Is the reality that 'we can choose how we respond' to things a living benefit in your life?
Is the power of emotional intelligence working for you?
We all have a range of emotions regularly, and we need to be able to express and / or manage them well. From time to time, depending on what’s going on, we have different experiences with our emotions…and sometimes we are more emotionally intelligent than at others!
We feel better some days, agitated at other times, frustrated, angry, the whole mix, which are just part of being human. But we can actually be specific and intentional about deciding how we're going to respond in different scenarios. The more self-aware we are of our emotional state at any point in time, and add into that a strong emotional intelligence, the easier it is for us then to decide, ‘what's the best response to this?’ Rather than just the first natural response which sometimes in the heat of the moment is not the best way to handle things, which then produces a result we didn't want.
We can develop learned responses, and be proactive in each situation we encounter. It then becomes easier for us to actually take a step back and say, 'no, I’m not going to do that, this is how I'm going to respond'.
Many years ago, I went on a family city break to Paris. It was fun. At the time we could all speak French somewhat. None of us were really fluent, but we knew the basics. We knew enough to get by.
One day, we were in a train station and were working out where we wanted to go for the day and the best way to get there. What would be the best tickets to buy? This was a little bit more adventurous than just, 'Un carnet, s'il vous plaît'. We got talking to a travel rep who was advertising different types of tickets. For example, a three-day or a five-day ticket with all-inclusive travel and access to certain venues, you know the sort of thing. After listening to her we thought right, 'we'll go for the three-day ticket'. So I joined the ticket (billet) queue. This is how long ago it was because there was a lady in the ticket booth and back then, you went and bought tickets from a person. (Remember those days?) Now, we were using Euros and not Francs so it wasn't THAT long ago, but back in the day when people used to interact more through sales transactions in the station, and we used to use cash more than what we do now. That was the scenario I was in.
So I'm queuing up waiting to get to the ticket booth and I'm rehearsing my amazing French delivery of how I want to order these tickets. I'm also calculating the total cost this is going to be.
What will that sound like in French when she tells me what it costs? I wanted to be aware of what I would be hearing and know that what I think I've said she understood, authenticating that it's the proper transaction and I end up with the tickets that I'd like. So, as I'm getting closer to the booth, I'm perfecting it, and doing alright, feeling relaxed, looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity of practising my French.
Then the guy that's directly in front of me in the queue goes up to the booth and starts chatting with the lady. While I'm rehearsing, I can hear their voices start to rise. Things are not quite going as well as they could be by the sound of it. I'm not really listening, and I probably wouldn't understand it anyway, it wasn't in English, I do know that. Anyway, I'm rehearsing what I'm going to say. Then things get to a head, the guy says something and then storms off. I'm thinking, 'Okay, great. This will be interesting!'.
My first sight of the lady in the ticket booth is of her looking at the man as he walks off and she's responding in a raised voice, waving her hands at him. I thought, 'Okay, here goes', so I approach the ticket booth and to her credit, she went from speaking in a raised voice, waving her hands at him, to a polite and calm, "Bonjour" as she turned to greet me with a warm smile on her face. In a moment, she completely changed her response to him towards me, which made the whole transaction a lot more pleasant!
Whether she'd consciously done it, whether it was some customer service training that kicked in just at the right time, I don't know. Maybe grace just came upon her, or came upon me in that instance. But it all went a lot better than it could have done… and it was because she managed her emotions very professionally.
We can all do similar things. I'm sure you've heard the advice, 'if you start to feel that you're getting tense or you're getting angry, count to ten first before responding'. That's not bad advice. I remember hearing Dr. Robi Sonderegger, who is a clinical psychologist, elaborate more on this, he advises, 'if you are able to, remove yourself from whatever the environment or conversation is that is starting to get the emotions rising higher or hotter than what you'd like them to be, and then start counting backwards using a three-digit number sequence, i.e., 199, 198, 197…’
What this does, without going into the science, a lot of which I'm not that familiar with anyway, is that it forces a different part of our brain to kick in. As we are concentrating on counting down in a 3-digit numbered sequence there's less focus internally on how we're feeling. It helps to calm that part of the brain and the emotions associated with the response that we were having before. It's a way of cooling down, placing us into a better state where we choose how we're going to respond more intelligently.
There are lots of different reasons and scenarios where good emotional intelligence brings a better outcome. It may be that as someone is communicating, they haven't picked the best choice of words to express how they feel to us, which could then trigger us to respond and retaliate negatively if we're not aware of the ability to manage, and choose our emotions. Or it could be that they're just having a bad day, they're venting at you, you've just walked in and you're copping all of it.
Whatever the scenario, the more aware that we are of the triggers that we have, the buttons that people or circumstances can press, which then causes more of an emotional response in us than we’d want, the more we can decide how we're going to respond...’when that happens again, when I encounter this, this is how I am going to respond’.
We could just let our emotions go, but then things get messy. We have to apologise and try and put things right. We don't communicate as well as we could have.
So how are you going to respond?
Self-leadership: let's also be conscious of the fact that we can choose what we think about. Thoughts have a direct result on our emotions, how we feel. They influence how we act and respond. We then get results based on our behaviour. It's a cycle. But we can control what we are thinking and how we respond. As you become more aware of your triggers, decide how you're going to respond, and then start practising it, the outcome is better self-leadership. It will take time as it becomes more of a habit. But...
YOU decide how you express yourself
Leading others: both in a professional context, and any other really, the more aware you are of your emotions, and the better you manage them, the more approachable you are to your team, to those that you lead. In addition, you're also contributing to a healthier environment.
Leaders lead. People follow how leaders lead.
So if you're leading better with your emotions and the way you communicate, when the pressure is on, as well as when it isn't, they're more likely to follow as well.
So there are huge benefits all round to developing your emotional intelligence and choosing how you respond. If you've not already started it, start to develop it.
Reach out if you want to discuss this further….
I BELIEVE IN YOU, AND I BELIEVE IN YOUR POTENTIAL!
I discussed Emotional Intelligence with Dr. Johanna Pagonis on a podcast, watch the video here ….