The coronavirus pandemic has been a source of great stress for many people. The fear and anxiety produced by this new disease is overwhelming and scary, and so is the ability this disease has to destroy families from the poorest to the richest ones.
Much has been written about how to handle the crisis and how to improve our mental health. But today, more than ever, we need something more than the mere fact of practicing social distancing and using masks. We need to grow in our emotional intelligence. To be a person who has high emotional intelligence’s behaviors has never been as important as it is in this unprecedented time in which we are currently living.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, express, understand and manage emotions. And, it is important, since the more we understand these aspects about ourselves, the better our spiritual and mental health, and our social development will be during the pandemic.
Let me ask you today, the decisions you make as a parent, spouse, son or daughter, employee or leader, are generated by fear or despair, or by a person who has emotional intelligence? The way you answer this question will determine where you are going to end up at the end of this pandemic.
In fact, there are many studies developed by several universities from around the world which prove that a person’s success in many levels of life, such as intrapersonal, interpersonal and social, is determined by the level of emotional intelligence that person has. These studies reveal that 80 percent of a person’s success is determined by emotional intelligence and only 20 percent is determined by rational intelligence or his/her intelligence quotient.
What is the origin of the emotional intelligence term? Many people attribute the concept of Emotional Intelligence to Daniel Goleman, but actually, this concept had been already elaborated by other authors before Daniel Goleman had made it popular in his book Emotional Intelligence, in 1995.
It is believed that the first person who began to develop this line of thought about emotional intelligence was Edward L. Thorndike, in 1920. Back then, he used the term Social Intelligence to describe the ability to understand or motivate other people. In 1940, David Weshsler described the influence that human behavioral factors that were not determined by intellect had, and he made it clear that intelligence tests would not be completed until the factors influencing human beings that were beyond intellect and people’s relationships could be properly described.
Unfortunately, these authors’ works went unnoticed for many years, until in 1983, Howard Gardner, in his book Multiple Intelligences: the practical theory, introduced the idea that intelligence indicators, such as intelligence quotient, do not fully explain the cognitive ability, since they do not consider “interpersonal intelligence” (the ability to understand intentions, motivations or other people’s desires), nor the “intrapersonal intelligence” (the ability to understand oneself, appreciate feelings, fears and self-motivations).
The first use of the Emotional Intelligence term is generally attributed to Wayne Payne, quoted in his doctoral thesis “A study about emotions: the development of emotional intelligence” (1985). However, this expression had already appeared before in texts written by Beldoch (1964), and Leuner (1966). Stanley Greenspan also proposed an emotional intelligence’s model in 1989 as well as Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer. But, of all these authors, the one that made this concept popular was Daniel Goleman in the book mentioned above.
Now, let us leave this concept’s historical background behind and let us talk about the reason why it is important to have high emotional intelligence in the midst of the pandemic.
According to Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence entails 5 practical skills which must be developed by the person who wants to grow in managing his/her emotions. Each of these 5 Practical Skills of Emotional Intelligence was also subdivided under different competences. Let us see these abilities applied to the pandemic context.
1)Self-awareness: It implies to acknowledge one’s own state of mind, resources and intuition. This skill is key while we navigate through this pandemic, since without self-awareness we could not realize the emotions we experience in the midst of the crisis, the resources on which we are counting to face the crisis, and, also, we will not have the so needed intuitions to be able to make wise decisions.
The emotional competences that depend on self-awareness are:
– Emotional awareness: to identify our own emotions and the effects they may have on us and those around us. For example, the parent who does not have emotional awareness will not know how to identify the emotions his/her kid is experiencing. In the end, he/she will not be able to teach his/her child how to manage emotions.
– Right self-evaluation: to know our own strengths and limitations. Every human being has strengths and limitations. Many times we are so focused on the limitations we have that we neglect the strengths that have led us to where we are now. In the pandemic, it is imperative to assess the strengths and limitations we have in our hands. Then, focus our energy towards depending on our strengths and let ourselves be influenced by other people who can help us in our limitations.
–Self-confidence: a strong feeling of self-worth and ability. The way you perceive and value yourself will allow you to navigate through troubled waters. If you do not trust yourself, no one will trust you either.
