I have low EQ. How can I improve it?

Hey all, I lack skills in social dynamics. It was suggested by one of my employers I act like I'm 'on the spectrum' of being autistic. I don't think I lack empathy, but perhaps just am dense when it comes to social conventions.

So how can I improve my EQ?  How can I be less awkward?

EDIT:  I am referring to workplace EQ.  I have ok EQ in a social setting like a bar. But I'm not skilled in workplace EQ/banter, and in reading between the lines. I tend to come off as too direct in the workplace and sharp-elbowed, despite working to be more round-elbowed. 

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Comments (32)

  • Prospect in IB - CB
Oct 27, 2020 - 7:52pm

I become more philosophical after taking shrooms. I plan on becoming a pornstar after a decade or two behind a desk.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Oct 26, 2020 - 9:22pm

Just force yourself into socially demanding situations. Doesn't quite apply during COVID but go to parties and bars/clubs. Outside of this, try to learn a little debate. It helps you get the fundamentals of speaking (both conversational and public) down and also helps you work on things like constructing arguments and facilitating goal-based, focused conversation.

Also, go get an autism test.

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  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Oct 28, 2020 - 12:14pm

I founded a nonprofit in high school to get into a good college. Ran it the same way I would have ran a business and it really helped me open up (and build a network early on). Might be something to look into.

Most Helpful
Oct 26, 2020 - 10:05pm

Practice your active listening skills. Not simply sitting there, staring at people while they talk - but focusing on what they are saying. Ask them questions, follow ups. When you talk to them again - remember something they said or about them. I think this is the most crucial thing that everyone can do. It's the little things that really matter - someone's birthday, asking about their dog, how their S/O is doing.. or simply how that project you worked on with them ended up. 

Share things about yourself - they don't need to be deep, dark secrets but often times when people come off as low EQ they can be focused on transacting vs. interacting. Maybe find things you have in common with folks, and talk about them whenever you speak with specific people. 

Watch your cadence - my guess is you are an extremely bright, technically sound person who when asked about something could speak for quite a while on it, at a deep level. If I'm right - many times that can come off as talking down to people, depending on how you say it. Best way is to pick someone you are close to and explain a problem or whatever to them, and see how it comes off. This goes double for writing emails - I still, depending on the audience, will have people read over an email to make sure I'm not unintentionally saying something that could come off poorly. 

Toastmasters is another option if you haven't done it. Would recommend it. Outside of that it's simply practicing but, more importantly, finding people who will hold you accountable and help you be self aware when necessary. 

Oct 26, 2020 - 11:21pm


I have been intentionally practicing my "pit-diving" skills, as one of my ex-consultant professors called it, in the last 2-3 years. Over the weekend, I attended a wedding, where I met a lot of people from high school, some of them not from my own class. I initiated 5 conversations, and re-established connections with 3 of them (knew each other back then) and got contact info from 2 others people. (Fwiw, both are women...)

I have heard some of my friends say to my face that I have a horrendously low EQ, while some of my friends say that I have one of the highest EQs they've ever seen. Tbh, this is baffling, but I believe as long as you have a philosophy about how to get along with people, be genuine, and show your interest when people talk about themselves (I got to admit, some people just don't evoke any interest from my conscious mind), you will be fine.  

Oct 27, 2020 - 12:12am


"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Oct 27, 2020 - 11:51am

This is all good advice, I'd also recommend reading books about small talk and making conversations. Helps you realize how to continue to ask good questions and keep people engaged. 

If you really wanted to go deep on it, I'm sure you could find a coach of sorts that would help you. 

Active listening is hugely important, as stated above, and I'd also think/practice how you look when you're listening. Slights nods and smiles at the right time go a long way whereas I can tell when someone is fidgety, looking around the room, clearly thinking about other stuff as I'm talking. I usually don't really care, but I do make a note that the person isn't a good conversationalist.

One side anecdote, I've had the opportunity to have a few brief 1v1 conversations with some F500 CEOs, one of the biggest things I took away from all those convos is how much I felt "heard" during those convos. Whatever it was, those folks had a way of listening and paying attention to me in a way that I hadn't ever experienced. It was anything crazy like intense eye contact or being overenthusiastic, I think they were just great listeners, had a perfect balance of knowing when to smile/laugh/nod/interject etc, and made me feel like I was the only thing they were focusing on at that point. I don't think it's an innate skill, it can be practiced and built, even if you do have have a slight social disorder. 


