Understanding the Global State of the Heart Report

EQ Durban, EQ South Africa
Written by: Avril Kidd
The Global State of the Heart report has tracked the changing trends in Emotional Intelligence since 2011 and is derived from the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment (SEI).

The Global State of the Heart Report is authored by Joshua and Patricia Freedman and Tommaso Procicchiani, and published by Six Seconds, a global non-profit organisation that I am proud to be a preferred partner of in South Africa. You can download the latest full report here.

I am going to highlight and discuss certain aspects of the 2021 report but I would encourage you to read the full report, particularly if you also want to understand more about the background data and statistics, and to keep updated on future trends.

EQ has declined

Globally, emotional intelligence had declined from 2011 until 2017 with a healthy rebound showing in 2018 and 2019 until the pandemic hit causing a drop back down to 2014 levels. Besides the overall drop, there have been some interesting shifts in both the success Outcomes and EQ competencies. In terms of the four success factors, Effectiveness is still tracking as the highest in 2021, despite a significant drop from 2018/2019 levels. The most significant decline, however, can be seen in the relationship success factor, whilst quality of life and wellbeing have tapered less dramatically.

 53.2% of these success factors are predicted by emotional intelligence scores and it has been shown that people who score above average on emotional intelligence are10x more likely to have high scores on these success factors which supports our view that the more we can increase emotional intelligence in our communities the better the success outcomes will be.

The effectiveness outcome was interesting, particularly because people believed that hybrid working could increase effectiveness. However, what they did not factor in, was the correlation between effectiveness, relationships and collaboration.


In terms of the EQ competencies there were some competencies that increased in 2020: namely Apply Consequential Thinking which was up by 4.7% so more pausing to evaluate. Exercise Optimism increased by 1.8%, so people were creating new opportunities.  Recognising Patterns increased by 1.7%, so people were identifying recurring reactions. Interestingly, these are the 3 decision-making competencies, which showed that people have become more cautious, are more aware of the impact their own choices have on risk and looking at new options.

The 3 competencies that decreased in 2021 were:

  • Navigating Emotions -6.3% (harnessing emotions intentionally),
  • Increase Empathy -1.7%, (connecting with emotions) and
  • Pursue Noble goals -5%, (connecting with purpose).

People who have lower scores on Navigate Emotions are more likely to be volatile because they are overwhelmed by feelings. Based on the drop in Empathy and Pursue Noble Goals, they also have less emotional connection or concern for others, and less focus on long-term purpose. Whilst all the generations faced a drop in Navigating emotions, it was far greater in Gen-Z, who experienced a 21% decline.

Trends in collaboration, community and resilience

The generation most impacted by Community Connectedness was also Gen-Z, with a 15% drop, and a 14% drop in collaboration. This indicates that our young generation of 10-24 years old were feeling more alone than ever during that time. They also experienced a huge drop in Optimism which scored 5% below their Consequential Thinking. We now have a younger generation strongly orientated to caution – understandable with the pandemic but concerning none-the-less.

Whilst comparing generations, we are also seeing that the Baby Boomer leaders (57-75 years) were becoming more orientated towards Self-awareness than Empathy and, in terms of effectiveness, were more orientated towards ‘Do it yourself’ than “Engage Others”. The concern was that this combination could lead to self-centeredness and inhibit this generation’s ability to lead at a time when empathetic leadership is so needed to engage and inspire the younger generations.

The Millennials seem most affected in their resilience, which is needed to overcome obstacles, identify opportunities, and take ownership of solutions. This could be due to a loss of social support and high demands placed on young workers. In terms of Africa’s scores across the 8 EQ Competencies, most scores were above the global average, with the highest in Exercise Optimism and Pursue Nobel Goals, indicating a commitment to finding new solutions for a better future. The lowest, however was Navigating Emotions, which is just in the functional zone and could pose a challenge in terms of using emotions intentionally, and a potential for volatility. At a time when we really needed to solve challenges, we were seeing a drop in imagination, linked to the increase in stress and isolation, and a decline in collaboration and risk tolerance. We refer to imagination as being able to use emotional intelligence to find new solutions by blending emotional openness with cognitive clarity.

Stress was on the rise

It is no surprise that Stress was on the rise during 2020, and is also impacting innovation negatively and increasing aggressiveness. Job lists findings were also showing a link between stress and distrust. Loneliness was showing a massive increase as well as emotional distress. It makes sense that since Covid, we have been extra cautious and had to evaluate every decision made, even in deciding whether it was safe to visit a friend or relative. We were dealing with so much stress that we had become more selfish trying to deal with our own emotions, instead of considering the feelings of others.

It’s no wonder that relationships dropped significantly. Our priority was focused on self and safety and, as our stress increased, our trust levels decreased. But what will our future look like if this trend continues? Future stats will tell us.

In the meantime, the question we need to ask ourselves is: what can we do to change this tide?

Focus on relationships

One of the main areas we need to focus on post-Covid is relationships. When people feel they are part of a community, they will be more productive and engaged, they will also feel safer. When our teams feel like this, only then will commitment and innovation increase.

What can we do in our home, community and workplace to encourage stronger relationships and collaboration so that we can lean more into our imaginations and work towards a healthier and brighter future?

We may need to revisit some of the techniques for increasing optimism and empathy. You can start by reading through the articles below to help.

Exercising Optimism

Tap into your Optimism

Increasing Empathy