This is the third part of a series of blogs on understanding emotional intelligence. You can read the first two here.
We all know what we should do, but sometimes it proves hard to do it. We all want to preserve our professional credibility and we know that we will do damage to it if we mouth off at someone who presses our buttons. So we learn to control what we feel while we are in front of them. What happens next though is what brings us down. We head back to the tea room and let fly about that person and what they said and did to all who are there. We then go back to our desk and stop at our colleague’s office on the way and go through it all again. When we get home at night – some 6 hours later – we are still churned up inside and fuming and our partner gets it all for the next hour. We take the other person’s critique of us on board as if it is true. We let it wound us and we don’t seem to be able to stop the bleeding.
Becoming Self-Managing and Developing Self-Mastery is the Second Step
in Becoming the Emotionally Intelligent Professional.
The message here is that there is a difference between “controlling” our emotions and “managing” them. When we act like the above example, we are merely controlling them, a short term solution. It solves nothing. In fact, what it does to our sense of self is quite destructive. Managing our emotions is what emotionally intelligent people do. After becoming self-aware, becoming self-managing and developing self-mastery is the second step in becoming the emotionally intelligent professional.
I hope it is very clear at this stage of this discussion that if you want to move your career on and up, if you want to be considered for opportunities and promotions, if you want to advance into leadership, then developing and enhancing your emotional intelligence is essential. If you can’t manage yourself, you cannot expect to be given the opportunity to manage others. You also cannot expect to be respected by your colleagues.
So What Does It Mean To “Manage” Your Emotions?
- You choose your response to the way you manage your positive and negative emotions. You take responsibility for owning them. We have all at some stage been in the situation where we have said: “She made me so angry”. She didn’t however make you anything. Instead she made a comment or did something that triggered an emotional response in you and you got angry. You could have chosen to respond in a different way, in an emotionally intelligent way. In other words, you can’t control much of what happens to you, but you can control how you respond and manage it.
- You don’t react to other’s reaction. That is their stuff. You don’t need to take that on to yourself and let it impact you. You are a separate person and when you learn to be emotionally intelligent, you can respond warmly, not coldly, out of that separate self.
One of my heroes is Viktor Frankl, a Viennese psychiatrist and Jew. He was imprisoned in Auschwitz concentration camp in World War 2. In that camp he was subjected to every human indignity possible, treated in the most inhuman way. He became aware that “the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision and not the result of camp influences alone”. The one thing they couldn’t take from him, he said, was the freedom “to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
The same goes for every one of us. We make an inner decision on how we want to respond to any “indignity” that a colleague or the organisation imposes on us. We can choose. Those who have learned to manage their emotions will respond in a mature and intelligent way.
- One important strategy for managing our emotions is to decide on the timing of our response. Can I respond to this in an emotionally intelligent way now, or do I need to wait and decide my response and do it in the morning?