Nelson Mandela once said, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

As famous for forgiving those who caused him decades of brutality, suffering, and loss of liberty as he was for spearheading a new era for South Africa, his story of tireless resistance and great compassion is legendary.

It began when he was a young man organising mass defiance against a dehumanising system. He would lose case after case, even though it was clear he was a brilliant court lawyer.

Although he was from a royal Xhosa family, with the privileges and opportunities that entailed, he dedicated his life to defying apartheid and in 1962 was jailed for life, serving time in South Africa’s most vicious prisons, until political pressure led to his release in 1990.

Four years later he was President.

An Exemplary EQ Model

Mandela’s is an extreme example of how high emotional intelligence plays a vital role in a successful life. Despite the problematic emotions his battle against the injustices of apartheid must have evoked, his adversity was the crucible in which his high levels of emotional intelligence were forged.

Biographer Anthony Sampson writes that, while in jail, Mandela “developed the art of politics: how to relate to all kinds of people, how to persuade and cajole, how to turn his warders into dependents and how to become master in his own prison.”

Ultimately, he used his emotional intelligence to remain steadfast to his ideals despite seemingly impossible odds. His struggle shows us how EQ facilitates our capacity for resilience, empathy, communication, and managing conflict, people and expectations.

To continue pushing forward when one is attacked, oppressed, devalued or mistreated is to gain mastery over the amygdala’s fight or flight mechanism, which can trigger stress responses that effectively reduce our capacity for creative and logical thinking and make it impossible to perform our best.

Mandela shows us that EQ is of enormous significance when it comes to achieving what we want, regardless of what life throws at us. Now let’s take a closer look at why.

Cultivate Your EQ To Reach Your True Potential

Research demonstrates that EQ influences our degree of success by helping to increase morale, motivation and co-operation. In fact, for star performers of all kinds, it’s twice as important as your IQ and technical skills combined (Strickland 2000).

Daniel Goleman (1995) recognized five distinct EQ skills or domains that can be learned (unlike IQ) and enhanced to realize a more fulfilled, joyful life. These are:

  1. Self-awareness. Understanding your own emotions and how they impact you and others lets you identify unhelpful behaviour and responses and transform them.
  2. Self-regulation. If you’re skilled in self-regulation, you’ll excel in managing conflict, adapt well to change and are more likely to take responsibility.
  3. Motivation. If you’re able to motivate yourself, you’re more likely to be committed and goal focused.
  4. Empathy. Being empathetic means you can recognize and understand how others feel and respond accordingly, helping you build stronger relationships.
  5. Social skills. If you learn to manage others’ emotions, build rapport and connect via active listening, verbal and nonverbal communication, you can motivate and lead others more effectively.

How many of these skills do you currently possess? Can you see elements that you can improve? Take a moment to imagine what mastery of all these domains might mean for your life.

Goleman’s five EQ skills give us a useful framework from which to define what success means to us – whether it’s achieving your career goals, enjoying better relationships or merely being happier day-to-day.

And, because it’s more dynamic than IQ, focusing on these five skills can yield significant personal benefits, from academic and career success to higher wellbeing.[1]

Beyond work, social and psychological benefits, your level of emotional intelligence has also been shown to impact your health.

Chronic stress and the prolonged adverse effects that come with it (anger, depression, anxiety) are linked to hypertension, heart problems, and diabetes. They increase the chance of you getting the flu and other infections, make it harder to heal after an injury and exacerbate a wide range of conditions including arthritis and the formation of life-threatening blood clots.

As Joshua Freedman has noted, “Emotional intelligence is a way of recognizing, understanding, and choosing how we think, feel, and act. It shapes our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. It defines how and what we learn; it allows us to set priorities; it determines the majority of our daily actions. Research suggests it is responsible for as much as 80 per cent of the “success” in our lives.”

So, if you’re feeling stressed, misunderstood and easily triggered by others, take the next step and start working on your EQ ‘muscle.’ The more you boost your skills, the more you’ll get out of life – guaranteed!

About the author and Employment Innovations

Ush Dhanak is an HR Consultant for Employment Innovations operating out of the Newcastle and Central Coast region. Ush applies her broad experience to partner with local businesses in the region providing HR consulting, advice and training. Ush is also a sought-after Emotional Intelligence Coach having worked with companies and individuals across the globe, including the Australia Federal Police and Smeg Australia. She has qualifications and certifications in Executive Coaching, Emotional Intelligence Coaching, Neuro Leadership and Mediation.

Contact us today to speak with Ush about HR consulting services in the Newcastle and Central Coast region or on how to improve the EQ of your leadership team.

[1] Bar-On, R. (1997). The emotional quotient inventory (EQ-i): A test of emotional intelligence. Toronto: Multi-Health Systems.