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How to develop your Emotional Intelligence Part 2: Self-Regulation

In Part 1 of this series, we explored Self Awareness – the first step in developing Emotional Intelligence. If you haven’t seen that article, you can read it here.

The second step in raising your Emotional Intelligence is Self Regulation, defined as: the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses.

Once you’ve become aware of the emotions you’re feeling, and can think about them as they are happening , you’ve opened the door to making choices, not just having reactions.

There’s a big difference between doing what feels good in the moment and doing what will let you feel good about yourself once that moment has passed. It may feel satisfying to snap at someone who’s annoying you, but it’s not going to augment your relationship with that person once the heat of the moment has passed. It doesn’t help you feel good about yourself either.

Even less obvious negative reactions can cause you problems further down the road. Consider the manager who uses sarcasm as a way of having little digs at their staff whilst disguising it as humour. While it may seem that there’s no lasting impact, the truth is, feelings get hurt, respect gets lost and resentment builds up, resulting in poorer team performance.

Emotions are inevitable, but reactions can be a choice. I’m not suggesting the manager in the example above should be able to avoid having feelings of irritation at times, I’m suggesting that the manager should learn to choose another way of dealing with that emotion.

So how can you develop your Self Regulation? In essence, it’s about:

  • Intentionally decreasing or increasing the intensity of an emotion, and,

  • Deciding whether or not to act on an impulse or desire

Here’s a step by step:

1. When you notice an emotion rising up in you, pause and take a ‘reset breath’.

2. Notice where you are focusing your attention – are you reacting to someone’s words or actions? Are you thinking thoughts that are making you more and more agitated? Are you judging and blaming?

3. Decide and control how much of your attention you will focus on different aspects of the situation, including your own thoughts, feelings and impulses.

4. Evaluate the likely end results of what you feel like doing next. For example, if your knee-jerk reaction is to unleash a angry outburst, what will the real consequences be? If your reflex reaction is to go silent and withdraw, will that actually help to get the problem solved? Asking ‘Will this strategy take me closer or farther away from what I really want long term?”

5. Decide whether or not to act upon your immediate impulse or desire. If you decide that it will only make matters worse, you are ready to choose another option.

How to choose another option that will really work for you is what we’ll explore next time in Part 3 - Motivation

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