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Emotional Intelligence: Restating the Equation

If you’re the owner of a higher-than-average EQ, read on…

Why do some people seek help with their EQ, while others don’t? Because the former have a high EQ!

EQ is a key part of being a successful human being. EQ lies at the heart of our ability to form meaningful relationships, understand others and ourselves, win trust and be successful in our friendships, family life and careers. Numerous studies have shown that EQ has much more influence over our financial success than technical skills[1].

There’s nothing soft about EQ

As a Leadership and Communication Coach, I often hear people referring to EQ as a “soft” skill. Yet, if the research is to be believed, EQ is anything but soft: it’s a hard skill, essential to leaders, and what’s more, EQ is hard to “do”.

EQ is paradoxical: to have a high EQ, we must accept that we’re far from perfect, and that our EQ is a constantly evolving and developing part of our psyche. Even those of us who consider ourselves to have a high EQ struggle to respond appropriately in every situation. Over-confidence and EQ aren’t a good mix: humility and willingness to learn from our mistakes are far more valuable qualities where EQ is concerned.

All parts of EQ are not equal

Another problem with our perception of EQ is that it’s often expressed as an equation:

EQ = self-awareness + self-regulation + motivation + empathy + social skills

This equation gives equal weight to each part. And it starts with three elements that relate to the “self”. If taken at face value the equation causes some people to miss the point of EQ, which is that it’s about the way we understand, empathise and respond to others and our environment, not the way we relate to ourselves.

Social conscience: unselfish motivation

In these extraordinary times, some World leaders have set themselves apart from others through their EQ. The exceptional leaders, including Jacinda Ardern, have recognised that the motivation part of EQ is driven by a desire to do the right thing for the community as a whole, even if it is difficult (and could affect their re-election prospects). These leaders have a high social conscience.

While you do need to be a great communicator to lead effectively, the ability to think and act with a social conscience goes far beyond mere “social skills”. It’s about having foresight, the willingness to listen and consider opposing views, a desire to act for the community as a whole (not the segment you’re talking to or your supporters), and the conviction to carry through in the face of opposition.

The point is that people with a high EQ display unselfish motivation, whereas those with a lower EQ are motivated by what they can get from the situation. If you’re trying to have a good EQ because you’re focussed on what EQ can do for you, you’re faking it.

Suzanne Wolton is a professional director, visionary strategist, coach specialising in leadership, communication and public speaking, hypnotherapist, and Managing Director of Communication Counts NZ.

To contact Suzanne, email

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