Ramping up my/our emotional literacy (online)?


That’s it, we’ve started that amazing slow-thinking and triple loop journey to make sense of this incredible transition and challenge that we are facing. We had our first session last Monday and it was intense. Because this transition journey is intense… Really intense… Not least emotionally.

How to overcome emotional overload when you’re highly empathetic (image credit: Tiny Buddha)

We are grappling with all kinds of signals and drives: sadness, elation, excitement, fear, confusion, anger, dumbfounded-ness, happiness, fatigue, despair, grief, hope, admiration, denial, curiosity, envy, self-pitying, encouragement, optimism, compassion, hallucination, enthusiasm, cynicism, delirium, humility, acceptance… it’s a whirlwind of feelings out there and in here, in our hearts, minds and souls. This oozing well of emotions has opened as it dawns upon us that not only are we not coming back to the ‘old’ normal, but the transition to a new normal will actually be long-lasting, not a thing of days, weeks and months, but of years, and perhaps even decades, for all we know.

Our physical distancing means that we are more than ever dependent on each other in more subtle ways than we would have ever considered otherwise. To quote someone I just talked to this morning:

I’m getting tired of online meetings and chats but that’s all we’ve got!

And by the way I really, really feel for all those locked down alone, in deep isolation, even more so for those who are possibly grieving in silence and solitude now.

Our salute relies on our ability to connect and remain emotionally connected with each other. Because making sense of things is just too confusing and too hard. Taking care of each other, that’s the safest, and perhaps wisest, bet we can make for now.

The one element, the ring of power, that binds us (nearly) all is our emotional intelligence, or even further: our emotional literacy. Our capacity to understand our and others’ emotions and act upon them.

Which is also another major reason why I just really can’t stand Donald Chump (my new nickname, which is actually way too darling for this GDMFSOB) for being such a cruelly empathy-devoid psychopathic @sshole. But I digress here…

Our online world is supposed to allow us to work through these emotions just as gracefully (or not) as we can offline.

Can we?

That question: “can we (not?) emulate our face-to-face engagement and connection online too?” is another big question that emerged from our recent exchange. But that’s another digression. More about that later, hopefully, echoing a wonderful conversation between Nancy White and a friend of hers Rosa Zubizarreta.

What seems like a fundamental transition, or need for transition, is our ability to ramp up our emotional literacy. That’s our ticket to resilience in these tumultuous times.

Now dig this for a starter:

So here we are. Having no other choice, and hopefully no preferred direction against toxic masculinities and the likes…

MeToo + COVID19 + climate change (and the combined effect on online meetings) = the dawn of emotional literacy… ? Could that be true? It’s about time. It’s a crucial element of process literacy generally…

What is sure is that in our online interactions, whether in a family, friends’ or working context, we need to be able to feel, deeply experience, name, share, honour, welcome, amplify, dim, adapt our emotions and those of others. That is one of the beautiful opportunities offered by this transition that we are all going through.

And that is hard.

Because accepting our emotions is not a given. Let alone accepting those of others. Let alone accepting those ‘difficult behaviours’ that brush us the wrong way. Yet that’s our ticket to remaining hopeful and together as one species facing one of the steepest challenges of our times (masking the even bigger one of climate change)…

Luckily, on this perilous journey, we are also helped by other emerging facts such as a welcome informality ubiquitously fuelled by the presence of our interiors, tastes, relatives and pets.

We may be clueless as to where we are or where we’re headed. But so long as we’re together, and we model, mould and muster a better together, we’re on the right track.

And clearly, I have some work to do!!

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Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

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