Oct 28, 2020 - 2:57pm

This is the best advice on the thread. Every time I've read through the book (and incorporate the advice as habit), I notice improvements in: 

1) Working alongside anyone from my boss to an intern 

2) Dealing with emotionally charged situations

3) Results when asking for something - again doesn't matter if its my brother or an airline attendant (being nice to the last group has netted me ~$8k in upgrades)

There's a few books I've read with great ROIs but nothing like How to Win Friends and Influence People. 


  • 2
Oct 27, 2020 - 6:16am

That's a fairly broad question. Are you mostly concerned with your awkwardness in general social interactions or do you run into it when working with clients/teams? With regards to the former, I can recommend reading "The Art of Conversation" by Judy Apps. It is a super short book and helped me immensely with being more comfortable (and less awkward) in social interactions.

With regards to work-specific situations, I'll preface this by saying that I lack proper work experience, so please take this with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, in any situation it is helpful to start by understanding yourself first. Personality tests (e.g. Myers-Briggs) sound/are slightly cringy, but they do give you insights into the areas of EQ where you might be lacking, which you can then act upon. For example, setting reminders for birthdays if you tend to forget those. Take notes about things or people that are important to clients and colleagues, in case remembering these details does not come naturally. (As you form the habit, it will be easier to remember and you won't need to take notes at all.)

As a sidenote, I definitely think this is worth critically thinking about for a while and (as @iridescent007 said) get some kind of philosophy about getting along with people. But at the end of the day, don't overthink it and definitely don't lose yourself in the process. You'll get along or work seamlessly with some people and not with others, that's life.

Edit: Most importantly btw, your employers' observation is just one data point (albeit an important one). I'm sure it's an important observation and you should give it some consideration, but maybe ask others who are close to you whether they experience it in the same way.

Oct 27, 2020 - 10:03am

i like you how you are, earthie :)


Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

  • 2
  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Oct 27, 2020 - 12:57pm

Workout with a regular buddy (and daily by yourself) - the degree to which something simple like that helps your awareness and reflection is unbelievable. Immediate EQ booster

Oct 27, 2020 - 6:47pm

Step 1 - purchase mirror

Step 2 - visualize horrific/saddening scene (puppies drowning, baby seals being clubbed, Dallas winning a superbowl, etc.)

Step 3 - practice crying deeply on command when picturing said visualization

Step 4 - watch as your EQ goes up by roughly 4 points/week

Step 5 - crush all of your HR screenings as you can now speak their language

Step 6 - profit

Step 7 - ????

"Who am I? I'm the guy that does his job. You must be the other guy."
  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Oct 27, 2020 - 10:25pm

This is a more common theme in Finance than people realize, as its hard to do a full EQ test in a 30 minute interview which is largely technical and rehearsed behavioral questions. Just focus on joining more group chats in the office/social settings, where you won't be forced to interact to keep a conversation going. You will naturally just become more comfortable and as you are working on this, appear to just be more introverted / laid back (which is fine).

Unfortunately there won't be many of these opportunities until covid is over, but hopefully then you can start implementing.

Oct 29, 2020 - 7:31am

There's three things that helped me:

1) Be more deliberate in every social interaction you have. How you are at meetings, how you talk the cashier, everything. Only deliberate practice counts as practice; try to find more deliberate practice.

2) Read books and actively consume knowledge. How to win friends and influence people and The Art of Selling were great reads. Good sales is basically extremely high EQ.

3) Have calibration moments. I insisted on having two 5+ min conversations with complete strangers every day. Learning how to "open" a conversation is hugely valuable in general, but also in dating. This final point may be the biggest recommendation I can give you.

Just because opening people is so tough, it'll force you to do the research and get all the other practice moments in just to make it easier. I was really shy as a kid (has massive health issues, braces, acne, skinny and typical stats major), and I ended up getting a lot of compliments on my EQ/social skills when I worked in tech sales, and still get loads of compliments on it.

Social skills are a skill, and you identifying it as such is already putting you in a great place. You now just have to actively work on them and consume knowledge.

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