Emotional Intelligence Can Help You Understand Others

May 25th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

As an FBI counterintelligence agent, the key to recruiting a foreign spy to work for the U.S. government was forming an accurate assessment of their personality. I used emotional intelligence to understand their personality traits so I could move forward with confidence that I had everything I needed to craft a successful approach.

Think Big copy

Forming a personality assessment allowed me to understand the foreign spy better than he understood himself. The reason is because many people do not possess the emotional intelligence to accurately interpret their own personality—let alone the personalities of others. 

Emotional intelligence had a powerful impact on my career as an FBI agent. 

The nugget of a personality assessment is uncovering the basic fear and desire of each personality type. This helps in interpreting behavior—both good and bad—as well as understanding the motivation behind it.

You cannot be mentally tough if you are not emotionally aware of your environment. 

As leaders, it’s important to build your emotional intelligence skills because tuning into the emotions that control different personalities will help you gain a more accurate view of your surroundings. This awareness impacts both relationships and the bottom line. 

Here are tips on how to use emotional intelligence to interpret and understand other people. I often relied upon the Enneagram to learn how nine personalities types express their emotions:


These folks want to improve the world by using whatever influence they have. They tend to be idealists who use phrases like “Because I say so,” and “You should.” This personality type believes there is a right way to do things, and they are more than willing to teach you. Thus, they can be very judgmental.

Think: Hillary Clinton or Martha Stewart.

Basic fear: being bad, defective, or corrupt in some way; they tend to overcompensate to make up for it. 

Basic desire: to have integrity because they believe that they are OK if they are doing what is right.


Leaders of this type genuinely want to help other people. Going out of their way to help people brings meaning to their life. They see themselves as supporting and empowering others and they often believe that others couldn’t succeed without their help.

Think: Mother Theresa or Eleanor Roosevelt

Basic fear: being unloved and unwanted for themselves alone.

Basic desire: to feel loved because they believe they are OK if they are loved by others.


They know how good it feels to develop themselves and contribute their talents to the world. They can motivate others to greater personal achievement than other thought they were capable of. Often they feel that the world is a contest they can win if they work hard and appear successful.

Think: Donald Trump or Tony Robbins.

Basic fear: being without value apart from their achievements.

Basic desire: to feel worthwhile and accepted because they believe they are OK if they are successful and others think well of them.


Leaders of this type see themselves as both uniquely talented and uniquely flawed. They seek the truth of their experiences and can process pain that might overwhelm others. They seek to be graceful and stylish, and yet feel something is missing.

Think: Vincent Van Gogh or Judy Garland

Basic Fear: having no personal significance or identity.

Basic Desire: to create an identity out of their personal experience because they are OK if they are true to themselves.


People with this personality type want to know why things work the way they do. They are always collecting information, searching, asking questions because they feel a strong need to test assumptions for themselves. They strive to become master of their own world built around special knowledge.

Think: Warren Buffett or Bill Gates

Basic Fear: being helpless and useless.

Basic Desire: to be capable and competent because they are OK if they have mastered something.


These leaders are incredibly loyal to friends and belief systems. They will defend their communities and others more tenaciously than they will fight for themselves. They tend to see the world as a dangerous place and that they need teams they feel are trustworthy allies. 

Think: J. Edgar Hoover or Richard Nixon

Basic Fear: having no support and being unable to survive on their own.

Basic Desire: to find security and support.


Leaders of this type are enthusiastic about almost everything that catches their attention. They approach life with a sense of adventure, optimism, and curiosity. Often, they flit from one idea to the other to stimulate their minds. The world as full of exciting possibilities for them.

Think: Richard Branson or John F. Kennedy

Basic Fear: of being deprived or trapped.

Basic Desire: to be happy and satisfied because they are OK if they get what they need.


This personality type has tremendous willpower and vitality, and they feel most alive when they are exercising these skills in their environment. They cultivate the qualities of persistence, will, and strength and these are the qualities they look for in others. They see themselves as strong and in control of their environment.

Think: John Wayne or George W. Bush

Basic Fear: being harmed or controlled by others.

