Learn about the strategies for managing your emotions in the moment.
- One of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence is emotional self-control. I'm sure we can all think of some people who don't have it. This certainly includes people who lose their tempers or who blurt things out without thinking, but it also includes people who struggle with patience and those who micromanage others. Studies indicate 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 about athletes, movie stars, and even CEOs who are suffering the consequences of their poor choices.
We all struggle with self-control a little bit. For example, I can 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 that there's two important windows for self-control. The first window is when we're under stress, especially if we've been hijacked by our amygdala. When this happens, the thinking brain shuts down and we're in our survival state.
Since you've lost access to the executive center, the strategies here are about recognizing that you've been hijacked and 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. You'll often have sensations like a racing heart, clenched stomach, or shaking hands. Each person is different. Your goal is to quickly recognize when you've been hijacked, then you want to be able to calm yourself down.
Consider these options. Excusing yourself to the restroom so you can get out of the situation for a few minutes. Breathing, I find that breathing in and out for the count of five helps a lot. Journaling, jotting down a few thoughts or feelings can be really helpful, and you can even do this around others because it looks like you're taking notes. Moving your body, like going for a walk. Talking with a trusted friend. Take a few minutes to just vent your thoughts and feelings.
Identify two to three things you can try next time you're hijacked. The most important thing to remember is to not take any action until your brain is fully back online. When you lose access to that higher state, your reptilian brain is going to say, you got to yell at this guy. Trust me, this is a brilliant idea. But you cannot trust that part, so 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 everything is going well.
Having self-control in these situations is about thinking beyond the current moment to the broader picture. We can all remember times when we said something to a colleague or made a decision and if we had just thought it through a little more, we would've made a better choice. Here are some common examples. Starting a conversation without looking around to see how much privacy you really have. Feeling compelled to share information simply because someone asks or went first. Making a decision before you have all the facts or relevant opinions.
Doing something before considering all the different people it might affect or what the impact might be. Taking an action without assessing how it relates to your organization's culture, policies, or procedures. But if you train yourself to wait, you'll increase your chances of seeing those missing pieces or accurately identifying potential consequences. You also gain the opportunity to observe what's happening around you and seek other people's input. Timing really is everything.
Remember, you will rarely regret waiting a few hours or days, but you will often regret acting too quickly.
- Analyze the brain science behind emotional intelligence.
- Identify and assess your emotions.
- Determine how to exercise emotional self-control.
- Identify your triggers and how to respond the them.
- Assess how others respond at work.
- Determine how to maximize team performance using emotional intelligence.
- Discover how to catalyze change.