Pause … to Understand Your Reactions

Do You Ever Wonder WHY You Reacted That Way?!

It’s funny how often I get asked the question, “What IS Emotional Intelligence?” when I tell people I’m a certified trainer in Emotional Intelligence (EQ). This tells me how necessary it is for people and organizations to make learning more about their EQ a priority, especially in the workplace. There are dysfunctional teams everywhere, and a focus on enhancing EQ helps companies and employees take their performance to new heights.

Emotional Intelligence was brought to light in the workplace in 1995 by Daniel Goleman, who based his research on affective neuroscience. According to Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, the authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (also the research and thought leaders behind the EQ programs I teach), Emotional Intelligence is: “Your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and your relationships.”

There are four components to Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. Okay, great, that all sounds important, but what does it really mean? Essentially, it is saying that the better you know yourself and how you respond to others and to situations, the more you can grow your EQ and the more successful you will be in life. You will have better relationships with people, both on and off the job, which will lead to a more productive and happier life.

Like it or not, every time you head to work, you take that head full of thoughts with you, and those thoughts (yes, we have tens of thousands per day – some say upward amounts are 70,000 or more!) are tied directly to your emotions and emotional patterns you have carried around with you for years. YEARS, I say! This causes you to respond to people in habitual ways with thoughts, judgments, assumptions, offenses, etc. It’s bad enough when we do this at home with our loved ones, who may or may not easily forgive our transgressions, but when we bring habitual negative emotions and patterns into the office it can damage work relationships and lead to productivity problems for your company.

TalentSmart, the organization that provided my EQ certification, reports that, “After supervisors received training in emotional competencies such as how to listen better and help employees resolve problems, lost-time accidents were reduced by 50%, formal grievances were reduced from an average of 15 per year to 3 per year, and the plant exceeded productivity goals by $250,000 (Pesuric & Byham, 1996). In another manufacturing plant where supervisors received similar training, production increased 17%. There was no such increase in production for supervisors who were not trained. (Porras & Anderson, 1981).” Those are some pretty powerful numbers. Think about what enhanced EQ could do for your organization.

Dive Under Your Personal Microscope When You Have a Strong Reaction

I had the joy of attending a Google Hangout with Glenn and Marian Head with Lisa Engles on “Revolutionary Agreements – 12 Practical Ways To Be All We Desire, Dream and Deserve.” Marian is a dear friend of mine and the author of a lovely book called Revolutionary Agreements. My favorite agreement has always been, “I agree to look within when I react.” I love it because it is the foundation of Self-Awareness, which is the most important competency of Emotional Intelligence. Without Self-Awareness, the other three are much more difficult to explore.

If you find yourself reacting to something that someone has said or done – you feel angry, annoyed, upset, jealous, misunderstood – do yourself a favor: just pause. Try to separate any action that has happened from the person. Take a look inside yourself and attempt to take your ego out of the situation. Breathe. Think. Chill.

Ask yourself things like, “Why am I feeling this way?” and “Have I felt this way before?” Whatever words you are inflicting onto that other person inside your mind, turn them around and aim them toward yourself instead. The hardest thing to do is to ask yourself, “Is there a part of me I don’t want to acknowledge that is like this?” For instance, if you think someone is insincere, rude, selfish, etc., try to think of times when someone would perhaps have thought the same thing of you or in what moments have you behaved in the same ways. Ask yourself what you are holding onto: Resentment? Hurt? Loss? Jealousy? Anger? Blame? Feeling not enough? Are these feelings driving your reaction?

Our egos are very powerful, persnickety creatures, and they can play tricks on us. Our attention hungry egos make us look at things from only our own perspective, which can cast others into an enemy role. In his book A New Earth, EckhartToll Tolle says, “The particular egoic patterns that you react to more strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself … It has nothing to do with who that person is, nor has it anything to do with who you are.”

If you find that you have reacted this way before, chances are it could be a deeply ingrained pattern of response in your brain. Once you recognize what your body does in these times (for instance, I found that I hold my breath if I am feeling upset; others may have their chest tighten, break out in a sweat, etc.), you can pause and identify what’s really happening. Instead of hurling a negative emotion toward someone, get curious and try to figure out WHY you are reacting in that way. Think, “Hmmm … this is interesting.” Consider couples who fight a lot … it is primarily a habit. So is withdrawing, running away, blaming … they are all coping mechanisms we have learned to use through the years. And if someone at works reminds us of someone we habitually fight with, well, you can imagine how that could play out if we practice those same reactions in the workplace …

So I urge you to really stop and think when you find yourself reacting to something. Look inside. Find the root source. That simple act of presence and observation where you step outside yourself to look at things more objectively can save a relationship with a co-worker, a customer, or a loved one. Pause to stay in the moment. Don’t let the moment run away with you. With time and practice, thanks to the amazing neuroplasticity of your brain, you can develop your EQ and choose better responses. And that, my friends, is Emotional Intelligence.

Valerie M. Sargent is a dynamic speaker, trainer, consultant and executive coach. A natural and engaging motivator, Valerie is a Level I and Level II TalentSmart Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer and President of Yvette Poole & Associates. She helps individuals and organizations increase their EQ, managing emotions and relationships better on the job for maximum performance. Her signature message, “It’s in the Pause”® focuses on the need for Self-Management skills to preserve positive relationships in the workplace and beyond – follow her blog: https://itsinthepause.com/). For more information: http://ypooleandassoc.com/  or http://valeriemsargent.com/.

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