In the business world, how people manage themselves emotionally is of great importance, even more than many skills or talents. Not managed emotions, either good or bad, can hijack intelligence and lead into poor decisions. That’s why leaders should devote sometime to develop good emotional management skills.
A good emotional management ability starts with a good self-knowledge. The first thing to manage something is being able to decode it. By decoding I mean identify, label and understand.
There’s a question I always make to my clients. How are you? The common answer is fine, no matter what happened. And fine contains no information. It’s not an answer at all!
People tend to respond automatically to that question without even thinking. What matters is that probably they have the same response when they assess themselves.
The best way to really assess yourself is becoming an observer of your own emotional experience: observation without judgement. This is important because when you get emotional, you cannot judge objectively a situation. If you first observe without the pressure of doing anything, you can analyse the feeling. Besides, this time gives you the chance to recover balance, or at least not to rush into a bad decision.
Working in identifying and labelling emotions pays off. The more accurate, the better to understand what is happening. Why am I felling that?
Coping with emotions requires a good identification of the root causes to see if there’s anything you can do to solve the situation.
If you can solve it, do it as a way to move forward. If there’s nothing you can do, there are some strategies you can put in place to help you cope with your emotions.
Looking for balance
As I pointed out, emotional hijack impacts on decisions’ quality. A “stop and watch” strategy should be the starting point to look for emotional balance.
First thing after decoding the emotion is detaching from it. In the heat of the moment, it is extremely difficult to experience the emotions as separate from us. We can’t choose what to feel, but we can take a step back and take a moment to calm us down.
There is something you can do to detach from your emotions: change your focus, dispel your attention. For example, concentrating in your breathing, paying attention and intentionally pacing it. There’s a connection between this paced breathing and some areas in the brain that activate autonomic nervous system linked to body awareness. This helps you to concentrate in your body dispelling attention from your state of mind.
Once detached, you can go a step further. Instead of judging what you are feeling, you can be more impartial and consider your emotions within the context. Having the big picture in mind gives us the opportunity to be more creative finding solutions. All in all, we see more options, and thus we can make better decisions.
Being able to identify and label emotions, understand their meaning and detach from them is not an easy work, and yet it’s a key skill for a leader. Not only because we improve the quality of our decisions; also, because understanding ourselves better will lead into a better understanding of others: our empathy will increase.
In summary, as Delphic Oracle said, know thyself. That’s the beginning for developing good emotional management skills.