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The intersection between EQ and CQ

Recently I read an interesting article by Nicole Barile. I enjoyed the read so much and could not but reflect in a comment explaining the overlap between the two and questioning the need to compare. I then had an encounter that brought the two together on a breakfast table in my own home. This article dives deeper in the comparison from a research perspective and demonstrate in a practical way how complementary the two can be when put to practice together.

Last weekend my son brought his Chinese friend Michael to spend the evening and sleep over. The two boys met in Australia in 2015 and since then became close friends. My son is from Saudi Arabia (Arab cultural cluster), his friend is from China (Confucian Asia cultural cluster), the two of them live and study in USA (Anglo cultural cluster). This is my first time to run a close and continuous conversation with a Chinese young man who was born and brought up in China. While he was having dinner, I immediately observed that he had a neutral gesture on his face while my son was being expressive and enthusiastic looking. After dinner, he presented me with a gift which I dearly accepted and showed great gratitude. It was Chinese compacted tea in the shape of a wheel. During watching basketball and drinking Chinese tea in the evening, he was cheering for the Golden State team with a loud voice but still, I could not get the emotional vibe. I was not very sure about our communication, so I decided as I went to bed to have a cultural emotional conversation on the breakfast table the next morning.

According to Peter Salovey:

Emotional intelligence EQ might be thought of as the ability to perceive, understand and regulate one’s moods and emotions in order to use them to succeed in life(1) .

While CQ is defined as:

The capability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations(2).

Nicole, in her article related to how both intelligence share communication and change domains. My first reaction was to agree with her and elaborate on the self-awareness, communication strategy and the resulting behavior like empathy. Before I elaborate on my comment, let me tell you first how the conversation went on the breakfast table.

After presenting Michael with a variety of Makkan, Hijazi(3) food consisting of Shakshoka (Egyptian influenced egg cuisine), Fool (Lebanese style) and Shoshomolo (Tahini with Molasses Turkish influenced) with Pitta bread, I started by explaining that I am honored by the opportunity of having a Chinese cultural expert in my house and I would like to take this opportunity to learn about the traditions of China in relation to table manners. Michael quickly took off and explained to me as I listened attentively and with interest. We exchanged along with my husband and my son some of the interesting overlaps with Arabs between the two cultures, like power and hierarchy, even on the dining table. Inside as a coach, the thought about emotions kept coming to me as I recalled a comment a friend of mine made about the Chinese children and how they hide their emotions.
I gathered my courage and asked him about this assumption. To my amazement, he started telling me about the schooling system and some of his personal childhood experiences and his parents’ expectations. It struck me that the whole system is built on competition for who gets the highest grades in order to be placed in a university. Michael is a living speaking calculator. He also told me about the children in the villages he had taught and how devastating their poor parents became when they don’t succeed or make mistakes.

I then gathered my courage again and asked him a personal question about his facial gestures and made a note that I am unable to read what he feels by looking at him as he is speaking. As politely as he can, lowering his gaze as he spoke, he answered that children are trained from an early age to hide their emotions. I felt struck by the cruelty of the hiding emotions visualizing an oppressed agonized child. But Michael read me quickly and elaborated that they do express but they are taught to be very sensitive to how the other reacts to what they express. He said it’s all about consideration to others’ emotions. He continued telling me that a Chinese child learns to read the clues of others and understands how much they can share without hurting or causing discomfort. I then asked: ” What’s wrong with sharing happiness?” to which he answered: “It may provoke jealousy in someone that does not have it!”

At this point in our conversation, I had an aha moment and it dawned on me how these kids have high EQ to the point they can navigate their own frustration or anger or even happiness in order to preserve the other person dignity or emotional well-being. They could hold back expression so as not to embarrass or ridicule or upset someone who they think is important even if that someone was a stranger. I then realized how the EQ we know is not the EQ that exists in other cultures.

Not only my respect grew for the Chinese culture, but I was enlightened by the EQ of their kids. I then realized how both CQ and EQ can serve together. It existed in Michael who is considered Culturally intelligent in my opinion to be able to speak to a culturally diverse family and express his thoughts and emotions (although in a neutral way), and it came to action for me, as an EQ and CQ assessor myself.

So how do EQ and CQ work together?

According to the Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence (4), the chapter on Cultural Intelligence:

Cultural intelligence is another complementary form of intelligence that can explain variability in coping with diversity and functioning in new cultural settings. it is unlikely that cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence, or social intelligence will translate automatically into effective cross-cultural adjustment, interaction, and effectiveness .

While EQ is similar to CQ in terms of dealing with emotions, its usually without consideration of cultural context. The Emotional cues and symbols are constructed within a culture when the home of such emotions change (another culture) the ability becomes limited to the individual. EQ, therefore, EQ is culturally bound. While CQ helps an individual to build their capabilities so that they can understand, and function in any cultural context, they still need to learn and know about that culture and the emotional cues in that culture. Nevertheless, If an individual possesses high EQ, the possibility of their CQ being high is very likely because of their developed EQ competencies.

In my own work as an ICF coach, I learned that creating awareness is a key competency in coaching. But awareness building is a different matter and takes much longer than a coaching session. There has to be a readiness for practice and training in the form of action planning. As a 6seconds EQ assessor, in the first pursuit (of competencies) which is knowing yourself, we support a client in acquiring two competencies: enhancing emotional literacy and recognizing patterns. The later is directly related to self-awareness. As a CQ assessor, the CQ framework is built on four dimensions: drive, knowledge, strategy, and action. The Framework is built on increasing self-awareness and thus practical training and effort. With communication, EQ third pursuit, giving yourself, is where you practice empathy and build it as a competence. In CQ it’s the behavior part were communication is integral, and therefore a chance to practice empathy.


(1) Salovey P. (2007), Introduction to Freedman J. (2007), At the Heart of Leadership: how to get results with Emotional Intelligence, published by Six Seconds.
(2) CQC definition of cultural intelligence
(3) Makkah is where I come from, the center of the Islam religion and where the Holy mosque is. Hijaz refers to the region of western Arabic peninsula by the Red sea, which is today western Saudi Arabia.
(4) Ang S., Van Dyne L, Ling Tan M. (2009), Cultural intelligence in Sternberg R. J., and Kaufman S. B., Cambridge Handbook on Intelligence (2009). Copyright CQC by permission only.