After reading the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, I'm having a difficult time comparing emotional intelligence (EQ) with Intelligence Quotient (IQ).

When talking about someone's IQ we use adjectives as: intelligent, genius, fool, stupid, brilliant, etc.

What adjectives can we use to describe the competences of:

  • being able to recognize and name one's emotions
  • being able to recognize and name other people's emotions
  • being able to understand the root cause of certain emotions
  • being able to keep calm in the middle of strong emotions

Note: I'm not really sure if this question belongs to Cognitive Science Stack Exchange, if not please point me in the right direction.


  • 2
    $\begingroup$ While it's a gray are whether this belongs here or on english.SE, I upvoted because I think that knowledge in the area of cognitive sciences is of benefit to the question. $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ Words like empathy, self awareness and self control come to mind. Do these have adjective form? Maybe a synonym search would help. When describing emotional intelligence I used "emotionally intelligent" in the past. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Commented Nov 19, 2014 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ Fool has much a wider meaning than the one regarding IQ (smart person can be fooled by a dumb one and I observe this often). Not talking about brilliant which is actually a mineral. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ Some suggestions: empathic, warm, kind, personable, sociable, gregarious, amiable, affable $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 5:43
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps the word "acute"? I'm also having the exact same dilemma! $\endgroup$
    – Yon Yones
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 21:20

2 Answers 2


These are the best words I could find using the atlas of personality, emotion and behaviour (Mobbs, 2020).

  • being able to recognize and name one's emotions: self-aware, self-observant, reflective, contemplative.

  • being able to recognize and name other people's emotions: empathic, compassionate, understanding, sensitive, sympathetic.

  • being able to understand the root cause of certain emotions: wise, perceptive, insightful, discerning, astute.

  • being able to keep calm in the middle of strong emotions: self-governing, self-restrained, temperate, level-headed, dispassionate, balanced.

Mobbs AED (2020) An atlas of personality, emotion and behaviour. PLoS ONE 15(1): e0227877. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0227877


Well, you address things that are being addressed by different adjectives, in this combination contradicting in some of their other meanings.

If I should provide a list of common words for every trait you have described:

  1. Sincere, honest (as of not being afraid to admit the emotions), self-aware (as of understanding what's going on inside)
  2. Sensitive (feeling with others), empathetic, solicitous (caring for other people)
  3. Here I'm a bit lost but: Insightful (a person that generally understads, but needs a context specification as it could as well apply to a mechanic and machines), wise (a general word for somebody with experience and the ability to use it).
  4. Calm, wise (again, universal word that fits any context)... Well anything you'd call Obi Wan Kenobi

Now some of the therms might probably sound contradicting if used together. For example a sensitive person is not expected to withstand strong emotions calmly.

However these are just words I thought up. I'm not native English speaker so you only get the words that are frequently used.

I don't see what do all these words have to do with Cognitive sciences. I think this should get moved on English.SE. In that case I hope my answer gets deleted as native English speakers would downvote the hell out of me.

  • $\begingroup$ I think you provide a good set of words, however some of them can be ambiguous, as you point "a sensitive person is not expected to withstand strong emotions calmly". In Emotional Intelligence there would be no restriction for a person to recognize other people emotions and withstand strong emotions. Another example is the word wise, without any detailed context it could mean a lot of things, including the 4 points mentioned in the question. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ Well, as you phrased the question, this is the answer. Adjectives tend to be ambiguous. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 21:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.