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« 9. Emotional self-management: Calm down quickly »

Written by Rachel Green, Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute, accredited user of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and internationally recognised Emotional Intelligence Coach.

Emotional self-management and emotional resilience draw on many different emotional intelligence and EQ skills.

I have broken these down into three main areas or pillars so you can build your emotional intelligence and emotional resilience, step-by-step, in manageable chunks. If you are designing an EQ program for yourself or your team at work, these are vital areas to add.

This is the third article in a four-part series on these three areas. 

  1. The first article explains the relationship between all three pillars and their importance in building emotional resilience.
  2. The second article covers the first pillar: how to keep your cool when things go wrong or people get nasty.
  3. This third article covers the second pillar - how to calm yourself down if you have become irritated, anxious or angry. It includes essential anger management ideas, for example.
  4. The fourth article covers the third pillar, developing positive emotions on a daily basis to neutralise the "negative emotions".

They are all important aspects when developing emotional intelligence and EQ.

What is your EQ when it comes to calming yourself down?

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What is your EQ? Managing your emotions: self-calm

There will be times when you will get upset, sad, or frustrated. It is only natural. Emotional intelligence is not about dumbing down, escaping from or suppressing your emotions. Emotional intelligence and EQ are about feeling your emotions, knowing they are there and why, expressing them and moving through them in a healthy way. 

Indeed it is important that you do feel a full range of emotions at appropriate times.

If someone close to you dies I'd expect you to feel sadness, loss and grief. You may miss this person and feel there is an emptiness in your life, you may be angry because they have left you, you may feel bleak and lonely without them. These are all normal reactions.

Similarly, if you witness a highly stressful and traumatic event, you may feel shock, anxiety or fear. Of course, people do get emotionally affected when there are horrendous events in their lives.

What matters is how quickly you can work through the emotion and come back to balance and wellness.

The speed with which you move through your emotions will depend on the severity of your initial reaction and the nature of the event, as well as on your level of emotional intelligence.

Of course, you wouldn't be expected to stop grieving a day after your mother died, for instance. You would need time to work through the grief, and may find after three months that you start to feel more at ease with her passing. Then after 12 months, once each of the significant anniversary dates has been experienced, you find you are settled again and re-living the good times you had together.

This also apples to everyday events and emotions.  For example, it may be that you have got angry when your team failed to meet a deadline at work, or furious when you were ignored at a meeting, or hurt and insulted when someone said you were slack, fat or incompetent.

Can you move through these emotions and let them go quickly? It is an important skill set in emotional intelligence and EQ.

I call this second pillar: "Learning to use self-calming techniques".

What is your EQ? Four examples of self-calming your emotions 

Here are examples of what I mean by self-calming your emotions at work.

  1. If you are angry in a meeting because someone has stolen your idea, you may correct the injustice and speak out, and then quickly calm yourself down and let the anger go. You do not hold on to the anger and let it build and build until you have a volcanic outburst some three months later against this person or others at work. What is your EQ in this situation? Do you stay angry or calm down quickly?
  2. You catch stress as it arrives and take early action to lessen it. When you realise you are stressed because a stakeholder has disagreed with your proposal, you use some de-stressing visualisation techniques and feel relaxed again. You don't let stress build until you have to take stress leave. What is your EQ in this situation? How much stress builds before you notice it and take action?
  3. When you feel irritated, you notice it happen and you do something to relieve it quickly. This may mean you are sitting at your computer and your neck muscles tighten when an unfriendly email arrives in your in-box. You take a moment to relax your shoulders and neck and breathe easily, until you feel relaxed again. What is your EQ in this situation? Do you feel tense and irritated without realising it, until you fall into bed exhausted at night, or can you pick it up and release it early?
  4. You start brooding over a team member's attitude towards you, and notice yourself becoming upset and angry about their lack of compliance with your instructions. When you go home, you meditate or do some Tai Chi, calm down and get a good night's sleep, so you can calmly talk about it with him or her in the morning. What is your EQ in this situation? Do you stay angry and upset or calm down quickly?

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What is your EQ? Three more examples of self-calming

  1. A customer is mean and snide in a phone call and gets under your skin. You feel insulted and defensive. In your tea break you make up a story about the customer which makes you and the rest of the team laugh, your feelings weaken and go, and you feel sorry for the customer. What is your EQ in this situation? Do you stay upset and begin to hate that customer or calm down and see the funny side quickly?
  2. Your stomach has churned and anxiety has hit at the thought of an upcoming job interview. You go for a run, arrange for some job interview coaching and prepare your answers to some questions. The anxiety eases and your confidence returns. What is your EQ in this situation? Do you let anxiety overwhelm you and grip you, or can you take action so it eases quickly?
  3. You feel disappointed and let down when an important tender is knocked back. You go home and write down how you feel and why. Later in the week you discuss your feelings with your team and invite people to generate some strategies to improve the tender process. Over the next few days you find the disappointment shifts and you start to see some of the positives in the situation. You do not become dejected. What is your EQ in this situation? Does your disappointment turn into dejection and despondency or can you work through the disappointment and return to feeling optimistic about future tenders?

There are many emotional intelligence techniques you can employ to self-calm successfully and develop emotional resilience.

What is your EQ in terms of self-calming your emotions?

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