“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”– Edward Everett Hale
Emotional intelligence—sometimes referred to as emotional quotient or EQ—is the ability to recognize and manage both your own and other’s emotions. Two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, developed the concept in the 1990s, and used it to define and improve communication within marriages.
Over time, it’s become clear how emotional intelligence is critical to maintaining relationships in their various iterations, including those we foster in the business world. The concept is of such interest to employers that it’s being researched extensively to gain a better understanding of its impact on leadership and success. (Data shows EQ is the number one predictor of performance. You can see my Forbes article on that topic here.)
Emotional intelligence is more important than ever right now, because it feels a little bit like we’re living in a world under siege. It’s not just about the threat (and reality) of this specific virus. We’re all operating under new pressures. Millions of people have had to change how they function at work and are trying to juggle personal and professional obligations in a world that’s no longer compartmentalized. Millions more have lost their jobs or businesses entirely because of forced closures. How will they pay their bills?
Some people are having to reschedule much-needed (sometimes lifesaving) medical procedures because of contamination concerns. Others are part of a high-risk group that has to be extra careful during this time. And people who are living without health insurance can’t help but wonder what might happen if this pandemic reaches into their lives or that of their family.
There’s also the mental and emotional turbulence that comes with a constantly shifting reality, and from being inundated with information from every side—all while there is precious little concrete data. It’s hard to know who to listen to, and what to believe.
This is uncertainty and stress on an unprecedented scale, so is it any wonder that some people are sliding into a mindset of fear and quiet desperation? Or, perhaps it’s not so quiet, and you’re seeing anger, meltdowns and panic attacks. Maybe you’ve even experienced these things yourself. You’re only human, and all these stressors take their toll.
There’s a lot happening all at once, which makes it difficult to process our own emotions, let alone those of others. But we must, and here’s why: there are many things we can’t do right now. Many, many things. But there is one very important thing we can do: we can respond to others with empathy and compassion. Reach out. Take the time to check in on people, to connect, and to listen to and validate their concerns. Share your own, because a shared experience helps us understand that even though we’re socially isolated, we don’t have to be emotionally isolated. Support, encourage and bring positivity to the conversation—and allow others to do the same for you.
Because that’s what we all need right now.