics to achieve personal goals or dominate relationships.

When that’s the case, trying to support them may backfire, and continuing to interact with them will take a toll on your own emotional well-being.  

It might be wiser to cut ties.  

9) Struggling to maintain relationships

Finally, people with low emotional intelligence don’t manage to keep people in their lives for long.  

They struggle to form meaningful connections with others and can’t nurture relationships because they are ignorant of others’ needs and feelings.

Do you have someone like this in your life?

Ask yourself whether being in their vicinity is in your interest.

The significance of the relationship will probably play a role in your decision.

If it’s a family member or close friend rather than an acquaintance, you’re more likely to want to keep them around.

That said, you should put more weight on their attitude and on how they make you feel.

If they are willing to work on their issues and take proactive steps to do so, supporting them will be rewarding for you both.

But if they refuse to accept that their anti-social behaviors are damaging and interacting with them is causing you distress, setting boundaries is definitely in order.

Bottom line

People have low emotional intelligence due to various causes, including poor upbringing and mental health issues, so it’s important not to judge them too harshly.

That said, it’s equally important to care for yourself.

If interacting with someone like this is draining, minimize the person’s presence in your life.  

But if you want to help, encourage them to embark on a journey of self-improvement.

Like with any ability, they can boost emotional intelligence, becoming more empathetic and more attuned to what they are feeling.    

They might just need a dash of support to turn over a new leaf.   

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