Basic Desire: to protect themselves and determine their own course in life because they are OK if they are strong and in control of their situation.


These folks are devoted to the quest for internal and external peace in themselves and others. They work to maintain peace of mind just as they work to establish peace and harmony in their environment. They believe that everything will work out if they remain calm, affable, and connected.

Think: Jerry Seinfeld or Ronald Reagan

Basic Fear: to be separated from others.

Basic Desire: to maintain inner stability and peace of mind because they are OK as long as those around them are OK.

Emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned by anyone, regardless of personality type. The more accurately you can understand yourself and those around you, the more effectively you can motivate them to perform at top levels of performance.


© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

52 Tips cover smallS


Enhanced by Zemanta

Related Posts:

If you’d like to republish content from LaRaeQuy.com, please read our Republication Policy.

Tags: , , , , ,

10 Responses to “Emotional Intelligence Can Help You Understand Others”

  1. Precy says:

    I love reading your article!You’ve done really excellent job! And also I believe that emotional intelligence helps us live smarter.

  2. I have done the free test twice and paid to do the test once (http://www.enneagraminstitute.com). I am the Peacemaker, a nine. I love the way you presented the types without the need to talk specifically about the enneagram. You made it digestible, while it can be huge info-overload.

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Doug. I’ve tried to present all nine types by referring to the enneagram and folks tend to 1) get bogged down in all the details, and 2) start comparing different personality tests!

      I love the enneagram and have found it incredibly useful in understanding myself.

      I agree…there can be a huge info-overload so I think it’s best to take it a little at a time 🙂

      Congrats on being a 9…it’s a great personality type!

  3. Omar says:

    Hi LaRae,

    I truly enjoy reading your articles. It helps me understand more about myself and the world around. I am still thinking of which personality type I fall into. I think I fall between 1 & 2.

    I like to have things perfect, however, in a recent conversation with my boss; she taught me a lesson that if I need things to move forward sometimes I have to let it go; applying the 80/20 rule by Pareto principle.

    Some other times however, I think I care about helping others. In fact, in a recent conversation with a friend of mine; I was thinking to join the red crescent to help support people with disabilities or others in need.

    In conclusion, both of them ( 1 & 2 ) suit me in different situations, however, I hate it when am judgmental. I try not to and would like to know if there are ways of moving from one personality type to another. I’d like to be the investigator type who thinks deeply about the world and try to reason things before accepting it.


  4. LaRae – Thank you for the post. I love understanding who people are, and what they need.

    I’ve created similar lists for teams I serve – listing each perssons name, their Strengthsfinder results, their learning style(s), their DiSC style and their drivers. And have found that when conflict or transition occurs it helps them understand each other amd move through the conflict faster.

  5. Alli Polin says:

    Really appreciate how you broke this down, LaRae – including the examples of famous people to put it into context. I do have a default pattern but with awareness I’m able to break out and flex when needed. It’s the awareness part that can be tough – thanks for bringing it forward.

  6. Terri Klass says:

    Love this LaRae! It is so fascinating to understand our desires and fears.

    I think I tend to be The Helper as I have such a need to empower others to see their gifts and strengths. That is what brings me joy and fulfillment. Just the other day I bumped into someone I had gotten involved with some volunteer work. He told me that I was one of the reasons he pursued this work even further. He was so appreciative for how I inspired him. It doesn’t get better than that for me.

    Thanks LaRae!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Terri, I know how important teamwork is for you and so I agree…you are the Helper. You genuinely feel rewarded when you help others. I can see that in you.

      Personality assessments are so much fun…and so beneficial 🙂

  7. Karin Hurt says:

    Thanks, LaRae. An intriguing post. I see myself as a hybrid of several of these. And in thinking of other leaders I know as well, I see them as a bit of a mix too. Do you see each of these on a continuum?

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Karin, this personality assessment is based on the enneagram. You are one personality type. However, you will possess different aspects of each type. Particularly when you are stressed or relaxed, you will go to another type — based on your personality…it takes a little work to dig down to find the main personality type but it always goes back to your basic fear and your basic desire.

      Thanks for stopping by!

Leave a Reply