Updated: Mar 23, 2020
In the middle of the corona crisis, Fast Company published an article stating that Coronavirus might be the biggest trend in Google search history.
Corona has found its place and infected people around us, it is outstripping our healthcare systems, it is burdening the global economy and has found its fixed place in our TVs, in our phones and is clouding our thoughts and minds. Corona is everywhere.
These are uncertain times. Alphonse Karr, a French novelist, said “uncertainty is the worst of all evils, until the moment, when reality makes us regret uncertainty.”
Right now, uncertainty still seems like the worst of all evils. This uncertainty is causing fear at all levels - in us, as individuals, as employees, as leaders of businesses and as governmental decision makers. Fear is human.
The way we deal with fear and how we use it will decide on how we get out of this crisis. And if we address the current uncertainty and fear, caused by the current COVID-19, with its antidote LOVE, then positive parivartan believes, that we can get out of this with the least economic damage and even more so: a new appreciation and gratitude for life.
Fear and the individual
The uncertainty of COVID-19 impacting our personal lives takes a form of fear and can haunt us day and night. Individually fear might manifest itself as sleepless nights, stress, worries about our future or negative habits. This feeling of uncertainty is uncomfortable for everyone. Global implementation of social distancing and quarantining or curfews might not help the individual emotional state. Applying some fear-antidote, love, into this uncertain situation is essential. Eleanor Brown said, “Self care is not selfish. You cannot pour from an empty vessel.” Self care, or self-love is different for everyone. Whether it is yoga, meditation, connecting to nature, being at home with your family, taking care of your relationships, even if it is digitally, make sure that you are connected with yourself and feel right doing what you are doing.
Working on yourself and therefore lowering the level of fear in your hearts and minds is important, because this impacts society. Mahatma Gandhi advises: “keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive, because your words become your works. Keep your work positive, because your works become your habits. Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your lifestyle. Keep your lifestyle positive, because your lifestyle becomes your fortune.” In short: self love, taking care of having positive thoughts, is not selfish - the opposite - during the crisis, it is vital.
Fear and society
Xenophobic sentiments, racism and panic shopping find its source in fear. For us all not to suffer long term consequences from the current crisis, we need to return to our core values as a human: kindness, trust, compassion, empathy, gratitude and others. All these values arise from love, the antidote to fear and the corona crisis.
The fact that we can observe xenophobe sentiments and racist behaviors during these times, are proof, that we are acting out of fear and hurting people around us. Based on Mahatma Gandhi’s advise, negative actions find its source in negative thoughts. This is where self care can reflect itself to society. Believe it or not, fear is more contagious than the corona virus. So, the emotional state of fear spread throughout society is more dangerous than the disease. This might be difficult to believe, as the state of fear is not tangible, but consequences of fear, such as racism, discrimination, harmful actions are very tangible. You might argue, with the current prompted quarantine recommendations and curfews, we might not have the ability to counter fear with love, especially on a societal level.
We, as an individual, have two responsibilities:
Not taking hurtful sentiments personally. This requires understanding that people around you are fearful and hurting, too. Leave them in their space and comfort them as much as you can.
Not forwarding hurtful comments to others. This includes harmful or negative social media posts or WhatsApp messages. Practice self love and ensure inner peace to help society stay calm and peaceful too.
To feel fear under these circumstances is normal and human, but to become obsessive about the consequences of the crisis, where it remains uncertain, is unhealthy for you, your surroundings and society. This is not to deny the current severity of the crisis, this is to provide a way to deal with the crisis. And we, as part of this society, have a responsibility to stop the spreading of fear.
Fear and decision makers
Decision makers, be it in the political or the business spectrum, are all humans. The struggles we face with making choices during times of fear, is same for the decision makers, too. The only difference is, that decision makers carry tremendous responsibilities. Whether it is leading countries or businesses, the process of decision making during crisis remains same. In any decision taken, leaders must reevaluate the base of their decision confirming the source to be from a good hearted and well intended space rather than a space of panic and fear. The most important capability to manage the emotional state of the population or employees is the art of communication, focusing on values such as authenticity, empathy, transparency and being able to create a realm of trust in the communication.
The Economist writes an impressive segment in the “Bartleby” section, where the newspaper argues that employees (respectively the population as well) will be looking at their leaders for direction in times of crisis. Still, “in the political arena the obvious examples of successful crisis leadership are Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. […] They made up for their [erratic decision-making] by being excellent communicators. Their style diverged, but the public had little difficulty in understanding their core message.” Both for businesses and governments this is an essential gist. Communicating with compassion, showing understanding and transparency is indispensable and relevant to both groups: customers and employees.
In light of transparency, the Economist recommends and quotes Shawn Engbrecht, a former US Army ranger and author of “invisible leadership”, to “embrace the suck. This means accepting where you are at the given moment: wishing, holing and praying the problem away does not work so don’t waste your time with coulda, shoulda or woulda.” Silence is the most counter productive in moments of crisis.
To be able to create calm, clear and transparent messaging, leaders themselves have to be cognizant with the reality of the crisis, aware of their responsibility and trust the process and their capabilities to take the decisions that are in the best interest of all stakeholders.
Leaders during crisis can either solidify the basis of trust they have built with the teams before the crisis, or break it. The crisis provides this opportunity of choice.
In times of emergency and states of fear, spreading love, kindness and positivity become essential to the bearing and potential benevolence of these times.
Maybe this time of quarantine might give us an opportunity to reflect on our impact and contribution to society. Are we supporting our co-habitants or are we inflicting more pain and harm to the situation? Are we showing compassion, instead of xenophobic reactions? Are we spreading more fear, or are we using its antidote: love?
The society and its leaders are built of individuals. Let’s make sure we, as individuals, carry our responsibility to contributing to the benefit of our society with love.