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The dark side of emotional intelligence

This article introduces the negative aspects of emotional intelligence and how to use emotional intelligence without being manipulated.
One businessman leaning over another businessman whispering in his ear portrait
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

So far, most of our thinking about emotional intelligence has been with a positive outlook: how better emotional knowledge and improved skills might help us in our lives and at work.

However, Justin Bariso (2018) argues that emotional intelligence is not ‘inherently virtuous … and can be used for good or evil’.

The negative side of emotional intelligence

Take a look at the article and consider the following examples of the ‘dark side’ of emotional intelligence:

  • ‘In 2010, a group of scientists found that individuals who demonstrated certain narcissistic traits (in essence, a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, self-focus and self-importance) made better first impressions on their peers by using humour and charming facial expressions. That is to say: people with their own interests at heart are more talented at gaining others’ support, at least at first.
  • A 2011 study indicated that ‘Machiavellians’ (people who show a tendency to manipulate others for personal gain) who rated high in knowledge of emotion-regulation were more likely to engage in deviant actions, such as publicly embarrassing someone at work.
  • A 2013 study found that those who tended to exploit others for personal gain were also good at reading those people’s emotions, especially negative ones.’
(Bariso 2018)
So, it is important to consider how you might use your own emotional intelligence to ensure that you aren’t manipulated – or that you aren’t the one doing the manipulating.
If you’d like to learn more about emotional intelligence at work, check out the full course, from Coventry University, below. 


Bariso, J. (2018) ‘There’s a Dark Side to Emotional Intelligence: Here’s How to Protect Yourself. Time [online] Available from [26 July 2018]

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
This article is from the free online

Emotional Intelligence at Work

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