Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Manipulation

Key Takeaways

  • Emotional intelligence helps one to ward off emotional manipulation
  • Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a key component of personal leadership, especially during times of crisis. But what does it mean to be emotionally intelligent in the time of COVID-19?

Personally, I worry about the spread of this illness and subsequent, widespread economic losses. I am saddened to see so many voices and stories drowned by the repetition and volume of those few with the microphones and platforms. I am both fearful of and angry at politicians who are using this time divisively.

I state these emotions proudly because observing and understanding emotions, leadership research suggests, is the path toward emotional intelligence. And it is from an emotionally intelligent state of mind that we are as leaders better equipped to think critically, intelligently and actively.

For many, there are extreme emotions wrapped around COVID-19 and the possibilities of transmission. For others, the economy is the primary concern. It seems stories covering public displays of anger about not being able to go to work, the saggy economic climate, and disagreement over whether and when to wear a mask are increasing.

In other words, fear seems to cross lines of both political party affiliation and personal perspective. A report from Express Scripts, a home-delivery and benefit management organization, states the use of anti-anxiety medications rose 37.1 percent from mid-February to mid-March alone, and as we continue to navigate these uniquely challenging times, the emotional roller coaster we are collectively on will likely continue.

Anxiety is rampant in 2020, and it seems to be further dividing an already divided America. Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of messaging through advertisements that deliver a strongly separatist and fear-based message.

To an emotionally unaware person, such messages are fodder for anxiety, anger or apathy.

It’s not hard to find quick, how-to stories about emotional intelligence with a strong emphasis on self-regulation, implying that if we do not succumb to emotions, we are better off. But emotional intelligence is more complex. It is not just about publically regulating but also about being keen enough to recognize our own emotional responses and make conscious, intelligent decisions with the information gathered.

Turning to Daniel Goleman, PhD, who has been studying emotional intelligence for over two decades, research around emotional intelligence also means self-awareness, understanding motivation, cultivating empathy and building social skills.

In other words, emotional intelligence is not all about “me.” It’s about “us” — each person becoming self-aware but then relating this knowledge to others and better understanding how to empathize.

When we’re angry or fearful, we are more likely to make ill-informed, reactive decisions. So it is a good practice as a leader to know how to calm down and find perspective. Emotional intelligence allows us to make better judgements and stay alert to manipulative measures, which unfortunately, is very necessary right now.

So although I feel emotional when I see triggering news stories or ads, I also feel empowered. Research suggests that with self-awareness, I am more likely to examine my emotions and be levelheaded enough to act from a place of compassion and empathy.

Yes, I’m angry and worried and upset at times, but instead of ignoring these emotions, I am listening to them. I am factoring them in, just as I am factoring in extreme gratitude for everything I have and all the good in the world. Because there is quite a lot to feel happy about as we rally, find resilience and collectively rebuild.

Personal leadership is cultivated through incremental changes, and a good place to begin is with emotional intelligence. If we all listen to our emotions, and we make proactive and informed decisions, there are brighter days ahead.


Express Scripts State of Mind report: https://www.express-scripts.com/corporate/americas-state-of-mind-report

Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence: the 10th Anniversary Edition. Bantam Books, 2005.



Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.