Emotional resilience at work - Articles

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« 20. Keep your cool with irritating people at work »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. Author of "How to develop emotional resilience and manage your emotions".

Can you keep your cool and not hook into or become irritated by other people or what is happening around you?

Keep your cool in a traffic jam on the way to work tooKeeping calm, cool and collected is an essential emotional intelligence skill if you want to stay emotionally healthy and resilient.

This all relates to the fifth emotional intelligence competency: Emotional self-management. A critical element of emotional intelligence is the ability to keep your levels of irritation, frustration and anger to a healthy, low level. 

If you are always firing up and getting agitated, frustrated or exasperated, you are burning yourself out.

Such emotions add stress to your body, and stress causes inflammation in the body, which in turn can lead to disease. Yes feeding yourself a frequent and regular dose of anger, irritation and frustration is a health hazard.

Why get upset with others or react to their every doing?

Does it actually help you? In most cases, probably not.

Do you get angry, irritated, or frustrated with people or about situations over which you have no control?

If so, this is an area in which developing greater emotional intelligence and EQ skills could help you.

If you can stop your irritation and replace it with calm, then no matter how potentially frustrating, silly or upsetting people are you can keep your cool.

If you don't get irritated by people at work, you'll be happier and less stressed no matter what your working environment.

Here are five emotional intelligence tips to help you keep your cool with irritating people at work.

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Emotional intelligence skills 1: Be realistic

People will not always do what you want them to. Everyone is different. A fundamental aspect of emotional intelligence is to be able to read and understand other people's emotions and emotional drivers of behaviour. It is not to want to make everyone think and act the way that you do.

Do you get irritated by people because you expect them to behave in the way you would like them to behave?

Are you expecting people to follow your rules?

Are you expecting people to be perfect?

If so, you are always going to be irritated because people are not the same as you.

We are all brought up differently. Sometimes we simply have to understand and accept this and instead just do our own work well.

Emotional intelligence skills 2: Ask yourself does it help?

People will always do frustrating or stupid things. Your getting irritated by what they do probably doesn't help, does it? 

  • If you get irritated does it stop their behaviour?
  • Do they change because they feel sorry for you?
  • Does the traffic in front of you go any faster when you have gripped the steering wheel tighter?

Often not. All that happens is that people continue to do what they were doing and you suffer even more.

If your getting irritated by people only makes things worse for you, why get irritated? Irritating people are not worth it. 

If it doesn't help, and all that happens is that you get yourself into a worse emotional state than you were before, then don't do it. This is emotional intelligence in action.

Emotional intelligence skills 3: Predict and have fun

What irritates you? Can you predict what people will do and don't do that will frustrate you? If so, you could have fun with this so that your irritation lessens.

For instance, a client I worked with used to get irritated by what she called "stupid questions". When I asked her if she knew in advance what questions would occur, she said, "Yes, I hear the same ones every day". "Why get irritated when you know in advance what will happen?", I asked.

"When you get up in the morning get out a chart and write down how many times you think you'll get asked a particular stupid question that day. Then during the day count the questions. If you guessed the right number give yourself a reward. You'll find if you predicted 16 but only get 15 you'll be hoping for another stupid question and not getting irritated. You could even end up looking forward to them!"

It worked; she became far more light-hearted around the questions.

People will always ask stupid questions, why get irritated if you know in advance what they will be? The most irritating people are often predictable. Enjoy your predictions and laugh about them, it could change your whole attitude to "stupid questions" and other irritating habits and help you keep your cool.

Applying emotional intelligence at work can be fun.

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Emotional intelligence skills 4: React differently

When you are having to deal with irritating people at work, the way you respond may exacerbate the situation. If you have regularly responded in the same way, and the problem continues, then consider changing the way you respond.

For example, in an emotional intelligence workshop recently a woman said she got irritated at her manager when he accused her of being stubborn. She'd get irritated back and start complaining about what he'd said. This so far had never diminished the irritation.

So I suggested trying a different response. The one I came up with was to say, "Yes, I am stubborn, that's why I'm so good at seeing things through and achieving my goals". She liked that and it helped her keep her cool.

A different response can diminish the escalating cycle of irritation.

The fourth competency on emotional intelligence involves being able to reason with emotions, this is an example of how to do this.

Emotional intelligence skills 5: Talk to people in advance

If, in the past you have found you have become irritated by a particular behaviour, and you know the same behaviour is likely to occur again, consider talking to the person about it, so you can side-step future irritation.

Don't just fester and complain on the inside.

For example, simply saying something along the lines of, "I notice when I put forward an idea at a meeting I am interrupted by you. May we work out a strategy to overcome this as I sometimes miss what you say and think you miss what I say. I am sure we are both adding good ideas. What do you think?"

Voice your concerns kindly and considerately. Watch out that you're not patronising, sarcastic or mean when you do this and avoid implying they're stupid. 

Once you have talked it through, you may be less likely to get irritated in your next meeting.

Managing your emotions and keeping your cool can involve many different strategies. Emotional intelligence has a complex array of skill-sets embedded in it. Keep finding the best strategies for you.

How high is your emotional intelligence & emotional resilience?

There is so much that you can do to develop your emotional resilience and the E.I. Institute has a number of options to help you:

Worried that you don't have enough emotional resilience and that you need to develop your emotional intelligence more? Our unique, practical, 5-star emotional intelligence coaching package is available for you and includes the opportunity to have your emotional intelligence assessed. Boost your resilience now. Find out more here.