8 unusual habits that indicate a low level of emotional intelligence

There are many obvious signs of someone who lacks emotional intelligence and empathy. 

They struggle to express themselves, never seem to ‘get’ us, and are generally uncomfortable having heart-to-heart conversations.

But beyond these conversational behaviors, people with low EI (emotional intelligence) share some unusual habits.

So, if a conversation has left you questioning someone’s EI (or you’re curious about your own), examine their/your day-to-day actions. 

If several of the following habits are apparent, low emotional intelligence is probable. 

1) Smoking weed 

There is a lot of emerging research about how cannabis affects our body and mind. 

But did you know that a staggering amount (41 to be exact) of these studies relate to reduced emotional intelligence?

Two researchers from Oregon State University explored these studies in their paper entitled “Cannabis and Emotional Processing.”

They concluded that regular cannabis use is associated with difficulties in emotion processing

Participants who smoked regularly recorded increased difficulty and longer response time in identifying and differentiating between emotions than those who didn’t use cannabis.

They also found that regular cannabis use can reduce responsiveness to emotional stimuli and increase hostility.

Similar effects have been found with the following bad habit…

2) Drinking beer every night

It is well known that excessive alcohol impairs our cognitive functioning while we’re under the influence.

However, according to research, the more alcohol we drink, the lower our emotional intelligence will be in our day-to-day lives. 

Researchers at Minnesota State University explored the Relationship Between Emotional Intelligence And Alcohol Use by surveying undergraduate students. 

They found that the students (both male and female) who drank the most alcohol scored the lowest on the emotional intelligence test. Similarly, those who consumed the least amount of alcohol scored the highest.

But here’s another interesting finding…

People with low emotional intelligence are more likely to drink beer than wine.

A 2005 Danish study examined the drinking habits of 1,800 men. Researchers found that men with high IQs in young adulthood were much more likely to drink wine over beer later in life.

3) Getting angry at little things

Regardless of our IQ, we all have triggers.

However, those with high self-awareness can understand what triggers them and avoid reacting to the stimuli. 

People with low emotional intelligence, however, lack self-awareness.

Therefore, they do not know what their triggers are.

As a result, people with low EI are known to overreact and fly off the handle. These people often come across as angry individuals who are prone to:

  • Road rage
  • Arguing with strangers
  • Getting into physical fights

This is because they struggle to identify their emotions, which is the first step to emotional regulation. 

So, if they do not know they are angry, they cannot defuse or redirect that negative energy.

4) Thinking negatively 

Emotional intelligence helps us prioritize what we pay attention to and react to. This is known as emotional reasoning, one of the four branches of emotional intelligence. 

Naturally, we respond to things that garner our attention, which is often sad stories and negative news. 

However, those with high emotional intelligence can redirect their attention toward positive things to avoid dwelling on the bad. 

They know that getting caught up in the pain and suffering in the world will adversely affect their mental health.

So, when they feel down, they redirect their thoughts and create a better emotion, such as gratitude or hope.

However, someone with low emotional intelligence will struggle to do this.

Instead, they are more likely to respond inappropriately to negative things, such as:

  • Get angry at someone
  • Feel powerless
  • Distract themselves with food, alcohol, drugs, etc

As a result, they get caught up in a cycle of negative thinking and self-sabotaging behaviors

5) Not completing tasks

habits of people who constantly feel bored in life 8 unusual habits that indicate a low level of emotional intelligence

People who lack emotional intelligence have a habit of not finishing the things they start.

Often, they will have an idea for something and take the required action to start it.


When they encounter a challenge or setback, they will likely quit or put the project on hold.

Here’s why…

Internal Motivation is one vital yet lesser-known component of emotional intelligence. 

People with high EI are very interested in learning and improving. They can see challenges and failures as lessons by regulating the negative emotions that arise from these difficulties.

This results in a high level of perseverance (or “Grit” in psychology) in the face of adversity.

People with low emotional intelligence, however, struggle to move past the negative emotions of shame and disappointment. 

So, while they can take the initiative to get a project started when the going gets tough, they struggle to maintain a commitment to complete it.

This tendency is also one of the culprits of the following habit…

6) Staying in their comfort zone

When you have high EI, you can control your feelings of anxiety, enabling you to take risks and push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

However, if you have low EI, your anxiety will overwhelm you, and the fear will paralyze you from doing things that scare you.

As a result, people who lack emotional intelligence tend to:

  • Seek comfort over growth
  • Struggle with change
  • Avoid learning new things

This tendency to stay in the comfort zone is one reason why people with low EI are much less likely to hold leadership positions than those with high EI.

On the subject of risks, there is one type of risk that people with low emotional intelligence do take…

7) Neglecting/abusing their health

Multiple research studies have found a link between low EI and unhealthy behaviors.

For example, a 2022 Spanish study found that people with low emotional intelligence are likelier to take harmful health risks (actions and behaviors that negatively impact their health).

These include:

  • Drinking excessively
  • Binge eating
  • Illicit drug use
  • Unsafe sex

This is because people who struggle to deal with their emotions have lower coping abilities. 

Thus, they are more likely to turn to unhealthy behaviors to numb their emotional suffering and distract them from their challenging thoughts.

In addition, the emotional brain is responsible for keeping us vigilant to danger. But when the emotional brain is not functioning optimally, we struggle to see the potential hazards in our actions.

8) Overspending

Low emotional intelligence is also linked to poor money management.

People who struggle with their emotional state may spend money to make themselves feel better (comfort spending).

They will spend mindlessly and are more at risk of developing a shopping or gambling addiction.

On the other hand, someone with high emotional intelligence can relate their spending to their emotions.

This is known as financial emotional intelligence – the ability to understand what we feel about money and why. 

Rather than making a financial decision from an emotional state, they can justify the purchase rationally. 

Therefore, people with low emotional intelligence are less likely to attain financial success. 

Along with saving money, research shows that people with high emotional intelligence make more money than those with low EI. 

In a study of 218 sales professionals working at various car dealerships, those who scored high on the emotional intelligence scale generated 37% more income than those with low EI scores.

Final thoughts

Do you see these habits in someone you know? How about in yourself?

The good news is that EI, like all forms of intelligence, is not set in stone. There are various things we can do to increase our emotional intelligence

For example, activities that promote self-awareness, like meditation and journaling, are a fantastic starting point.

Picture of Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke

I am a certified yoga and mindfulness teacher and an experienced content writer in the spirituality and personal growth space. I’m passionate about sharing my expertise through the power of words to inspire and guide others along the path of personal and spiritual development.

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