HomeOpinion & AnalysisUsing emotional intelligence during the COVID-19 pandemic

Using emotional intelligence during the COVID-19 pandemic


By Bothwell Matewe

HAVE you ever imagined that your emotions can be transferred to another person? This is defined in psychology as emotional contagion and understanding it is important as we try to cope with a dangerous environment unleased by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like a virus, emotions, both positive and negative, can actually spread to those we interact with. Our stream of emotions flow through almost everyday as we go about our daily routines.

The feelings we sleep and wake up with, the slight irritations that frustrate us as we prepare for a new day, all these trigger hundreds if not thousands of large and small emotions we carry throughout the day.

And with these, we influence each other’s moods for better or worse. This primal fact is a psychological normalcy which often happens. The emotional economy of sharing and catching emotions is usually too subtle to be perceived, you think it’s your own emotion, yet fail to recognise this emotion has been passed on to you. Our emotions are attention grabbers, they normally work as a siren, giving signals to what is important and are ready to act.

Unpleasant situations that trigger negative feelings, whether small or big, are a given and sometimes are complex to avoid. Avoiding negative people or situations is better said than done. What you can change is how you control your emotions when the button for emotional alarm is triggered.

To prevent the spread of negative emotions and increase the spread of positive emotions, one needs to be able to handle impulses and deal with upsets, have some emotional competence which can help in mitigating the spread of negative emotions. The ultimate act of personal responsibility is rooted in self-control which is among emotional competencies. It implies keeping disruptive emotions, impulses and irrational thoughts in check. Having this competency will allow you to think clearly and stay focused under pressure. People with such ability stay composed, positive and unflappable even in trying moments.

One might ask why knowing emotional contagion is important at this point in time. Amid the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, a negative emotional cycle has drowned communities characterised by a social media replete with misinformation and fake news regarding the virus. It’s not only the social and mainstream media that is guilty, but even socio-external discourses.

It is not a secret that sometimes we are surrounded by people who are frightened, terrified and some desperate and sceptical about the future and there is a probability that we can be affected by their thoughts and feelings as well.

Starting a conversation with a friend, a work colleague triggers transference of either positive or negative emotion of the coronavirus. The pandemic has affected a lot of people psychologically, therefore, before you start a discussion with a friend, turn on your emotional radar to sense one’s emotional status and how they are reacting at a particular moment.

“A smile for a smile” primes a positive feeling to a colleague feeling low. It implies that: “I might not give a hand, but we are together in this”. To be emotionally charismatic requires one to be able to express positive emotions forcefully and being an effective good emotional sender rather than receiver.

Everyday the news headlines covertly illustrate the importance of managing our emotions. It is actually a psychological normalcy to be cautious without burying the head in the sand. We can’t run away from the reality of the pandemic but we can face it with a positive eye full of confidence.

Know and understand your emotional triggers. If your triggers are your colleagues, analyse the sphere of influence by asking yourself questions like: Who do I feel well with? Who helps me to extract my greatest potential? Who reinforces my strength and qualities? Such questions are fundamental in emotional contagion. If it is the media with exaggerated information, without ruminating, kindly take what is important and limit yourself to such content.

As human beings, we have a survival device, therefore, it requires that we be emotionally smart. It’s now a fact that in every group of ten, one is coughing, sick and worse spreading the germs in the most obvious way. This is no longer the time to try to be amusing, tolerating the irrationalities of others, although you don’t need to be ill-mannered. It is wise to politely excuse yourself from such a contagious group or sphere where the virus is likely to be spread.

Facts are of greater potency than stereotypes and assumptions. We have flooded ourselves with our own preconceived misconceptions about the reality which doesn’t exist, a different version of the pandemic which is not real.

It is good to rely on facts provided by medical authorities. As human beings we are wired to pick up threats in the external world. These threats increase our ability to interpret situations negatively since our thoughts are a product of our emotions.

Negative emotions facilitate negative thoughts which yield irrational or unwanted behaviour, contrariwise a positive emotion yields positive thoughts. In our contact with others, there are two things involved which give an extra positive energy and prevent negative energy. An emotion changes from toxic to nourish or from nourish to toxic. The choice is yours, to spread positive or negative emotions. Remember to always wash hands thoroughly and sanitise, practise social distancing, properly mask up and stay positive-minded.

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