Tue | Jan 26, 2021

Emotional agility in times of uncertainty

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2020 | 12:00 AM

ABOUT A decade ago, I was caught in a situation where I became so emotional about a decision that my employer made, because I believed he was challenging my academic abilities. I was so upset, I had to leave my office (which was at the waterfront, downtown Kingston) to seek some peace and, of course, shed a tear or two. Ideally, I would have loved to be looking at the clear, blue sea in Discovery Bay, but I decided that based on my circumstance at the time, the Kingston Harbour would have to substitute.

As I looked at the ocean and cried about the uncertainty of my situation, a Rastaman passed by and saw me and said, “Don’t jump, fluffy. Nuh matter wha yuh a guh chru, life too nice; this too shall pass!” I looked at him with tears running down my face and started to laugh. I had no intentions of jumping, but I really appreciated his unsolicited but kind and candour advice. When I got back to the office, I spoke to a friend and based on her advice, I began to take time to develop ‘emotional intelligence’.

Researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayor coined the term ‘emotional intelligence’, or EQ/EI, and it was later popularised by Dan Goleman in his book which carried the same name in 1996. Essentially, EQ encompasses recognising, understanding and managing our emotions, and acknowledging the influence our emotions have on others, and vice versa. EQ is therefore immensely important when making decisions and in responding to change.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a major change in our lives here in Jamaica and an even greater mental shift in how we operate globally. In one of my WhatsApp groups with female entrepreneurs across the globe, who are all facing declines in their businesses due to this public health crisis, a media practitioner from South Africa posted a graphic in response to what we are facing that said, “Nothing should go back to normal. Normal was not working.”

Immediately, I thought about emotional intelligence and keeping one’s thoughts emotionally agile. Now, don’t get me wrong, when money or other salient resources are not as accessible as they were before, no one is going to be happy and bouncing off the walls singing, “Everything will be OK because I am emotionally intelligent!” But sometimes we get so accustomed to operating under ‘normal’ circumstances that we don’t even realise that change is necessary.


During this coronavirus crisis which has shifted all our lives in some type of uncertainty, it is imperative that we keep our minds emotionally agile by steering our thoughts in the direction of innovation and creativity in doing business/earning, or using the ‘downtime’ to learn a new skill online, or to capitalise on family time as an emotional cushion. By developing and maintaining a positive mental state, we do well to preserve our sanity rather than using the time to panic, with the attitude that ‘the sky is falling’.

My personal mantra is that there is always an opportunity in a crisis. Have you stopped to assess your possible opportunities as yet? Jamaicans are the most resilient people I know, so I boast that by being Jamaican, I am inherently resilient. In addition to being fiscally prudent with our personal resources, let us also strive to be emotionally agile by always having a growth mentality rather than a fixed mentality, because, let’s face it, change is inevitable.

As I once again look at the sea, this time in Discovery Bay, I smile because who knew that 10 years after a Rastaman encouraged me “fi don’t jump because life too nice, and this too shall pass”, it could lead to the beginning of my own EQ journey in the face of uncertainty?