Critical for emotional intelligence, self-control is the ability to compartmentalize how we react through our emotions in personal and social contexts. Managing our own emotions and nonverbal communication requires a lot of patience, practice, and understanding.
As we mentioned in our last blog, Developing Your Self-Awareness, we can think of strengthening our EI as similar to how we would think of strengthening our muscles at the gym. Each component of our EI workout plan needs its own unique exercises. As the third blog in a series of four, we will focus on part two of our workout: self-control.
“Self-control” can have different meanings for different people, especially within varying contexts. For the purposes of this workout, let’s think about self-control in the workplace.
Self-control is the ability to compartmentalize how we react through our emotions in personal and social contexts.
This can be broken down into three parts:
What do you think of when you read non-verbal communication? Most minds jump right to blank facial expressions or an apathetic coworker with their arms crossed. In reality, non-verbal communication is so much more than that!
Non-verbal communication consists of facial expressions, vocal tone, vocal volume, pace of speech, gestures and posture. All of these subtleties express a particular feeling or emotion, even if it’s not the one you intended to convey.
For example if someone furrows their brows, what does that say to you? For some people it comes across as questioning, uncertainty or even disappointment. However, for those who are furrowing their brows, it might mean inquisitive thinking, processing information or genuine interest.
Tip: In meetings with your coworkers, observe their non-verbals. Which ones make you feel not-so-great? Which ones do you appreciate? Take that observation and apply it to your own non-verbal communication. What changes can you start making tomorrow?
Negative emotions are powerhouses. Sometimes life happens, and our highest high can quickly transition into our lowest low. It’s important to take a moment to honor your negative emotions, but it’s not constructive to dwell on them.
There are lots of great ways we can foster the energy of negative emotions and channel them into constructive conversations, decisions and next steps. For example, let’s imagine you’re working on a project across teams with many factors and people at play. If someone drops the ball, which in turn leads to a delay in making a deadline, it would be easy to fall into your negative emotions. What’s not easy to do is take a step in transforming those negative emotions into constructive conversations. Try asking things like, “What blockers did you face?” or “How can I support you moving forward?”
Tip: Widen your perspective to take the reins on the powerhouse that is negativity. You can do so by creating a list-like response to the following questions: (1) Why am I feeling negative in this particular situation? Are there outside factors? (2) What are the other people in this situation experiencing? Are there outside factors?
Throughout the hustle-and-bustle of our everyday lives, we experience many different emotions. Managing our own emotions is already a hefty weight to carry. However, if you really want to become an emotional intelligence pro you need to constantly consider the needs and feelings of others.
If you can balance both, you will be able to understand, express and manage your emotions like an absolute boss. Whether your coworkers recognize this balancing act or not, it will make a significant impact on engagement, productivity and overall well being. This is why the tip above – coming up with multiple ways of viewing a situation – is so crucial!
Tip: Avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket (emotionally.) Whether you’re leading a meeting, planning a project or are really looking forward to team lunch, consider the situation playing out in a multitude of ways. Don’t limit your expectations to your preferred plan A!
Let’s call this gym session a wrap. We all have areas in which we need to develop. Maybe for you it’s managing negative emotions and maybe for us it’s figuring out what to do with those inquisitive eyebrows. Regardless, rather than reacting quickly, we should all take a second to yield.
We wish you the best of luck on your “self-control” journey!
Interested in reading more? Check out the first two blogs in this series: