Out of all the qualities linked to success, emotional intelligence stands out as being by far one of the most important. Not only is it an important quality to have when interacting with others in a collaborative environment, a high level of emotional intelligence also speaks to strong self control and internal motivation. A high EQ can help you become a better person, a better employee, and a better leader. Low emotional intelligence, on the other hand, can set you back not only in your career, but in many aspects of your life.

Fortunately, emotional intelligence is a learned behavior and can be improved upon, provided you recognize the need for self-improvement. While the most accurate way to tell if you have low emotional intelligence is to take an assessment, you can also look for patterns of behavior that act as signs of low emotional intelligence. Here are four behaviors that signal a low emotional intelligence and four strategies to improve it.

1. You React With Frustration When You Aren’t Understood

Do you often find that people have difficulty understanding what you’re trying to say? One of the biggest stumbling blocks to success for people with low emotional intelligence is an inability to communicate with people. In addition, a lack of empathy makes it difficult to connect with people. That difficulty in connecting translates to difficulty in understanding how people want to be communicated with, which makes it all but impossible to convey ideas meaningfully.

Even worse, individuals with low emotional intelligence often find themselves reacting with frustration and anger when they aren’t immediately understood. It’s difficult for low EQ individuals to see that the problem is the way they communicate, and not the people around them. This frustration feeds back into itself and leads to further miscommunication and frustration.

Breaking this cycle takes self-awareness and self-control. When your idea fails to connect, instead of assuming the fault is on the listener, step back from the situation and consider whether the way you are presenting the message might be to blame. Think about how you can rephrase your message to better resonate with your audience – take into account their background, education, experience, and position. Not only will you be able to act more efficiently, you’ll find that the people around you react much more positively, and a lot more gets accomplished.

What does that indicate on the EQi2.0 test? This sign would be linked to self-awareness, impulse control and empathy.

2. You Hold Others, And Yourself, To Unrealistic Standards

Having high expectations for yourself and the people around you is usually seen as a big positive. However, problems arise when expectations are so high that they can’t possibly be met. When these expectations are directed inward, they lead inevitably to dejection and depression. Consistently failing to meet your own expectations can lead to a sense of paralysis – goals are hardly worth setting if there is a sense of inevitable failure.

Holding others to unrealistic expectations, on the other hand, will usually lead to anger, frustration, and conflict. Employees and co-workers can become demoralized very quickly when they realize that nothing they do can measure up. Even worse, a sense of lethargy can set in, leaving your company running at half steam.

The key to overcoming unrealistic expectations is honesty and understanding. It’s critical to be able to understand your own strengths and weaknesses, and the strengths and weaknesses of the people around you. Only when you can do an unbiased inventory of the resources at your disposal can you begin setting goals that are reachable.

What does that indicate on the EQi2.0 test? This sign would be linked to low on self-regard, self-actualization, and self-expression.

3. You Have Difficulty Caring About Those Around You

People with low emotional intelligence often find that they don’t care all that much about the people around them. They often see people as instruments to accomplish tasks rather than … well, people. They find themselves bored by conversations, incapable of paying attention to topics that don’t directly affect them, and distracted at meetings. In short, they don’t care about the people around them or their feelings.

These feelings often seem entirely justified. Low EQ people will often complain about “office politics” or sneer derisively about how being liked at work is less important than getting the job done. What’s often lost is that disregarding the feelings of the people around you often makes it far more difficult to get the job done well. Despite what you may think, the people around you notice when you don’t care about them, and they often respond in kind.

It may seem difficult to force yourself to care about the people around you and their concerns. There is no quick and easy solution for caring more. It starts with putting aside your reservations and forcing yourself to take an interest in those around you. Sit up, ask questions, try to understand, and participate fully. Eventually, you’ll find that you aren’t just pretending to be a people person.

What does that indicate on the EQi2.0 test? This sign would be linked to low on interpersonal, empathy, and social responsibility.

4. You Evade Responsibility

For those with low emotional intelligence, the blame always seems to rest elsewhere. Whether it’s circumstances, co-workers, the nature of the current project, or any of a hundred different other reasons, it’s always someone else’s fault when things go wrong. Low emotional intelligence people have difficulty seeing flaws in themselves, and thus frequently attribute failings to external sources.

This escape from responsibility goes deeper still. One of the defining characteristics of people with low emotional intelligence is poor impulse control and planning skills. They find themselves doing things they regret, and that they know in advance are the wrong things to do. When the inability to delay gratification combines with an inability for introspection, it’s easy to see how the buck might stop anywhere else but where it belongs.

Finding a way to escape the blame game begins with realizing that you’re playing in the first place. When you feel the need to assign blame to someone other than yourself, take a pause and really think about things. Was the reason for this failure really due to circumstances beyond your control, or are you looking for an excuse? If you’re not sure, ask someone who is aware of the situation, but not directly involved, and pay attention to their answer.

What does that indicate on the EQi2.0 test? This sign would be linked to low on self – awareness, impulse control, problem solving and reality testing.