Reacting too fast?

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Pause, Perspective, Process

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Have you ever found yourself regretting an answer, reaction, or outburst? Have you ever sent an email you wished you could get back? Do you frequently have challenging interactions with others? More than likely these behaviors resulted from a gut reaction based on emotion, or acting before thinking. Learning to pause, gain a new perspective, and learn about the process can help leaders regulate their emotions, make better decisions, and respond to difficult situations in a positive way.

Reaction Vs. Response

There is a difference between reacting and responding when emotions are triggered. Reactions are often irrational making others unhappy and the situation worse. A response is more carefully thought out and decides the best course of action based on reason. We often feel like we need to respond to emails, requests, and other communication right away, but things are rarely that urgent.

When you feel emotionally triggered its best to say something like, “I’m not sure right now, I will get back to you” and return to the conversation at another time. Pausing the conversation or situation is better than acting in a way you will later regret. Taking a step back allows time to analyze your emotions and think before you react.

It’s human nature to react before we think. For thousands of years this was necessary for human survival. Two parts of the brain are constantly competing: the amygdala (the feeling side/emotional center), and the neocortex (the cognitive center). The amygdala responds 100 times faster than the neocortex, overtaking the cognitive system causing our ability to apply reason and logic to drop by 75% (Harvard).

Self-management or self-regulation is the ability to manage our emotions to avoid disruptive impulses and act the way we intend to, a necessary element of emotional intelligence. Self-management is dependent on a person’s self-awareness; the ability to accurately perceive and understand your own emotions, and the emotions of people around you.

Individuals who are good self-managers take the time to pause, think situations through, and prepare a response or decision carefully. They stay calm under pressure. An individual with inadequate self-management skills may have trouble handling stress and frustration, have frequent outbursts, or act impulsively. Leaders who display these qualities aren’t the best role models for their team members and can decrease morale.

If you recognize signs of low self-awareness or self-management in yourself, don’t panic. Those skills can be improved. Developing more advanced emotional intelligence skills can boost relationships and productivity. TalentSmart tested 34 important workplace skills and found that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.

Pause, perspective, process is a technique that supports self-awareness and self-management of emotions. It can be used for:

Practice Self-Management in 3 Steps:

Ground Yourself

When you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions, practice a “grounding” technique. One option you can use while sitting or standing is to place all of your awareness on the bottom of your feet. You can also do this by wiggling your toes inside your shoe, or visualizing yourself making an outline of each foot, while paying attention to any sensations. Grounding will help you get out of your head and instead focus on your body rather than your emotions.

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