The EQ-CQ Link

Sep 20 2019
Published in: Global Workforce
| Updated Apr 27 2023

With increasing evidence to suggest that both emotional intelligence (EQ) and cultural intelligence (CQ) can improve professional success, we take a look at what they entail and why they’re important to global talent mobility professionals and teams. 

There are many definitions of both types of intelligence, but two simple and clear ones are:

  • EQ: the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.
  • CQ: the ability to relate to and communicate effectively with people from other cultures.

Research has shown that people with higher emotional intelligence are more successful in their relationships. Those with higher EQ demonstrate empathy, which makes them approachable, likable, and trustworthy. EQ can strongly improve professional success, because it helps one become a better listener, a better teammate, and a better leader. In fact, according to TalentSmart, a provider of emotional intelligence services, employees are 400% less likely to leave a job if their manager has high EQ. 

TalentSmart also says people with high EQ earn an average of US$ 29,000 more per year than those with low EQ. That’s not a surprise when you consider its findings on top performers—90% are said to have high EQ. It also found EQ to be the strongest predictor of performance, when compared with 33 other workplace skills. 

Like EQ, cultural intelligence also has been shown to be a predictor of success. People with high CQ are regarded as more effective business leaders, as they are better able to adapt and blend into any environment. 

How EQ and CQ Are Linked

On a basic level, both EQ and CQ are competencies that can be learned and developed over time. Both aim to teach new skills and improve interaction with others. Both disciplines rely on assessments, coaching, and training to guide learners in the right direction.

At the heart of both EQ and CQ lies the ability to communicate with others, but in order for successful communication and dialogue to occur, you first need to be aware of yourself—your own emotions or your own culture.

Really knowing yourself and your own communication style will give you deeper insights into how others perceive you and will, in turn, alter how you perceive others. 

Understanding frequently has less to do with what is said or intended than with how the messaging is perceived. Perception influences everything, and in order to communicate effectively with others, we must learn that, in the words of French diarist Anaïs Nin, “we do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” It’s easy to misinterpret words, emotions, and body language, and learning how perception alters how we see the world—and others—is the first step in understanding communication.


The main goal of both EQ and CQ is to teach skills that will allow you to communicate effectively with people who differ from you. To do that, most likely you will need to change your behavior and mindset. In the field of linguistics, “code-switching” is the ability to alternate between two or more languages in a single conversation. This is similar to what EQ and CQ aim to teach—the ability to switch communication styles based on your audience. For EQ, that might mean managing your emotions for improved communication. For CQ, it might mean changing your message delivery from direct to indirect based on what is appropriate in another culture. The long-term goal is to learn how to seamlessly alternate between different communication styles without even thinking. 

The Skills That EQ and CQ Teach

Self-awareness, mindfulness, reflection, and empathy are all things you can practice to increase your EQ and CQ.

The next time you are having an encounter with someone, before responding as you normally would, take the time to pause and take a few breaths. Reflect on what the other person said. Think about the automatic responses and interpretations flooding your brain. Then assume they are all wrong. Instead of jumping in with what you want to say, ask questions, and assume you may not be understanding or reading the situation correctly. Take your time to gather more information, and then respond mindfully. Take into consideration how the other person may want to be treated, then react accordingly. 

Rewiring the brain and killing off old habits is difficult. Responding the way you’ve always done for many years won’t be easy to change. It takes lots of time and lots of practice, and it’s important to give yourself permission to make mistakes.  Learning to improve your EQ and CQ is not easy work, but if you’re willing to put in the time, you will most certainly reap the rewards … and so will those around you.

The above information is excerpted from an article that appears in the September 2019 issue of Mobility magazine.  Read the full article.