Testing time for emotional intelligence
Covid-19 and the current lockdown in SA are extreme situations which test our levels of emotional intelligence.
Being surrounded by people with emotional intelligence (EQ) implies we are listened to, our emotions are validated, we get support, ideas are shared, and a genuine support network is established.
We so desperately need this right now — but are we getting it?
Research proves that emotional intelligence is crucial for career and life success, and effective leadership, which makes it particularly relevant now.
However, objectively measured, how well are we doing — at home, at work, in the community and on social networks?
Almost everyone in the world, and in SA, is being put to the test to publicly demonstrate their levels of emotional intelligence.
We are asking leaders in politics, health, business and finance to show us what they are made of.
Some, like health minister Zweli Mkhize, are stepping up but we must not forget that this also applies to leadership at home.
It is therefore a golden opportunity to reflect on whether our behaviour reflects high levels of emotional intelligence and, if not, there is a chance to use the situation and resolve to change our behaviour.
A high level of emotional intelligence is evidenced when a person is self-aware, sensitive to the emotional experiences of others, and in this way demonstrates empathy to others and builds constructive relationships.
Emotional intelligence is also the ability to motivate oneself when things go wrong, to redirect oneself to a chosen course of action and towards goals that are in the interest of the self and of others.
We are already able to reflect on our emotions and behaviours during our anticipation of and preparation for lockdown, and our emotions while being in lockdown.
We must continue to do so in the future and in this way build up people in our family, work circles and communities.
We need to recognise our own emotions that range from fear, denial, anger, bargaining, despair, loneliness and frustration, to feelings of excitement, resolve and reflexivity, and think about what affect these emotions and feelings have on those around us.
We need to be aware of the emotions of those around us, understanding that people react differently and that we cannot force them to replicate our emotions, behaviour and feelings.
Emotional intelligence is about allowing people to express their emotions, showing empathy towards them in terms of their feelings and the reasons cited for these feelings, however rational or irrational.
Then, if necessary and when the time is right, we need to gently guide them towards exploring positive alternatives and potential gains.
Having said that, change starts with ourselves, and this may lie in recognising that it is we who need the gentle or not-so-gentle prompting from others.
Leaders who are emotionally intelligent realise they also falter and don’t have all the answers.
They are therefore themselves open to the teachings, promptings and influences of others.
As such, leadership is a shared responsibility. The test is on each one of us to play the role of student and assessor.
Are we learning and growing, and stimulating others to greater emotional learning and growth?
In a year’s time, will we be able to say that this period of testing was also a period of reconciliation, creativity, innovation and deepening of our empathy with humankind?
And will this reflect in our future behaviours? Let us hope so!
- Department of human resources management associate professor Amanda Werner works in the field of organisational behaviour in the faculty of business and economic sciences at Nelson Mandela University.