16 Feb How Navigators Manage Their Emotions
“You Deserve To Live An Extraordinary Life!”
Emotions are messy and uncomfortable! It’s so nice to go through a day feeling calm, confident and immune to the array of discomforts, difficult people, annoying and unsolicited comments from others, and our own unrealized expectations. Unfortunately, this is rare. Instead, most of us go through the day having to contend with unpleasant circumstances and the emotions these encounters trigger, especially frustration, hurt, anger and fear.
Remember my client Karen? She worked so hard to win the affection and care of those around her by anticipating and attending to their needs, hoping for appreciation and respect in return. She usually ended up feeling disappointed, hurt and resentful. She then reacted with anger and tantrums, leaving others with the perception she was selfish, demanding and harsh. As a result, she unwittingly triggered the behavior from others that made her feel more hurt and abandoned, creating a vicious cycle. She was lacking both Self-Awareness and Self-Control, two of the basic skills of the emotionally intelligent Navigator.
She also found it difficult to appreciate how others perceived the situation. She could not put herself in their shoes, and therefore also lacked Social Perspective-Taking, another skill of the emotionally intelligent person. Without this empathetic, perspective-taking ability, Karen was left with her own narrow, highly personalized and emotionally charged reactivity. She kept experiencing upsets and unfulfilled expectations as events that were purposely provoked by those from whom she deeply desired caring and nurturing attention.
The emotionally intelligent Navigator, on the other hand, is able to stand in two worlds: the inner world of his or her desires, wishes, expectations and self-perspective, and the outer world of social perspective and empathy, achieved by taking the time to explore and understand how someone else might see a situation. This ability to move back and forth between one’s own take on a situation and another’s perspective derived from a different set of wishes, perceptions and expectations, allows for a more flexible give-and-take between the parties concerned. Instead of only reacting to an upset or difference of opinion from a highly personalized, self-centered and emotionally charged position, the Navigator listens, questions and probes to understand how the other person perceives the situation. He brings empathy and powerful listening skills to any encounter.
For example, let’s imagine Karen’s situation where her spouse is sitting at his computer and not paying attention to her needs. Karen is feeling lonely and somewhat neglected. She has spent most of her day attending to the needs of others and is now feeling the need for some attention in return. She mopes around the kitchen, banging the pots and pans out of frustration and disappointment. Yelling at her three children for their messy behavior, she is working herself up to tantrum level.
Having gone for coaching on emotional intelligence, Karen remembers something she and her coach were working on. She leaves the kitchen and seeks safety in her bedroom where she takes several deep, slow breaths. She then checks in with herself and assesses how upset is she on a scale of 1-10. She quickly realizes she is at a level 8 upset, a level that puts her in the Red or Danger Zone, risking the loss of emotional control and attack behavior.
She takes several minutes to see where she is holding her tension and realizes she is hyperventilating, clenching her fists and tightening her stomach muscles. She is now in Fight Mode and needs to decompress and bring her upset back down to a 3-4 level, a level where she can have a clearer perspective and figure out how she can get the positive attention she craves.
Karen is practicing Self-Awareness and Self-Control. She has learned several relaxation techniques and is consciously putting them to good use. As her anger abates, she feels her body relax and starts to practice Social Perspective-Taking. She asks herself if there is any other way she can interpret her husband’s behavior other than that he should know how she feels and is intentionally punishing her for some reason. Karen reminds herself of the pressure he has been feeling at work, the layoffs of several other managers, and the financial burden he is carrying, especially the upcoming college expenses of the two older kids next semester. She thinks about how he has always taken care of the family and how much he worries about having enough savings, and that a big loan might be necessary to carry them through the next few years. As she works to appreciate where his attention might be focused, her heart softens… the Wolf of Anger recedes while her Wolf of Love emerges. Now she is in a more balanced emotional state in which she can practice some caring behaviors herself, followed by some clear requests for appreciation and personal attention.
It takes work to deal with others while managing our own emotions and determining how we will behave. The worst strategy is to allow negative emotions to rule the decision-making process, as they can be messy, unreliable and explosive. You may want to practice some of the strategies of the Emotionally Intelligent Navigator. Hopefully, I have given you some ideas in this and the last two posts.
If you would like to learn more about Emotional Intelligence and How To Live An Extraordinary Life, you can order my book “Navigating For Success”!