How to Navigate Coronavirus With Emotional Intelligence

Strategies for awareness, care, and compassion.

Posted Aug 19, 2020

 Damircudic/Getty, used with permission
Emotional Intelligence for COVID-19.
Source: Damircudic/Getty, used with permission

How about some good news?

Here's something that can help bring ease and calm for you, as well as stronger and healthier relationships with others: Increasingly, studies suggest that emotional intelligence (EI) can aid our well-being by helping with both burnout and wellness.

In this time of high stress, that is welcome news indeed. EI is made up of four domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Each domain offers practical strategies in navigating this challenging time.

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is our attunement to our emotions and their impact on others. It can be influenced by reflective practices such as journaling and mindfulness. Micro-practices such as doing a personal “well-being” check-in during hand sanitizing can be a great way to build the habit of self-care. As you’re working in the gel, ask yourself, "Am I thirsty, hungry, fatigued? Am I carrying some emotional baggage I don’t need to carry? Can I be more present, right here, right now? How am I talking to myself: with kindness and care, or in a less helpful way?"

Self-Management

Self-management is the ability to navigate one’s emotions, especially those commonly found to be difficult such as anger and frustration. Skills in self-calming aid this quadrant. What tells me I’m “triggered?" A certain feeling in my gut? My tone of voice, or lack of clarity? What are my “go-to” strategies for calming and soothing myself?

Diaphragmatic breathing, movement, and music can be helpful. Know that human physiology often takes at least 20 minutes to reset after an emotional trigger. We all get triggered, and likely even more now that stress levels have increased. Simple gratitude practices can also be very helpful. Knowing what you need to regain a calm and centered state is a key step for improved self-regulation.

Social Awareness

Social awareness comprises what is commonly known as empathy. If you are strong in this quadrant you may have less experience being empathic to yourself, or in making space for vitally important self-care. Reminding ourselves that good self-care allows us to be there for others can leverage that empathy in a more balanced way. If we have resources and strategies for self-awareness and self-management, it can increase our capacity to help others. This brings emotional benefits for us, as well as those we serve.

Relationship Management

Relationship management is how we interact with and influence others, and how we manage the supportive or stressful bonds of our relationships. In this time of high anxiety and stress, bringing extra patience and a mindset of assuming others are doing their best can bring ease. Also going slow at key moments—moments of tension, of thanks, of vulnerability, can bring more consideration and connection for all. Slowing down a bit more is a simple idea. Putting it into practice can be challenging. And it’s a habit that can be built, breath by breath, day by day.

Summary

While the four-quadrant structure of emotional intelligence is simple, that does not mean it’s easy. There are additional EI competencies that can be of help at work and at home.

To start, pick just one quadrant to focus on. Buddy up with a mentor, trusted colleague, or friend for added support. Micro-practices, such as a deep breath (or three) when using hand sanitizer, are a great place to start. And bring a big dose of self-empathy and self-compassion along the way.

Though these concepts may not be something we’ve learned in our careers or lives, they bring great benefits. The EI framework reminds us of gentle ways we can care bring care and compassion for ourselves, and others, both now and after coronavirus.

References

1. Fessell D, Goleman D. How Healthcare Workers Can Take Care of Themselves. HBR May 20, 2020. https://hbr.org/2020/05/how-health-care-workers-can-take-care-of-themselves.

2. Goleman, D, Boyatzis R. Emotional Intelligence has 12 Elements: Which ones do you need to work on? HBR Feb. 6, 2017. https://hbr.org/2017/02/emotional-intelligence-has-12-elements-which-do-you-need-to-work-on