Using Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness
Especially families with school-age children will be familiar with the busyness that now seems to surround the Fall (September/October) and Spring (April/May). As many of us are in the midst of that busy season right now, it seemed timely to offer some tips on surviving the busyness. This is a topic we’ve covered before, so be sure to check out some of our past posts here, here, and here.
In this post, I want to offer an illustration and a tip that are both specifically related to emotional intelligence and mindfulness.
Like many parents, I have gone through the conversations with my children about wanting pets.
“Just to review the expectations we’ve already agreed to: This is your pet. Since it’s your pet, you’ll be the one to feed it and care for it, so those are your responsibilities, not Mom’s. Agreed?”
You can imagine how those conversations have gone now that each of my daughters has a bird and a cat.
Spring 2021 seems busier than most, especially after the strangely quiet Spring 2020. With tennis practice, tennis meets, Spring vocal concerts, ensemble festivals, end of year parties and celebrations, plus the busyness that comes with the end of a semester with papers and tests, etc., it seems every minute has something in it.
Not long ago, in the midst of this busy, one of my daughters asked for help. “I’m overwhelmed,” she said, “there’s just too much going on. Will you please take care of the pets for the rest of the week?”
In that moment there are a couple of choices.
- I can continue the chorus of “your pet = your responsibility”.
- I can point out the fact that since Dad is out of town and I picked up his responsibilities around the house this week, this isn’t a particularly great week to also take on animal care.
- I can let my own tired feelings show on my face, even if they don’t come out in my words.
But I don’t.
I stop, before reacting, and listen for what this child has just said. In the midst of busyness, the human before me has just asked for help.
Wonderful! This is not a reason to be frustrated. This is a reason to rejoice! When an individual in our care becomes aware enough of the situation and of their limitations that they raise their hand and ask for help, the answer is “yes, absolutely!”
If you are a leader, a parent, an influencer, a coach, or a friend, one of the best responses when someone asks for help is a resounding “yes!”
Will it be convenient? Probably not.
Would it be easier to say no? Probably.
Does it have the potential to interrupt your work, your life, or the things you had going on? Yep.
And it’s still the right thing to do.
Imagine if you said no. What does that individual learn? They learn that someone they thought they could turn to for help is not available. They learn to not ask, but to suffer in silence or to try and tackle things bigger than they can handle on their own. They retreat into themselves, they try to do it themselves, and perhaps fail at the task, and their confidence begins to erode. Convinced that they have to carry their own burdens without help, when someone else asks them for help they’re more inclined to say no, perpetuating a cycle of overburdened silent sufferers.
But imagine what happens when you say "yes!" Their shoulders lift almost immediately with the hope of relief. The actual burden you’ve lifted off of them - likely not huge for you - may have been that proverbial straw on their own back, and by holding onto it for them, you’ve prevented it from breaking them. They learn that asking for help is met with actual help. They learn that they can trust you. They learn that our humanity, our imperfections, our inability to do everything is not something to hide or despise, but it’s something to celebrate. They learn to recognize how much we need each other, and that we are better together. And when they come out of this busy season, and they have a little extra time on their own hands, when someone else asks them for help they're so much more likely to say yes.
The topic of mindfulness has come up in many of my classes lately. And in this moment, emotional intelligence and mindfulness weave together.
- I must be mindful of my moment. What’s going on in my head? What does my face show? What does my backstory say? What are my thoughts? What are my feelings about those thoughts?
- I must be mindful of their moment. Setting myself aside for just a second to look at them, I need to ask what is going on in their world. What are they saying? What are they not saying? What are they asking for, and what’s driving that request?
- I need to be mindful of the impact of this moment. What message will I send with my words and my facial expressions? What will they learn from this moment? What will they carry forward to the next? How are my actions or inactions consistent with the long arc message that I’m trying to create as a leader or an influencer?
I need to manage myself in this moment so that I can focus on my relationship with them and help them become the best version of themselves they can be.
That, my friends, is one way we co- create greatness around us, even during the busy seasons.