Cap U prof encourages younger generation to use 'emotional intelligence' in facing pandemic challenges

COVID-19 "teaches emotional resiliency” to younger generations, says Cap U professor

Carolyn Stern, a professor at Capilano University sees COVID-19 as a sort of gift that could allow students to develop their emotional intelligence and empathy. She is pictured holding a collection of her favourite books on the subject.

A business school professor at Capilano University believes there is a way to make chicken salad out of the chicken scat that is COVID-19.

“I feel COVID is a good thing for younger generations,” Carolyn Stern said over the phone from her Coquitlam home where she hosts virtual classes. “The global challenge is a gift, an opportunity to use emotional intelligence.”

She is not downplaying the harm the pandemic has done — the loss of loved ones, the mental health issues isolation lays bare, the economic damage. But the generation she teaches at Cap U has a unique opportunity to learn resilience and grit, she said.

“The reason I say that in some ways COVID-19 is a gift for the current generation of students is that learning to manage and work through tough situations shows you that you are bigger than your emotions.

“It teaches emotional resiliency.”

Stern has bachelors’ degrees in commerce and education, a master’s degree in leadership from Royal Roads University, and is the owner of EI Experience, a management training company. A lecturer at Cap U for 22 years, she has, after five years of lobbying, introduced an emotional intelligence credit class at the school.

Studies show that Gen Z have less stress tolerance, less problem-solving capabilities and less independence than Millennials, Stern said.

“They struggle to make quick objective decisions, they may not express their thoughts and beliefs because they seek (validation) from others. They worry about making mistakes. There’s a lot of self-doubt.”

But what is emotional intelligence?

“It’s being bigger than your emotions,” Stern said. “I think emotions can be used like data.”

Think of advertising agencies, she suggested, and the way they use consumer behaviour as data to make strategic choices for people to buy their products.

“That’s how they sucker us into buying stuff. It’s the same thing — can we use emotions as data to make good behavioural choices? We never learned this in school. It’s the school of life that has taught us those lessons.”

What she tells her class is that they are bigger than their emotions, that they will not be stopped by those emotions. Their parents tried to give their Gen Z children everything, and by doing that they created a culture of dependence, Stern added.

“It’s critical to understand that these young people in particular, their emotional makeup just isn’t the same as ours. You have to teach them that emotions come and go — you don’t have to be afraid of them, they’re not here for good.”

Today, with social media and doom scrolling, young adults are continuously comparing themselves to everyone in the world, or at least the lives the avatars on social media showcase.

“Everyone else’s life looks so much better on Twitter or Instagram,” Stern said. “The biggest lesson we can teach these kids … COVID is a gift because our parents can’t solve this problem for our kids, they’ve got to figure it out themselves.

“Their independence is what they need to grow so they can believe they too will surpass this. They can’t rely on Google to know the answer.”

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