In the Moment and Strategic
It’s time for another Emotional Intelligence check in! If you’re new to our newsletters, or missed a few weeks, get caught up on why fully engaging and growing your EI is a good move both personally and professionally, and learn more about the first component in the four step process: Self-Awareness.
The second piece of Emotional Intelligence is Self-Management—a natural sequitur to Self-Awareness. Once you know yourself, you can manage yourself and your time to make the most out of your workdays, and take control of your emotions so they don’t take control of you!
Self-Management in the Moment
Self-management looks and sounds and feels different for everyone, but the goal is always the same: keep your cool and don’t kick the dog. Whether it’s a specific situation stressing you out or you woke up on the wrong side of the bed or your eldest child spilled her blueberry smoothie all over the backseat on the way to school, managing your emotions in the moment can be critical to maintaining both your sanity and your relationships with those around you. Not every trick works for everyone, so give any of the following a try, and if it doesn’t work, don’t sweat it and move on to the next one.
For any of the following, imagine you’re in an emotionally escalated situation. Maybe others in the room are picking up on it, maybe they’re oblivious. Either way, you need to find a way to get yourself back together, in that you’ve already cycled through your first stage of emotional intelligence (remember that awareness of yourself?) and identified that, hey, we’re having a big feeling or response to whatever’s happening at this time in this place, and we need to get our head back in the game.
1. Get some space or make some space.
Find a way to take a break. If you’re in the middle of a meeting, step out for a restroom or water break. If you’re in a heated interaction, be transparent: “I need a minute before we continue this conversation, can we check in later today?” If you’ve had a Morning, try, “Now’s not a great time, can we discuss this at ___________” or “Let me get in a better place to focus on this and I’ll get in touch with you by ______________.”
Normalize managing your emotions even if it feels uncomfortable. Find a way to communicate that now is not a good time, and, if you can, propose a better time to pick up the conversation. You are human. You have a life outside of work, you have feelings about the work you do – it’s all a sign that you’re invested. You have up days and down days – if it’s a down day, do what you can to make sure it doesn’t become contagious.
2. Catch your breath.
Maybe it’s not an appropriate time or conversation to fully disengage. Maybe the news being delivered to you is a surprise and you need a second to assimilate the new info. Maybe it’s a feedback-centered interaction and you or the other party aren’t a big fan of what you’re hearing. Before you respond in the moment or hit “Send”, take 10 seconds to silence or center your thoughts. We even have a script you can try out!
1…2…3… “How will they see me?” What will be the long-term impact behind whatever’s on the tip of your tongue or the message you have drafted?
4…5…6… “What can I fix?” Are there things to delete or revise in the interest of self-preservation or mitigating a potential negative response?
7…8… “Breathe and wait.” Give it a final proof.
9…10… “Count again?” If it passed the final proof or fast-forward, hit send or share your thoughts. If it might do more harm than good, start back at 1.
3. Gatekeep Your Words
The following test comes from many different sources, including Socrates, and the Rotary, but here's our version. Run your message – and the intent behind it – through the following gates to see if it should make it beyond your brain or out of your drafts:
o Is it true? Do you have all the facts or are you operating on hearsay or assumptions?
o Is it kind? If your sole purpose is to spotlight someone’s screwup, maybe don’t.
o Is it necessary? Sometimes, in the spirit of continuous improvement, we need to give feedback or be the bearer of bad news. Be aware of the circumstances and do your best to avoid rubbing salt in a wound.
o Is it helpful? Will this make a project or a day or a person or a team better?
Taking a few moments to think through the potential impact or necessity of your words or message may feel awkward in a face to face interaction, but trust us – we’ve experienced the cost/benefit analysis, and it’s worth the dividends. Normalize silence, normalize collecting your thoughts, normalize self-management!
Self management doesn’t always have to happen when the going gets tough! Get ahead of your day to plan according to your preferences and make the most out of every minute. This is really where your strategic self-awareness comes into play.
- What are your best big-think times?
- What do you need to be productive?
- Who needs to be around to support you, and who is likely to distract you?
Strategic self-management is really designed to help you be proactive based on when and how you do your best work – and that varies from person to person. So really the first step goes back to, well, the first step–becoming more aware of you and your preferences. Communication, timing, needs-in-the-moment to help you get stuff done–if you know what those are, you can plan ahead of time to make sure they’re met and you’re spending your time on the right things at the right moment with the right tools or strategies.
- Is there an icky task on your plate that you’ve been putting off?
- Would a bag of Skittles make it better?
- Do you do your best big-thinks in the morning or afternoon?
Budget out time to dedicate to a task when it makes sense for you – that’s why we have early birds and night owls. There’s no right or wrong preference, but if you’re an early bird, maybe 4pm on a Thursday afternoon isn’t a good time to start writing that executive summary or updating your strategic plan.
So there you have it – some tips and reminders to help you manage yourself and grow your emotional intelligence! Remember – the four steps of emotional intelligence truly are sequential. Each step has a prerequisite, and it’s important to fully engage them in order to grow and flex your EI meaningfully. Stay tuned and check in with us next month when we share more about step 3 - Other-Awareness!