Receive an overview of what triggers are and how they influence people.
- A big part of emotional self control is understanding your triggers. A trigger is the same thing as your hot button. You usually discover one when it's been pushed and all of sudden you're having a strong emotional reaction. The key here is that your emotion is bigger than the situation probably warrants. If someone just stole your car, then it's appropriate to have a very strong emotion of anger. But if you're having that same reaction in a staff meeting, it's probably a trigger. In particular, you want to look for any of the following clues.
You feel righteous, angry, defensive, scared, anxious, you're judging or blaming another, or you're being self-critical and beating yourself up. All of these are signs that you may have a trigger. Another is that you're experiencing the fight or flight response in a non-life threatening situation. In other words, an amygdala hijack. The fight response is where we turn toward the threat and use aggression to protect ourselves.
We can use physical, verbal or even non-verbal behaviors to attack another person, or more subtle tactics like sarcasm or shame. If we're in the flight or freeze response, we turn away from the danger and withdraw from the interaction or relationship. Another type of flight behavior is defensiveness where we deflect the perceived attack with excuses or counter arguments that blame another person. Part of being emotionally intelligent is knowing what triggers you. And if you know your triggers, then you cannot be surprised by them.
When we get caught off guard by our triggers we usually don't make the best choices. In the exercise files, you'll find a worksheet about triggers. Take a few minutes to think about what has triggered you over the past few years and make a list. Consider both your personal and professional life. Focus on how you reacted initially even if things got worked out later or cleared up. My guess is that you'll start to see the same themes repeated across several different situations. This is because our triggers are remnants of difficult experiences, either physical or emotional, that happened to us in the past.
When we experience a similar situation or a person who reminds us, even subconsciously, of someone who hurt us, our body responds. The reason our emotional reaction is bigger than this situation warrants is because it's got connections to our past. Triggers are just the scars of old wounds and you're not only feeling the reaction to this current incident, but it's magnified by feelings of when the button got created in the first place. It's common for people to have a handful of triggers. In fact, there is not a human being alive who doesn't have triggers.
It's just part of the human experience. Many triggers come from trauma. Think about how many people you know who've experienced things like being a victim of a crime, having a family member who struggles with addiction or mental illness, being in an accident, or growing up in an abusive household. Statistically, it's very likely that more than 50% of your workplace has experienced major trauma at some point in their life. If they have not yet learned how to recognize and manage their triggers, it can create a lot of problems.
Understanding your triggers is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself as a leader. I do executive coaching all the time and the most effective leaders not only know what their triggers are, but they have a plan for managing them when they inevitably get pushed. This is a key aspect of self control and a clear differentiator of people with high EQ's.
- 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.