How to deal with people who have low emotional intelligence

Helen van Soest
3 min readMay 2, 2021
Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

I am a highly sensitive person (HSP) and consider myself quite emotionally intelligent. Unfortunately, many people in this world are not HSPs and are also not emotionally intelligent. This definitely makes life harder for HSPs who are delicate souls and tend to take things personally.

Emotional intelligence: How is it defined?

According to Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, the definition of emotional intelligence is “the ability to understand your emotions and those of other people and to behave appropriately in different situations”.

And according to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others”.

In my opinion, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand yourself and how other people work in terms of emotions, feelings and moods.

Highly sensitive people and emotional intelligence

Highly sensitive people tend be emotionally intelligent for these reasons. They are:

  • Empathetic
  • Good listeners
  • Socially aware, and
  • Tactful and considerate of others’ feelings.

Signs of low emotional intelligence

People with low sensitivity and emotional intelligence tend to show these traits:

  • They feel the need to be “right” whenever arguments arise
  • They are not aware of others’ feelings
  • They blame other people for their problems.
  • They don’t cope well in difficult situations, and
  • They struggle with relationships.

Throughout my life, I have met many people with the above traits and I have often struggled in my relationships with them, feeling hurt or angry at how they have treated me. For example, the family member who hardly ever responds to my messages or calls. Or the colleague who asks me to do work for them and on completion of the task, I am not thanked or appreciated.

Sometimes people’s thoughtless or throw away comments can have a big impact on me and they of course, have no idea how much they have upset me. For instance, a colleague might say “You are so dressed up for work!” and then I’ll think that I’ve made too much of an effort to look good. Or a friend might say to me “You hardly eat anything” and then I’ll feel self-conscious as they might think I’m dieting when I’m not.

How to deal with people who have low sensitivity or emotional intelligence

As I have dealt with many people who are low in sensitivity or emotional intelligence, I have had to come up with some strategies to manage these relationships as follows:

  • Set clear boundaries — do not take up their offer of a drink after work if you are not comfortable or simply do not want to spend more time with them than is necessary.
  • Try not to take their comments/actions personally — it usually isn’t personal. They will often treat other people in the same way.
  • Try to understand that their level of sensitivity is much lower than yours — unfortunately, they are unlikely to ever get how sensitive you are and how much they affect you with their words and/or actions.

To my fellow HSPs and sensitive persons, I hope the above tips will help you manage your relationships with people who test your high sensitivity. The world can be a tough place for HSPs, but our natural emotional intelligence is a gift and definitely helps to make it a kinder and better place.



Helen van Soest

I love reading articles, books and blogs and try to write when I can.