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Emotions are contagious!
Which is why it is so important to understand how we process them especially when we are leading others. Our emotional brain seeks cues from the people around us. So, once we begin to know our emotions and patterns of behaviour, the next stage in practicing emotional intelligence is learning how to manage ourselves.
Consequential thinking is a great tactic to begin processing emotions in a constructive way.
Applying consequential thinking takes three easy steps:
- Pause: Give your body time to register the emotion.
- Evaluate: Compare this scenario to your intrinsic goals.
- Respond: Act with intention rather than reacting.
Consequential thinking can vastly help in reducing internal and interpersonal conflicts as it steers us away from behavioural patterns that breed stress, tension and uncertainty. Does this sound familiar in your workplace?
A leader who calmly overcomes disagreements and challenges will be better for their team than a manager who is challenged by their emotions.
It can help in the following ways:
- Less tension and conflict standing in the way of performance.
- Constant team building and trust.
- A safe environment that allows new ideas to flourish.
Dealing with fear and anger
Stress-causing emotions such as fear and anger can have consequences for our health, taking years off our life expectancy and diminishing its quality. However, fear and anger are inevitable parts of our professional lives, so they should not be suppressed or viewed as weak either. This will only lead to the escalation of these feelings. These emotions arise when our emotional brain perceives a threat, so let’s try to decode them.
“Fear is a question: What are you afraid of, and why? Just as the seed of health is in illness, because illness contains information, your fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if you explore them.”– Marilyn Ferguson, Author
As Marilyn says in the quote above, feelings of fear are inevitable just like sickness. The same way our immune system learns how to deal with an illness, we can learn about our fears and the best way to approach them. Firstly, when experiencing fear, we need to know ourselves well enough to discern whether the ‘threat’ is coming from our internal or external environment….
Internal environment examples
- Past negative experiences.
- Personal insecurities.
- Unrelated influences (family, lifestyle, etc.) causing a negative mindset.
External environment examples
- Potential problems that need to be pre-emptively dealt with.
- Choices that do not align with our goals.
- Challenges we are not prepared for.
Think about it for you – when was the last time you experienced fear? Where was the fear coming from?
Regardless of the source, fear is leading us to identify what stands in the way of achieving our goals. It is a very useful tool and we have no choice but to use it!
Just as fear is giving us hints about what stands in our way, anger tells us that we want to act on an obstacle. We might be less likely to act on fear, as a common expression of fear is backing away from a problem. However, anger can cause us to react too quickly and make things worse.
Moderation is key to stopping anger from escalating into a crisis – yes, that’s right, stop, take a breath, go for a walk, drink a glass of water or anything that allows you to pause and take a break. This is the time to consider the consequences of the actions you are considering – but don’t get me wrong, you won’t want to do this!!
A helpful exercise – Body, mind, heart scan
A body, mind, heart (BMH) scan is a useful meditative exercise for identifying, analysing and proceeding with emotions productively. Paying attention to these three areas will improve our emotional intelligence and capacity to deal with fear and anger.
Body: what physical sensations are you feeling, and where?
Mind: what are your thought patterns? Where is your attention focused?
Heart: what are some of the feelings you are having?
The effects of our emotions on others cannot be overstated. All people, especially leaders, need to be aware of the consequences of their feelings and expressions on the people around them.
Difficult emotions like fear and anger are, in fact, telling us really important information about the situation. It is not the emotion that should be avoided, rather the crises that they are warning us about. Being able to observe our own emotions rather than succumb fully to them is what you want to practice.
Emotions, health and performance are all interconnected: positive emotions improve performance and health, negative emotions can hinder performance and health. These relationships continue to reinforce each other without intervention so let’s think about what emotional state we want to aim for and how we can cultivate in our personal and professional lives!