Have you ever been in what appeared to be a loving conversation that went to one that felt like hate – all within seconds? Most of us can relate to the powerful emotional swings that can happen in an intimate relationship. People who struggle in relationships often are unaware of how these types of moments sneak up on them or what they can do to prevent them.
In the above example, at some level one or both people perceived some type of threat. Whenever this happens there is a powerful survival mechanism called the fight-or-flight response that fires off. Designed to protect human beings from danger, it's automatic and often brings powerful emotions that can be perceived as being negative – which can immediately disrupt the flow of a loving relationship.
One challenge with the fight-or-flight response, as taught by Daniel Goleman in his landmark book called Emotional Intelligence, is how this response can short-circuit a person's cognitive decision making. This results in emotional decision making that can lead to overreaction and poor decisions.
This is demonstrated by disruptive behaviours such as saying things you don't mean, making kneejerk decisions that you regret later, and damaging an important relationship due to your inability to control your emotions.
At its core, emotional intelligence teaches the health benefits of paying attention to others' feelings, monitoring how your behaviour affects others' emotions, and developing the ability to manage your emotions under pressure. Mr. Goleman's work postulated that for life success, happiness and health, emotional intelligence is perhaps more important than yoiur IQ. Watch Mr. Goleman's introduction to EQ.
In the Your Life at Work survey by The Globe and Howatt HR, we have been exploring the effect that coping skills have on employees' overall health, engagement and productivity.
This article introduces the role of EQ and its value in developing coping skills. Many skills collectively define coping skills. One way to understand the importance of EQ is to liken it to a golf putter. One of the most important and hardest golf skills to master is putting, and it is needed to score well. To score well in life you need to be able to manage your EQ effectively.
The first step to maturing your EQ is developing self-awareness. We have added an EQ Quick Survey to the Your Life at Work survey that provides a report in addition to your Quality of Work Life results. The goal is to establish a benchmark as to where you are today to help you become engaged in the benefits of developing your EQ.
EQ is a trainable skill that requires self-discipline and practice. You can read helpful books like Emotional Intelligence 2.0 or take courses on EQ. Following are three quick coaching tips for developing your EQ:
1. Start a daily EQ log
Track the number of hours each day you have positive feelings for yourself and others, as well as negative feelings. To learn to better manage your emotions it's valuable to know how many hours a day, on average, you are feeling positive or negative, and the kinds of situations that trigger those emotions. The objective is to become aware of your emotions objectively with respect to how much weight you put on positive and negative emotions.
2. Evaluating your intentions
When you interact with people who you feel regularly you are struggling with, test your intentions. Ask yourself, "What are my intentions and why am I being negative?" Some people, when frustrated with another person, allow their emotions to blind them and they get caught in an automatic cycle of negativity. Breaking this cycle starts with awareness, owning your behaviour and being honest with yourself and your intentions. Ultimately, negative thinking can lead to negative feelings that can influence your mental health. The objective is to challenge your intentions and values with respect to the kind of person you want to be and how you want to treat others regardless of differences.
3. Practice breaking your negative thinking
When you feel negative about a person or situation, stop and ask yourself, "Why am I feeling this way?" Write out your response. If you don't know, write that down and keep trying to figure it out. At the core is often some unrealistic expectation that when it's not met you can become hard on yourself or others. A key to managing emotions is to learn how to be realistic with yourself. When in doubt, ask a trusted adviser. Acknowledging what you have that is good in life and giving yourself a break can help you learn to be kinder to yourself and others. This does not suggest that you should not set goals and expectations; the point is to not have them rule your emotions.
Bill Howatt (@billhowatt) is chief research and development officer, work force productivity, at Morneau Shepell.