As a society, we are gradually coming to terms with the notion of ‘social distancing’ to ‘flatten the curve’ of the coronavirus. Amidst prospects of social isolation and an extended period of family togetherness, there is anxiety and fear. And the experts say it is going to get worse before it gets better. We don’t know how long our new normal will last, it could be upwards of 8 weeks.
It’s a difficult and scary time in the world. Emotions and stress can run high. This type of prolonged stress can creep into, and negatively impact, interpersonal relationships. Our new normal requires us to make interpersonal adjustments so we can more pleasantly and successfully weather the storm.
But how do we do this while so much anxiety abounds?
One answer is to call on Emotional Intelligence. I find this body of work particularly helpful as I face the coronavirus challenge with my friends, family and colleagues. EQ is about recognizing and managing emotional states so that we can experience successful and positive interpersonal relationships. It’s about coping and dealing with emotionally challenging situations. EQ is particularly helpful because when we choose to develop one EQ skill, the benefits naturally extend to other areas of our emotional makeup.
Here are some examples from my own attempts to mitigate stress viewed from the lens of Emotional Intelligence:
When it comes to the EQ Skill of Emotional Expression (openly expressing one’s feelings verbally and non-verbally) I have a corner on the market. Most of the time, I express my feelings un-selfconsciously and with ease – people tend to know where I stand on things. When I use Emotional Expression skillfully, people feel they can tell me their stories with trust, because I have ‘gone first’.
But sometimes, when I am particularly stressed, I can overuse this skill. I can be perceived as melodramatic or I may overwhelm others. I can tell I have crossed a line when I hear, “Tell us what you really think….” or , “You are over-reacting”.
Like yesterday, when in the midst of this pandemic, we had an appliance delivered. When the delivery man came to the door, my husband opened the door and instinctively shook his hand. I was standing behind him with hand sanitizer and shouted “NO, YOU CAN’T DO THAT! Move away from each other now!” I proceeded to give them dirty looks as I squirted the hand sanitizer into their hands ordering them to rub it in. My husband threw back a defensive retort and shouted, “OK, OK, RELAX WOULD YOU?”.
I was left feeling less than good about myself – the retort had momentarily encroached upon my normally balanced EQ Skill of Self- Regard (the ability to accept ourselves as we are, with all of our associated strengths and weaknesses; more than self-confidence – inner strength and contentment). I knew my anxiety and over-use of Emotional Expression had triggered a stress response in my husband (as well as the delivery man). I knew I needed to gain some balance in this area to save myself from falling into the under-use of Self-Regard, which leads to self-doubting and lack of self-respect.
To balance my temporary lapse of Self-Regard, due to my overuse of Emotional Expression, I turned to the EQ Skill of Reality Testing (the capacity to remain objective by seeing things as they really are). I read more articles, listened to interviews on-line with Anthony Fauci, and was heartened to hear him say, “If it looks like you’re overreacting, you’re probably doing the right thing”. Knowing that the move with hand-sanitizer was correct, I could stand firm in my actions, while also understanding that tamping down my Emotional Expression was the key to getting my point across in the future.
That leads me to the EQ Skill of Social Responsibility (willingly contributing to society, to one’s social groups and generally to the welfare of others…showing concern for the greater community). We can all be assured that as we practice social distancing, we are unwittingly increasing this EQ Skill. For me, developing the skill of Social Responsibility enhances my Self Regard – I feel good about myself when I am contributing to the greater good, and potentially providing more space for the doctors and nurses and hospitals to respond more productively. And, focusing on the greater good serves to soften my Emotional Expression – balancing the needs of the group over my own internal anxiety.
In an instant, we can create interpersonal situations that build on negativity and defensiveness. So many of our reactions and interactions are unconscious and take place so quickly that they are hard to get back on track – especially when we are under stress. Self-knowledge acquired through the logical and coherent framework of Emotional Intelligence provides us with criteria for evaluating our behavior, and its effects on others, when emotions are involved. EQ allows us to review our behavior in a neutral and non-judgmental way in order to create a well thought through personal, and professional path for development.
How do you use your EQ Skills? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How can you access these skills to improve your relationships as you work from home? At the People Skills Group, we are offering virtual EQ feedback to shore you up as we weather the storm. Contact us for more information.