Don’t Let your Emotions Control your Reactions

Raise your hand if emotion sometimes leaks out onto your face? When someone says something that upsets you, even though you know you shouldn’t show it, your face betrays you, and becomes a billboard of anger or hurt. Or how about I-Didn’t-Just-Say-That-itis, where you feel an emotion and snap, say something sharp, then wish you could take it all back?

Emotional Intelligence is a buzz word in the personal and professional development world right now, and for good reason! It is a key indicator of success in the workplace, and in life. The 4 elements of Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) are self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness and social regulation. Leaky Face Syndrome or Sharp-Tongue-itis is a self-regulation issue, and I’ve got a great technique to help reduce the immediate emotions in a situation, making it easier to regulate what inadvertently slips out.

Now, please understand me, this does not mean you’re not dealing with the issues. It simply means that you’re able to deal with them in a more emotionally controlled way, creating a situation in which the other person is more likely to work with you.

The key is to examine the story you’re telling yourself about whatever is going on and reframing that thought so you can reduce the emotional kick and respond in a calm way. It’s about being able to stop the reactive part of your brain from hijacking your reactions and allowing the rational part to take the wheel.

Here’s how it works. When something happens (A), we have certain thoughts, or judgements about what happened. (B) Because of those thoughts, we feel emotions (C), which makes our Neanderthal brain react (D) giving us certain results from the world (E). Let me give you an example.

I am kind of a stickler about time. When Casey arrives late to a meeting (A), my judgement is, “Lateness is unprofessional, disrespectful and this person clearly doesn’t have their stuff together.” (B). Because of these thoughts, I feel angry (C), give them dirty looks throughout the meeting, and don’t assign an important project to them (D) and as a result, they’re not open to collaborating and communicating with me (E) thus damaging our working relationship.

Joe is a single dad, and he knows that sometimes life is not your own, and no matter how much time you leave for yourself to get somewhere, timeliness is often completely out of your control. So, when Casey walks into the same meeting late (A), Joe’s thoughts turn to priorities and busy life (B) and he feels empathy. (C) After the meeting, he approaches Casey to ask if everything is ok (D) and their relationship is strengthened as a result. (E)

Because of Joe and my differing thoughts and judgements about lateness, we have a different emotional experience, and thus, we behave differently and get very different results.

Now comes the magic. What I need to do, is to reframe my thoughts about lateness in order to not go off the deep end every time someone is late. When there is something that you don’t have immediate control over that repeatedly happens and gives you angst, examine your thoughts and judgements (B) and question whether that is the only possible explanation for that behavior.

In the lateness example, perhaps Casey was in the hall talking to the CEO about a media crisis going on in the company. That’s a little more important than the TPS report review we’re doing in the Lakeview Conference Room. Or maybe they were on the phone with their kid’s oncologist. WAY more important. So instead of immediately getting mad and writing off everyone who is late to meetings, I suspend judgement, and say “maybe there was another explanation for the lateness” and speak rationally about it with them.

You can bring up your immediate negative thoughts and judgements if you think it’s relevant for them to know but bring it up in a tentative way by saying “it makes me think…” rather than accusingly pounding them on the chest with your index finger. Perfect example, when my partner doesn’t do the dishes for days after committing to do them, my immediate thought is “he thinks it’s my job as the woman to do the dishes” Instead of flying off the handle and accusing him of being a sexist pig (which I know full well won’t have a positive outcome), I can say “I’m frustrated when the dishes sit there for days because it makes me think you believe it’s my job as a woman to do them. I’m pretty sure that’s not what you’re thinking, but it sure feels that way, and I wanted you to know that.” This gets a much better result. In fact, I came home from a business trip last Friday, and the dishes were done and the kitchen was spotless. This stuff works folks. Give it a try!

Reframe your thoughts, and you’ll be able to handle conflict and challenges much more calmly. We’ll talk about this and tons more about EQ on November 13 at Kirkbride Hall, so get your ticket today, and I’ll see you there!

©Anne Bonney All Rights Reserved.


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