It is no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has denied us of many factions of our lives. But, something that has flown under the radar is our ability to discern our emotions and handle interpersonal relationships empathetically: in other words, emotional intelligence. More concerningly, COVID-19 has exacerbated a problem that has been occurring for years. Certain research has found that emotional intelligence has been declining in the past decade; the reason, however, is yet to be determined, though there are potential suspects such as technological use and a decrease in connectivity. More specifically, research has shown that college students are becoming less emotionally intelligent. It is no surprise given the way college students are taught, especially in the COVID-19 era. Lecture halls and the competitive spirit of college are not necessarily promoters of interpersonal connectivity. But, why does this matter?
On the one hand, emotional intelligence is beneficial to so many aspects of our lives: our stress level, how we deal with conflict, etc. On the other hand, research has shown concrete evidence that increasing our emotional intelligence may aid us in our daily lives. For one, research published in the National Library of Medicine has shown that emotional intelligence is a predictor of academic success; even more important, emotional intelligence is something many employers give importance to. Emotional intelligence, especially in the workplace, can be a massive indicator of how one will interact with others; indeed, a lack of emotional intelligence within yourself and the people around you can be disastrous.
In an evaluation focused on emotional intelligence released by a medical college, administrators found that most people left their college due to disillusionment rather than academics; disillusionment is often based on poor coping skills, an inability to deal with new conflicts and a personal history where perhaps individuals were not taught these skills. This is where college can and should come in to increase one’s skills. In an age where mental well-being decreases at alarming rates, colleges need to have accessible mental health facilities. Such facilities can aid students in developing positive coping habits and increase emotional awareness.
Something that may be harder to enact is a change in teaching style. Indeed, we have always been told in college that we will be surrounded by people who want to be our friends, but many have found that in the COVID-19 era this is not the case often. Maintaining relationships takes work, and sometimes it is hard to develop those relationships while also balancing school and extracurriculars. Personally, I always wondered why in university lecture-style teaching was so prevalent. Though it has its pros, it does little to foster communication or genuinely engage students. The most effective learning I have done is in classes where group work is prevalent and assignments led to interaction with other students. Colleges can actively increase emotional intelligence by changing the way they teach and fostering communication, especially in classes where competition is heavily prevalent and with challenging material.
More than the physical, emotional intelligence has so much to do with our mental abilities and what makes us human. It is something that we can hone. It becomes a responsibility for us as individuals and the organizations we participate in to increase this vital part of one’s skillset.