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Weekly Wellness Word: Respond

This week’s word is Respond

We've all been there. Driving along; minding our own business. Then some idiot cuts us off and nearly plows into the side of our car. Thankfully we just had new brakes installed and were able to stop quickly or it could have gotten ugly. Our response to that driver often depends on how our day is going. If we are happily singing along to our favorite tune on the radio, we may brush it off and not react much at all. But if we've had a horrific day - spilled our coffee, kids fighting, grumpy customers, running late - we may blare our horn and dart forward just enough to cut them off the next time we change lanes. Our own maneuver is no less dangerous than theirs, but we justify it as payback and are often too angry to stop and consider the risk in repeating their behavior.

Most of us don't like it when we feel like our emotions are out of our control. Neither does it feel good when we react in a way that surprises us. We feel safest and most confident when we are fully aware of what we're feeling, why we're feeling it, and are able to choose our response. These are the hallmarks of emotional intelligence.

Some may have the impression that emotional intelligence means that we never get angry, sad or afraid. Not so. Emotional intelligence is not the absence of what some consider to be negative emotions; it is the awareness of them and the ability to meet them with curiosity, thoughtfulness, and intention.

Throughout this wellness journey we have been exploring how the various parts of our being is sending us messages and how important it is to listen to those messages. Our emotions are no different. When we become aware of an emotion, whether we perceive it to be good or bad, there is something to be learned by its presence, something to be gleaned from it, an opportunity to grow and choose how we will respond to what it is trying to tell us.

We have no hesitation to admire a skilled athlete, to watch them perform their craft in front of crowds of people. That level of skill takes hours, weeks, months and years to perfect. When we begin our emotional intelligence journey - trying to learn the skill of choosing how to respond to our emotions - it is helpful to remember that it takes time, effort and persistence. The resources provided below would be a great place to start.

As you navigate through this week, what might it look like to become friends with your emotions, even the negative ones? Not necessarily for the purpose of letting them loose, but to let them fulfill their purpose of bringing you a better self understanding so that you have an opportunity to decide how and where and in what context to let your emotions live. Notice whether you suppress some emotions more often than others and begin to explore the reasons for that. What are the underlying factors that cause you to choose to hold them in at that moment? Notice which emotions most often come out sideways, ways you would prefer they didn't or that you don't expect. Might there be a healthier way and/or context where you would feel free to express those emotions fully?

Quote of the Week

"When you know yourself, you know what you do well and what your limits are. You are open to what your feelings are trying to tell you.

Certain characteristics and behaviors are indicators of poor self-awareness.

Projecting emotions is a defense mechanism. Unacceptable thoughts or feelings are repressed and then attributed to someone else. Like when someone in denial about their own anger feels that he encounters a lot of angry people.

Associating emotions with memories or other unpleasant emotions can occur if someone's behavior subconsciously reminds you of something else. For example, a coworker's tone of voice may trigger a childhood memory of parental punishment.

Believing you should feel a different way than you do can trigger difficult emotions. Sometimes people think they are bad for feeling emotions they've been brought up to believe are wrong.

Refusing to acknowledge feelings or denying them happens when certain feelings are thought to be unacceptable and simply not acknowledged. For example, a CEO in a family business may refuse to acknowledge that the firm's financial troubles are due to his son's inability to control the budget.

Blaming others for your feelings can occur when you don't take responsibility for your own emotions and actions. For instance, someone might make an excuse for a project's failure by blaming the economy and not accepting the impact of their own decisions.

Characteristics and behaviors may be indicators of poor self-awareness but the converse is also true. When you have good self-awareness and can read yourself, you know that your emotions can affect your work and those you work with. For example, if you're tense then your coworkers and your customers pick up on it. Knowing this, you can project a positive attitude which is always contagious.

Although some emotions hinder self-awareness, you can use many techniques to improve your ability to read yourself.

You can learn to solicit feedback from multiple sources. As for feedback from people in your life. The 360-degree feedback technique in many companies make use of this idea. Customers, peers, subordinates, and supervisors can all provide valuable feedback. Getting multiple views gives you a more complete picture. Be sure to listen without getting defensive.

Identify your strengths, weaknesses and emotional triggers. Only when you identify your strengths and weaknesses will you be able to take stock of your real self. A personal balance sheet, for example, can help you inventory your talents and passions. Then you can examine your strengths and gaps. You also need to identify your emotional triggers, which are situations or personalities that provoke an intense emotional response. For instance, if micromanagement makes you angry, you should investigate it. Once you identify why it is a trigger, you can stop responding emotionally and instead respond with intelligence and rationality.

Interpret your goals and feelings. It's not enough to just identify your emotions; you must also interpret them and your goals. For instance, you could visualize where you'll be in ten years, and interpret this by determining what it says about what's important to you. When you experience emotions, ask ""What is this feeling trying to tell me?"" For example, an HR manager faced with a big hiring challenge worried about it for months beforehand. After he interpreted the worry as fear for his own job, he was able to estimate the probability of his fears coming true and start focusing on his realistic options.

Self observe as if you were viewing another person's emotions. Self-observation is enhanced by visualizing yourself as if you were observing someone else. Self-observation and self-curiousity will allow you to tune into yourself and identify even your more subtle moods. For instance, a supervisor observes herself and learns she always acts poorly to people she perceives as being arrogant. She can then design a plan to improve in that area instead of being emotionally hijacked each time she has to deal with that type of person.

Record your reactions and thoughts. Recording your reactions and thoughts in an emotional journal gives you detachment. Just a few minutes a day can help you understand what makes you incompatible with certain people or jobs, and learn ways to deal with it. Understanding the true meaning in your writing may take several weeks. For example, a manager didn't organize his writing, but let the words flow. At the end of a month, he looked back at his journal and clearly identified the specific feelings that caused him stress. He then learned ways to counteract them.”

- Leadership Essentials: Leading with Emotional Intelligence from Skillsoft

Next Step

Curious as to your own Emotional Intelligence Quotient score? Take the 45 minute EQ test at the link below.

Further Information

For a deeper dive on Emotional Intelligence, check out the free training resources available at the link below.

Have a GREAT week!

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