How to Overcome Negativity with Emotional Intelligence

by | Oct 5, 2020 | 2 comments

People are on edge with each other, hypervigilant, buffeted in a sea of negativity. Clergy colleagues report that otherwise stable church folks are having meltdowns and launching into attack mode. My husband, a cordial golfer, returned from the links last night telling me that a fellow golfer threatened to beat him up for a mild offense. Even a recent Master Gardener meeting I attended, made up of low key vegetable gardeners, turned into a verbal slugfest.

What’s up? And what can faith leaders do about it?

Toxic Stew

Americans are caught up in a toxic stew of relentlessly polarizing politics, the uncertainty of the future, an ongoing pandemic with all its economic fallout, and the raw exposure of systemic racism. All of this has been further complicated by the recent un-presidential debate. Negativity has saturated our common airwaves. No one is exempt from its ill effects.

Faith leaders, while you are not exempt, you can overcome negativity with emotional intelligence. Click To Tweet

Practice Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence includes five abilities; five simple ways you can incorporate them into your day-to-day dealings.

Five Emotional Intelligence Abilities

    1. Self-regulation. Don’t attend every fight you are invited to. When you feel your hackles rise, or the perfect retort forming on your tongue, take a moment to breathe. Instead of cutting someone else off, a good way to defuse the moment is to say: “Tell me more.” Listening can help another person re-regulate. Chances are they need to blow off steam, too.
    2. Empathy. I once read on a tea bag: “Be kind. Everyone is fighting a hard battle.” Even as rain falls on the just and unjust, the negativity in our common airwaves affects people indiscriminately. This makes empathy more important than ever. As a leader, you model empathy with people and ask them to practice empathy with others.
    3. Self-awareness. Be aware of your tendencies, tiredness, and need for time-away. Staying tuned in to these three T’s will give you a greater ability to self-regulate and practice empathy.
    4. Motivation. People along theological and political spectrums want similar things: safety, love, and to live life according to their prized values. We hold common motivations. What differs is how we believe we will achieve them. Understanding these motivations allows leaders to practice empathy and to self-regulate amid chaos.
    5. Social skill. The most important skill, and responsibility, that you have as a leader is to practice social skills. This has little to do with small talk and more to do with moving people in the same direction. This is leadership that unifies people, a rare commodity these days. Given the divided nature of life, you might not unite people around theology or politics. Instead, tap into common values: the Gospel, the love of God, and the Kingdom of heaven. Bring people back to the vision that Jesus laid out: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven.

You Are Not Alone

Lastly, I want to remind you that you are not alone. Isolation is the enemy of love so don’t try to go it alone. Personally, my mission is to empower church leaders and the congregations they serve. I invite you to tap into the resources my team and I offer by watching Spiritual Mojo, joining us for How to Create a Culture of Renewal, or attending the next Uncomfortable Conversation series. In the meantime, breathe deep, and stay connected to the Source that supports us all!

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  1. Paul Phillips

    This article gave me some reminders on maintaining the peace of God in a stormy sea of unrest.

  2. Mary Crosby

    Recommending this article to all.



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