Join Britt Andreatta for an in-depth discussion in this video Exercising emotional self-control, part of Leading with Emotional Intelligence.
- View Offline
One of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence is the skill of emotional self control. I'm sure we can all think of some people who don't have it. This includes people who lose their tempers or who blurt things out without thinking. But it also includes people who struggle with patience, those who are inflexible, and folks who have to have their way now. Research has shown that people who struggle to keep jobs or excel in their careers, have problems with controlling their impulses, or delaying gratification. And we've all seen the headlines with stories about athletes, movie stars, and even CEOs, who are suffering the consequences of their poor choices.
And the reverse is also true. People who have good self control perform better on all kinds of success measures, including productivity and leadership. We all struggle with self control a little bit. For example, I have amazing self control in so many settings, but if you put a warm brownie sundae in front of me, not so much. It's human nature to have situations that challenge you, but you want to develop strategies for managing yourself. Research on emotional intelligence tells us there's two important windows for emotional self control. The first, is when we're under stress, especially if we've been hijacked by our amygdala.
Remember, when this happens, the thinking brain shuts down and we're in our survival state, which is very primitive. Since you've lost access to the executive center of the brain, the strategies here are about, one, recognizing that you have been hijacked, and two, having some ways to calm yourself down. Become familiar with how your body feels when you're hijacked. It's a version of the fight-or-flight response, so you'll often have sensations like a racing heart, clenched stomach, or shaking hands. There are mild hijacks too, where the sensations are more subtle and build over time.
Each person is different. The goal is to be able to quickly recognize when you have been hijacked. Then, you want to be able to calm yourself down. There's lots of options. Consider which of these might work for you. Excusing yourself to use the restroom, so you can get out of the situation for a few minutes. Breathing. I found that breathing in for the count of five, and then out for the count of five helps a lot. Journaling. Jotting down a few thoughts or feelings can really be helpful, and it looks like you're just taking notes. Moving your body, like going for a walk.
And talking with a trusted friend to vent for a few minutes. The key here is to have two to three things you can do to help calm yourself down. Once you're calm, your brain will expand back to its full functioning. The most important thing to remember is to not take any action when you're hijacked. Your primitive brain is going to say, we gotta yell at this guy, trust me, this is a brilliant idea. But you can't trust that part. The goal is to train yourself to wait. All you need to do is create a little space and time, and you'll be fine.
And that brings us to the second window of time, which is in our everyday interactions, when we're calm and everything is going well. Having emotional self control in these situations is about thinking beyond the current moment, to the broader picture. Because we're all multitasking so much, it's easy to make a quick decision, and then miss something important. Here's some common examples. Starting a conversation without looking around to see how much privacy you really have. Making a decision before you have all the facts or relevant opinions.
Taking an action without assessing all the different people it might affect or what the impact might be. Feeling compelled to share information simply because someone asked or went first. Again, the key here is to wait and give yourself some time before you act. When you train yourself to wait, you'll increase the chance of seeing those missing pieces, or accurately identifying potential consequences. You also have the opportunity to ask questions, observe what's happening around you, and gain other's perspectives. Timing really is everything.
Remember, you'll rarely regret waiting a few hours or days, but you will often regret acting too quickly.
Learn what emotional intelligence is and how it factors in at work and discover concrete techniques for raising your own emotional quotient (EQ). This includes perceiving yourself accurately, exercising emotional self-control, practicing resilience, and developing empathy. Then turn those lessons around to build your awareness of others and learn to inspire helpful communication and manage conflict.
Lynda.com is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- What is emotional intelligence?
- Cultivating emotional intelligence
- Exercising emotional self-control
- Working with your triggers
- Getting to know others
- Maximizing team performance
- Building influence<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.