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Emotional Intelligence During Times of Pandemic


BY: Vinod Subramanian



If development is considered to be human-centric, so is the suffering that follows during wars and the outbreak of pandemics such as the current COVID-19 outbreak. It is humans, more specifically certain vulnerable sections of the society, who suffer the most. Under such circumstances, we all look for any form or degree of assistance from anyone, be it government, media, civil society and common people. 


For those in public service, emotional intelligence is valued as an essential trait. Let us look at its importance beyond the professions of the public service sector, in more general terms and its importance during crisis-like situations. 


For starters what is the concept of emotional intelligence?


It is generally considered to be consisting of three elements. Firstly, it is the ability of one to deal with their emotions and wellbeing, also termed as intrapersonal intelligence by Howard Gardner. Secondly, it is the ability of a person to understand the emotions of other individuals and their state of mind, also called interpersonal intelligence by Gardner. The third element relates to the ability of the individual to direct not only his emotions but also that of others towards something constructive. 


In this context, has the world lost its emotional intelligence and is it indifferent towards the sufferings of its fellow beings?


As per a survey, anxiety rates have tripled in the US from 8.1 % in 2019 to 25.5 % in 2020 and in the same period, the rate of depression almost quadrupled from 6.5 % to 24.3 % amongst young adults. Similarly, in Britain, the rate of depression has almost doubled. 


Around the world, the economic situation looks bleak, with most nations expected to experience a negative GDP growth rate, which is only expected to result in more job losses. This is further complicated by the enforced periods of lockdown, which have given rise to increased incidents of suicides around the world, domestic violence cases and anxiety. This has resulted in massive turmoil in the minds of everyone and is more pronounced in young adults, senior citizens and children. Emotional intelligence appears to be collapsing in this regard. 


Another point for consideration is the complete lack of empathy being displayed by employers, governments and even the civil society to some extent.

 

In India, migrant labourers were kicked out of their shelters overnight, lost their jobs, not paid their wages and when they sought the comfort of their homes, they were denied the opportunity to leave during the lockdown. Those who started their long marches back home were brutally thrashed by the police along the way. As if this wasn’t enough, the government appeared to be rubbing salt into their wounds when it stated in an affidavit before the Supreme Court that the migrants never suffered and their exodus was largely based on social media rumours. 


Similarly, a belligerent China that is exploiting the pandemic to its advantage by threatening nations in the region is displaying an utter disregard not only towards fellow countries, but also its own citizens. 


What can be done to inculcate emotional intelligence?


First, it is important to understand the nature of this important concept. No single individual can insulate themselves from the rest of the world. Let us also acknowledge the fact that the mental and emotional wellbeing of individuals is to some extent determined by external factors and that includes the wellbeing of the surrounding society and the national development. 


It is easy to preach that it is the internal wellbeing that ensures the emotional stability of individuals and not the external factors. But this is highly subjective. 


Secondly, it is high time that emotional intelligence is taught to children in their schools. For example, even in very recent reforms like The New Education Policy, 2020 introduced by the Government of India, this subject is not directly mentioned. 


Lastly, at least in democracies, let us hold governments responsible for the task that they are elected to deliver, i.e. public service. We need governments that are receptive to public emotions and officials high on emotional intelligence. 



Sources:



*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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