Are You Out of Control?

My patience has been severely tested in the past couple of days.

What was supposed to have been a simple upgrade of my computer software has resulted in the need for me to make more phone calls to help centres abroad than should ever be required of a person in a single lifetime.  As I spelled out my last name no less than 15 times in a ten minute period, I wondered if I was ever going to get my computer up and running in time to complete the project I was working on.

Fortunately (and in the spirit of someone who was planning on writing about Emotional Intelligence shortly!), as my feeling of frustration continued to grow, I suddenly became aware of what was happening (the knot in my chest and my increasingly shrill and impatient voice were subtle clues…) and I took the first step to change where things were heading. I noticed. Seriously – I noticed what was happening and in that noticing, I was able to step away from my apparently deep emotional commitment to an imagined future.

The next step was to acknowledge my feelings and make a conscious choice – a choice about what approach might serve me better than the one my subconscious was determined to take me on. In my case, this was acknowledging that I was in a frustrating situation and that I had the power to choose how I responded. When I chose to be rational and calm, miraculously, not only did it take the same amount of time to get the information I needed, more importantly everyone involved in the process felt better about it.

Self Management is the ability to manage your emotional reaction to the situations and people around you.  It’s also the second element of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – (building on my article “Are You Smart Enough?” about the first element of EQ, Self Awareness.

How often do you let your emotions get the best of you and start driving your behaviours?  What’s the impact on people around you?  What’s the impact on your success as a leader?  Real results and true success come from being able to tolerate and even embrace your uncomfortable feelings in the pursuit of larger, more important goals.   Goals like being respected as a leader, maintaining important relationships, and inspiring those around you.

Take a moment to assess your Self Management skills now…

EQ – Part 2 – Self Management Mini-quiz:
Please rate how true the following statements are for you (True, Somewhat true, or False):
  • My anger surfaces quickly in certain situations or with certain people
  • I regularly feel down or depressed about my situation, progress or accomplishments
  • I act impulsively and do things I regret
  • I get impatient in line-ups, traffic jams or airports
  • I find it hard to stay calm in difficult circumstances
  • I get angry when verbally attacked and lash out in return

The more true these statements are for you – the more your lack of Self Management EQ skills are likely getting in the way of you realizing your potential as a leader.

The good news is, as is the case with all EQ skills, if you make the effort, you can dramatically improve your ability to “manage yourself”!  There are lots of ways to improve your Self Management skill level.  Here are some of the key ideas that you can try on your own…

In the Moment: What can you do when you’re in a situation that’s causing your emotions to take over?

  • Be Aware of Your Emotions

As I highlighted in my last article EQ Self Awareness, the more aware you are of the emotions you are feeling, the greater your chance of managing them and not letting them take over.

  • Breathe into your Abdomen

Taking deep breaths that make your stomach expand (rather than your chest) has a proven physiological effect that calms your mind.  Experiment breathing like this now so you can try it out when irrationality, anger or sadness strikes!

  • Count to 10

There’s a reason this advice is still around after so many years. Pausing to count to 10 or take a sip of water when your instincts are telling you to “let someone have it”
can be just the time you need to let your mind catch up with your feelings.

Preparation: An important part of Self Management is about setting yourself up for success so you’ll be better prepared to manage your emotions and not let them hijack you when they enter the scene:

  • Get enough sleep

I don’t think I have to cite studies for you to be clear that we tend to be more patient and calm when we’ve had enough sleep!

  • Stay Physically and Mentally Recharged

Whether it be intense physical activity or calming exercise like yoga or a relaxing walk, investing the time in taking care of your body has a huge impact on your ability to manage emotions.  Exercise releases chemicals in your brain that help you plan, decide and respond more effectively.

  • Set aside some time to set an intention

Setting an intention to be calm and mindful each day regardless of the circumstances can be a huge support. Set aside the time to plan your day, envisioning yourself as a master of your emotions regardless of what comes your way.

  • Talk to Someone

When a difficult situation arises, seek out the support of someone you trust who isn’t personally involved in the situation at hand.  Whether it’s a wise friend or a professional coach, choose someone who encourages you to see more positive perspectives and is skilled at helping you show up at your best.

  • Create a Safe Space for Yourself

Sometimes emotions can be scary, especially when they have been bottled up in the service of keeping a calm demeanour.  Self management is not about being unemotional. It is about choosing where and when those emotions will manifest in a way that supports you. Having a safe space to “vent”, cry or express your anger when you need to is key to keeping the pressure down

Good luck with these Self Management tips!  See which ones work for you and let me know!  And stay tuned for my next article on the third element of EQ, Social Awareness.

This article references ideas from “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”  by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.