Have you ever had the experience of saying or doing something in the heat of the moment that you regretted later? If so, then you have experienced the “emotional hijack.” What happened in an instant is that your rational mind was hijacked by your strong emotions!
The first step towards managing emotions is to understand how the brain works. The brain routes positive sensory stimulus to the thalamus, to the amygdala, on to the hippocampus, and finally to the prefrontal cortex. The hijack occurs when the brain receives and routes negative stimulus. The brain routes negative stimulus to the thalamus and then to the amygdala where it stops, and you find yourself in fight or flight reactive mode. Understanding this process gives us tools for learning how to interrupt, reflect, and decide how we want to respond, and the capacity to use our higher level brain functions. Self-awareness is key. We gain important information by acknowledging and understanding our feelings and where feelings come from.
So, what do we do when people or situations “push our buttons”? This brings us to the second component of Emotional Intelligence – self management. These competencies are about managing our internal states, impulses and resources, are no longer “nice to have” but are skills that leaders “need to have”. In fact, we all need these skills to succeed in life and in our relationship with others.
We have all seen how a lack of impulse control can have negative consequences for any person. In the corporate world a four second outburst can tarnish a leader’s career for a long time.
What’s the good news?
The good news is that Emotional Intelligence is about behavior and behavior can be changed. The tools of professional coaching help create positive new neural pathways, which leads to lasting change.
“Anyone can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-that is not easy.” -Aristotle
Managing Strong Emotions
As Aristotle saw, the problem is not with emotionality, but with how we chose to express or communicate the emotion. Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence, asks us to consider this question: “How can we bring intelligence to our emotions-and civility to our streets and caring to our communal life?”