2) Self-regulation: the second skill has to do with self-regulation. Maybe there is no more essential psychological skill that the ability to resist an impulse. How many decisions have you made wrong due to your lack of self-regulation? Unnecessary purchases, angry and bad moments that might have been avoided. There are days in the midst of the crisis in which you get up having no motivation to do things; you have the desire to stay in bed. But, self-regulation is what moves you to manage your state of mind and it pushes you to reach the goals you have set for that day.
The emotional competences that depend on self-regulation are:
– Self-control: to stay vigilant about disturbing emotions and impulses. There are toxic emotions on which we have to keep an eye. To resist the impulse to lose control is the basis for any kind of emotional self-control, since each emotion is a desire to act in the face of the problem and that desire is not always the right response.
– Trustworthiness: to keep adequate standards of honesty and integrity.
– Awareness: to take responsibility for our work performance. Many blame the economy or social distancing for their family crisis. The ability of awareness helps you take responsibility for what you have to do when facing the crisis and stop blaming others for the things you do not have in your life.
– Adaptability: flexibility in the management of the situations of changes. All the people who have found a way to thrive on this pandemic have had to adapt themselves to changes. Adapting to Zoom meetings, to have to live with a family member that you were used to see only for a few hours. Flexibility and adaptability are two elements that successful people have.
– Innovation: to be comfortable with new information, new ideas and situations. While many companies have ended in bankrupting, many others have grown in the middle of the crisis. Where is the difference? In the innovation competence the people in charge of those companies have. Ask yourself, how much innovation have you brought to your family in order to improve your emotional connection with your loved ones?
3) Motivation: it refers to the emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate meeting the established goals.
– Impulse of achievement: the effort to improve or reach an excellency standard in your family.
– Commitment: it has to do with developing a commitment to the goals your family has.
– Initiative: the availability to react before opportunities. Opportunities cannot be wasted. Your motivation will lead you to be aware of those initiatives that might change your life or your family.
– Optimism: the persistence in chasing the goals despite the obstacles and setbacks that may happen. This pandemic may have affected your family in several ways, but your optimism is what will allow you to rise from the ruins of despair and to continue towards the goals you have set for yourself.
– Empathy: is the other ability that will take you to a path to hope in the middle of the crisis. There are so many people who are in need around you right now. People who are looking for someone who can feel empathy for them. Empathy implies to be aware of other people’s feelings, needs and concerns. It does not mean that the other person must think like us, but to understand the way other people think and respect it. If we do the opposite, it could lead us to be self-centered.
The emotional competences that depend on empathy are:
– Understanding other people: to realize the feelings and perspectives of the family members. Maybe your children are exhausted from having online classes. A smart parent understands his/her children and will take advantage of this opportunity to teach them how to manage their emotions.
– To help others to blossom: being aware of the developmental needs of others and help them strengthen their skills. In marriage and family therapy we emphasize that aspect. We talk about discovering the needs the children and spouses have, so we can help them grow. In the end, we all need the person we have beside us in order to survive.
– Orientation service: to anticipate, to acknowledge and satisfy your family’s real needs.
– Enhancing diversity: to cultivate opportunities to bring diversity to your family. Not everyone has to be like you. Accept diversity of opinions and ideas, and you will have a healthy family.
– Political awareness: to be able to read your family’s emotional currents and the power of the relationships they have among them.
5) Social skills: the last skill has to do with the social field. It implies to be an expert to insert the desired answers in other family members. This goal depends on the following emotional skills:
– Influence: to come up with effective persuasion tactics.
– Communication: to know how to listen openly to others and to elaborate convincing messages.
– Conflict management: to know how to negotiate and solve disagreements within your marital and family relationships.
– Leadership: the ability to inspire and guide your family members.
– A catalyst for change: a starter or administrator of new situations.
– A bond builder: to nurture and strengthen interpersonal relationships among the family members.
– Collaboration and cooperation: to work with other family members in order to achieve shared goals.
– Team abilities: to be able to create synergy for the pursuit of collective goals in your family.
How have you put into practice emotional intelligence in the midst of the pandemic? Maybe you feel disappointed at yourself because you have not managed your emotions well. But remember, it is never too late to start.
Start today by developing each one of these skills so you can manage the stress and distress in the midst of the pandemic. Remember that a fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back (Pro. 29:11).