For the past few weeks, we’ve embarked upon a series all about emotional intelligence. With each new installment, we’ve dived deep into the Mayer & Salovey model in particular, which highlights four skills that are essential to building emotional intelligence. Those skills are:
- Identifying Emotions
- Using Emotions
- Understanding Emotions
- Managing Emotions
Today, we’ll be discussing the final skill in the model, which is managing emotions.
Managing emotions is the ability to effectively and constructively manage your emotions and the emotions of others while also being able to incorporate those emotions you’re your thinking.
Let’s take a look at the below scenario:
Elaine is in a meeting with her division manager and the CEO of her company. She’s presenting a plan that her manager has already signed off on, but at one point in the meeting, her manager (who is a bully in the workplace and enjoys humiliating others) states that he’s still unsure about the plan and is uncertain that it’s ready to be implemented. He expects Elaine to react angrily to this news or to be stunned into silence (therefore painting her in a bad light in front of the CEO). And indeed, Elaine is certainly angry at her manager and infuriated that he would try to humiliate her before the head of the company. However she is also incredibly effective at managing her emotions and so calmly responds. “I understand you may have concerns…” She then lists out the plan’s benefits to the company and then asks her manager to clarify what his remaining objections are. He’s unable to come up with any and agrees to sign off on the plan.
To be clear, being adept at managing emotions isn’t synonymous with ignoring emotions altogether. It doesn’t mean that you put your emotions on hold or that you never act emotionally. Rather, it means integrating your emotions into your decision making and behaviour in such a way that the decisions you do end up making are constructive and enhancing. You may experience strong emotions, but you’re still able to think clearly. You value your emotions without over valuing them, and in that way, your emotions serve as inputs to your decisions and behaviours – but never drivers to them.
If you want to bring about effective outcomes in both yourself and in the people you regularly interact with, managing emotions is an effective skill to have in your toolbox. Here are just a few ways that you can become a better manager of your emotions:
1) Develop a meta view of your emotions. In other words, view your emotions as an observer. Remember, emotions simply dictate how we feel. They do not, however, define us. As such, you don’t have to fuse with the emotion you’re presently feeling. So instead of saying “I am angry” (fusing with the emotion), you can tone down the intensity that you feel by instead observing: “I am noticing that I am getting angry.” Just as well, remember that emotions are time-linked (they pass) and that while important, they are only transient, and so you don’t need to buy into them.
2) Be open to emotions – even when it is uncomfortable. Many people would prefer to avoid emotions altogether, but emotions can be incredibly useful. The next time you feel strong emotions about something, ask yourself what your emotions are telling you. Quite often, emotions can help guide your decisions as you consider the best way to act as a result of what you’re feeling.
3) Develop an active management strategy for your emotions. One common issue I find is that many people dwell too much on their emotions without doing anything about them. It’s important to take physical (or mental) activity directed at the issue at hand, however. Questions to ask: What do I do with this feeling? What do I want to happen? This is where journaling about your emotions becomes highly beneficial. Other strategies include exercise and social support. Things that don’t help? Drinking, eating, oversleeping, and/or procrastinating. They may make you feel better temporarily, but they won’t be helpful in the long-run.
Managing emotions is one of the most important aspects of developing your emotional intelligence. When you master this skill, you’ll not only be a more effective individual in the workplace, but you’ll also flourish in your personal life as you use emotions to guide your decision making and your behaviours all for your benefit.