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« 29. Emotional Resilience: setting the record straight  »

A summary of a keynote speech on the "Three pillars of Emotional Resilience" given by Rachel Green at the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) Conference, November 2014.

Written by Chris Walker.

I want to lay down a challenge to resilience. It’s this: if we learn how to not get pulled down by stress, if we learn how to be aware and act appropriately pre-stress, then we won’t have to bounce back.

This was part of Rachel Green’s provocative opening to her talk.

She followed by asking for those who drove at or below the speed limits to raise their hands. Few hands were raised, eyes scanned the room and laughter followed. Rachel’s point? That our lack of compliance, our breaking of the law is not the result of faulty reasoning – rather, it’s driven by emotions. Green suggested the following equation: Knowledge + Emotions = Behaviour

She also challenged the typical good vs. bad grouping of emotions.

First, by claiming that emotions themselves are neither good nor bad, and that it’s what we do with them, the behaviours they manifest, that matters.

Second, Green suggested that emotions can be thought of as task-specific: certain emotions fit certain circumstances.

For instance, anxiety may be expected if one is speaking to a jam-packed auditorium; feeling grief is natural when one learns of the death of a close colleague, etc.

Thirdly, although resilience is typically thought of as a response to ‘negative’ emotions, Green contended that certain ‘positive’ emotions in fact lead to resilience – that these emotions are the soil in which resilience grows and as we tend to them, resilience will flourish.

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Working with emotions: ground rules

  1. Accept and acknowledge all emotions. Only once they’re accepted can they be talked about, understood, and harnessed.
  2. Become comfortable with uncomfortable emotions – otherwise they will control you.
  3. Leaders need to have the ability to read and influence the emotions of those they lead and to practice positive emotional contagion.
  4. Rules need to be set about the acceptable behaviours when certain emotions prevail, e.g. when a team-member is feeling overwhelmed, undermined or angry.

The 3 + 1 pillars of emotional resilience

  1. Pillar 1: Be able to keep calm. 
  2. Pillar 2: If emotions overwhelm you, then learn how to calm down quickly. Practise this!
  3. Pillar 3: Generate positive emotions: create joy daily.
  4. An extra pillar: Even when emotions are in the driver’s seat, function effectively – continue to focus on and perform the task at hand. 

Developing pillar 3: practical techniques

  • For dealing with a high-pressured situation, difficult person or similar nerve-wracking tasks: Rachel suggested taking a mental snapshot of oneself at a time of great joy, then rehearsing it before undertaking the task.
  • Practice loving-kindness meditation, which has been linked to positive emotions, life satisfaction and decreased depression.
  • Practice gratitude: or in Rachel’s words – stop taking negative people to bed with you! 

But how?!? Green suggested keeping a gratitude journal, a regular record of people and events for which we are grateful, and claimed that doing so had been linked to increased happiness and energy, and even better - sleep. (R. A. Emmons, Thanks: How the new science of gratitude can make you happier (2007).

Green also described the ‘positivity ratio’, developed by Dr Barbara Fredrickson, of the University of North
Carolina, who had linked it to individuals and teams flourishing. The ratio refers to the amount of positive compared to negative emotions that are experienced each day. Citing Fredrickson, Green claimed that a ratio of 3:1 was the ‘tipping point’ beyond which individuals become more resilient to adversity and above which teams move from medium to high performance (see http://www.positivity.com).

More than one attendee said they gained great insights into emotions from Rachel’s Green’s presentation – not to mention having had a joy-filled, ratio-boosting session.

Written by Chris Walker, wordfox

A simple fox, he sticks to the 3 Rs: the right words, acting on the right people, in the right ways! His services include web content, tender submissions, company profiles, workshops, writing coaching – and more. Get your words working for you – talk to the Wordfox. Ph: 0412 701 149, www.wordfox.com.au

Please note Chris was commissioned by the IMC to write a review of each paper at the conference, not by The EI Institute, but we liked what he said!

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