Learn how you can take control and slow your reaction to challenging situations to successfully develop your emotional intelligence.
- Imagine this. You're in a meeting and you witness a heated exchange between two colleagues, Jane and Dave. It goes from one to 100 in a matter of seconds. What starts as a mild difference of opinion escalates into a blistering exchange as Dave takes offense to Jane's request to take on additional work. Have you ever been in a middle of a conversation and the next thing you know, it's turned into a heated exchange and you're not quite sure where it all went wrong? Emotional responses are so quick.
It really takes conscious practice to become aware of our emotional response process. The first step is being aware of how our emotional response process works. When we've mastered this, the next step is to intercept that response process, so you can control how you respond to events. To change anything, you first need to be aware of how the system works. Then, you can go about making tweaks and changing your approach to achieve a better result.
In the book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman describes two ways we often think as humans. The first is very fast and highly emotional and intuitive. The second is slow, deliberate, and logical. Our fast thinking can be extremely useful, day to day, helping us to make quick decisions and carry out tasks with ease. Sometimes, however, this type of thinking can get us into a thinking rut, leading us to use biases and assumptions to make decisions when actually there may be a better way to process the information.
There will be times when we need to disrupt this automatic thinking process and slow our thinking down, to reshape our judgment, reinterpret situations, and change our response, all to get the most out of a situation. Think back to the exchange between Dave and Jane. Dave feels that Jane doesn't understand how stretched he is at work, and he feels that Jane is quick to asking to complete more tasks without considering his workload.
Jane, on the other hand, feels that Dave continually undermines her, and instead of helping to find solutions, he refuses to change the way he does things even if there is a way to achieve better results. Now, imagine that Dave and Jane had the psychological tools to slow down their emotional responses instead of assuming the other person was purposely trying to make their working life harder. Both parties may have seen the situation as an opportunity to find a collaborative solution that works for both of them.
In order to take control of your emotions and develop your emotional intelligence, you need two things. Firstly, acceptance. Secondly, the ability to slow your reactions down. Acceptance is important. We can't change the past, but we can learn from experiences to change our future. If you want to change the way you react emotionally or you want to build stronger relationships, start by accepting past behavior and using that to define how you want to behave and react in the future.
It's a learning curve. In the heat of the moment, it can be really hard to slow down your thoughts and emotions, and this most definitely takes practice. You need to rationally intercept your thoughts at the feeling emotional stage, which takes conscious practice. The thing to remember is, you do have control over your emotional reactions. If you can learn to take a moment to pause and objectively assess the situation, you're far more likely to achieve something positive from the situation.
Some of our thinking will always be at the speed of light, and that actually works in our favor. Do you really want to spend hours making a decision about which taxi app to use or debating the pros and cons of each product you pick up whilst out shopping? Automatic thinking stops us being overwhelmed by every small decision we need to make. The trick is to intercept and disrupt our thinking and emotional responses when it's not serving us.
So, are there any situations that you've found yourself in recently where it would have helped to slow down your thinking and response?
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- What is emotional intelligence?
- Watching for triggers and hijacks
- Finding flow
- Disrupting thinking
- Reclaiming reaction time
- Shifting perspective
- Listening and communicating
- Playing to strengths
- Collecting feedback
- Aligning intention and impact