Emotional Intelligence for Today’s Leaders Part II: Self-Management

Once you have developed better self-awareness, there is a second skill in developing personal competence:  self-management.

Self-management is the ability to express the appropriate emotions at the appropriate time. Self-management is about slowing yourself down so that you can check any inappropriate behaviors and formulate the most appropriate response to the challenging situation.

Self-management strategies fall into two categories: actions to take in the moment so that you do not act on your emotions inappropriately and long-term actions that help you to improve your response to emotionally charged situations.

Let’s continue with our example of the email from a collaborator with whom you have been working closely. This individual makes a lot of demands about how a performance is supposed to run and her latest email lays out yet another requirement just when you thought that everything had been agreed upon.

If your first thought in receiving this email is to send back a nasty email or pick up the phone to yell at your collaborator, here are some alternatives that can help to slow you down and manage your emotions more effectively. 

EQ Skill #2: Emotional Self-Management:  Actions in the Moment

1. Take a deep breath

One of the quickest way to reset your emotions is to pause and take 3 deep breaths. Often, this strategy can clear your mind and get you back on track.

2. Take a break before you react

If you are tempted to send an explosive email, write a draft and save it. If possible, sleep on it and then revise the email. If you do not have 24 hours, take a short break. Leave your workspace or office, take a walk, get a cup of tea or do something else that takes you out of your explosive environment.

3. Focus on what is working, rather than what is broken

When faced with emotionally challenging situations, we are often tempted to focus on what is not working. Change your perspective to focus on the positive aspects of your situation. Look for what is working. Take a moment to reframe your emotional challenge in terms of the opportunities for growth and learning. In addition, focus on what you CAN do instead of what you CAN’T do.

Changing your perspective can help to calm you down and frame the appropriate response.

4. Visualize yourself at success

Visualization is another powerful way to change your thinking and get you in a positive mindset. Visualize yourself being at your best and then imagine how you would handle the situation if you were in fact your best self. Zero in on one characteristic that will power you through this emotionally charged situation and then act accordingly.

5. Change your negative self-talk

Emotionally charged situations can sometimes cause you to doubt yourself and your ability to manage the situation and give rise to negative self-talk. If you have practiced becoming aware of your strong emotions and any corresponding negative thoughts as part of your self-awareness , you will become aware of those thoughts. Make a choice to replace the negative thought with a more empowering thought.

Finally, take responsibility for your part of the situation, instead of blaming others. This too will help to reduce negative self-talk about yourself and others.

6. Talk to someone objective

Instead of reacting right away, make it a point to talk to someone who is not emotionally invested in the situation. This can help you to gain perspective, as well as brainstorm possible solutions.

EQ Skill #2: Emotional Self-Management:  Long-term Strategies

To build up your self-management mojo, invest in some long-term strategies that will help you manage your emotions more effectively:

7. Make time every day for problem solving

A great way to clear your mind and practice self-management is to spend 15 minutes day thinking about your decisions and how satisfied you are with the results. Observe situations that you handled well and figure out your process so that you can rely on it the next time a challenge arises. Learn from the situations where you did not feel on top of your game and think about what you would do the next time.

8. Check in with a skilled self-manager

You can also seek out someone who is skilled at managing his or her emotions and see what you can learn from this person. Ask this person for feedback on how well you manage your emotions. Solicit his or her advice on how you can do better.

9. Practice visualizing

Another way to use visualization is to think through the challenge and focus on what in particular seems difficult whether it is the personalities, the lack of resources, the skill level and/or the behaviors. Then, work your way through the difficulties and think about how you would like the situation to run. How do you feel? What are you doing?

You can practice running the difficult scenario in your mind and then use your ideas to turn your situation around the next time it comes up (which in fact is a way to change the situation!)

10. Recharge your body

A long-term strategy that can help you manage strong emotions is to relieve stress by engaging in exercise or other recharging activities like yoga, meditation or a massage. By making it a practice to take time out for physical and mental renewal, you will feel a lot better about emotionally charged situations.

Next time, we will take a look at how to increase the other two elements of EQ: social awareness and relationship management. For now, pick a few of these strategies and start to build your EQ!