Satya joined my team as an intern. She was a fresh graduate and just learning the corporate innuendos though she appeared earnest in her work.
“Hi, I need this information urgently”. My boss had called.
I was held up at another meeting and in turn, asked Satya to provide this information to my boss. It was a simple work. She just needs to take the file, look for the reference and provide the information. She gave the wrong information. I got reprimanded by my boss. As I reached my cabin, I saw Satya waiting for me to confess her crime. The anger that was pushed on to me by my boss resurged. Somewhere deep from my mind I heard one meek voice calling me to calm down. I listened. I felt the anger receding. I smiled at her and said “I want you to focus and learn. Don’t repeat the mistake, because life may not give another window of opportunity”
Life gives us only one opportunity. A small window of opportunity before we pounce on people with our anger. In that small window of opportunity, we get a flash of a thought to control our anger. If we listen, we smile. Else, we regret.
Whenever this memory pops up in my mind to generate a smile on my face, all such situations where I have failed to listen resurfaces to make me introspect myself further.
I may perhaps have avoided that argument with my wife. The inner voice cries out in that small window of opportunity but my ego supersedes that voice. I end up fighting with her.
“Don’t you get angry at all?”. Exuberating so much happiness, she had asked me this question right after our marriage.
“Why do you get upset about everything?” Sadness Proliferated her face when she asked this question just a year back. She feels destitute when I hit the anger button with so much passion and in frequency.
“I am appalled at your inefficiency”. I shouted at my subordinate. She controlled her tears but not her shock at my changed behavior.
“I need this room cleared now. I have a meeting”. My colleague was surprised at my irascible voice.
“But we are in the middle of a meeting and you have not booked the room” He responded.
“Even you have not booked the room. Don’t waste my time. I have a meeting with CEO in one hour. I need you to finish your meeting in 30 minutes” I paraded like a raging bull.
I could have been more discerning before destroying the happiness of people around.
As I grew in stature and knowledge, my ego bulged and blocked that window of opportunity which had the probability of stopping me from reacting instead of responding.
The old adage that Opportunity Knocks once is so true, when it comes to Emotional outbursts.
In the Indian Epic, The Mahabharata, Lord Krishna talks about this window of opportunity.
This window of opportunity was given to Duryodan, the Kaurava prince who is the main villain of the Epic. Krishna asked him as to why he is going the immoral route. He says “I know what is correct and what is incorrect. But I cannot control the urge to traverse the path which you term as immoral”.
Arjuna, the Warrior Prince of the Pandava Clan questions Krishna “I know what is correct and what is incorrect. But there is something that pushes me to the choose the incorrect one. How can I overcome that?”
The first step in the Emotional Intelligence is this Awareness. When we know that there is a desire directing us to choose the wrong path, we are aware of the choice we are about to make.
Krishna gives us the solution. He says between the unconscious and conscious resides the sub-conscious. The Unconscious mind acts without thinking. The conscious mind ponders over the action. But when the emotions take over, the conscious mind loses control and unconscious take over. However, just as the conscious slips away and paves the way to unconscious there is a window of opportunity where sub-conscious shows up like a flash of amber in the traffic light just before the green turns into red. That is the signal we need to pick up that can stop our action and escape the destruction, despair, and destituteness that may follow when we enter the red signal.
Now the question is, how can we train our mind to pick up that signal?
Before I try to touch upon we techniques which can help us to spot this window of opportunity, I would like to delve upon few factors which precipitate the emotional reactions.
1) Prejudice :
“I hate this person. He never respects other people’s priorities”
“He is more interested in his personal gains than the organizational values”
These are some of the statements we make about our colleagues. This may not be completely true. These are personal judgments made from our side considering the way the other person has acted in some past circumstances. However, an opinion is already formed in our mind about these individuals.
The negative image of a person or a situation plays spoilsport in handling a situation. When we carry a distaste for a person, our mind blocks us from perceiving any positive emotion towards that person and it turns every positive scenario into a negative scenario. This is so disparaging in any environment, be it work or personal, as this aggravates the conflicts instead of easing it out. We need to approach every situation sans our prejudices in order to get a positive outcome. When we shift our focus to the issue in hand rather than the person involved, we could distract our mind from the prejudices and make a more positive impact.
2) Passing the Emotions :
“I just lost my mind on a guy who cut me in the signal and now this. I cannot accept this”
“Stop nagging me. I am already stressed out from my work”
If these statements ring a bell of similarity to you, don’t worry. You are not alone. We tend to carry the negative emotion from one situation to another. We get reprimanded by our boss and we pass it on to our family members because they are vulnerable and we expect them to tote our burden by passing the emotion to them.
We need to train our mind not to pass the emotion from one situation to another.
First and foremost in managing emotions intelligently starts with Self-Awareness
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
This is so true when it comes to Emotional Intelligence. Every emotional outburst should be followed by unfeigned introspection. More we introspect our actions, feelings, and motives, we get more self-awareness.
When I explore my mind and dig deep for reasons for my emotions, I got some of the following reasons that makes me angry or upset
a) I feel helpless
b) I don’t have enough information
c) I find someone in my team exhibiting the same weakness that I possess thus making that weakness a bigger reason for our team to fail.
d) When I am not fully prepared
e) I have over-committed
In all the situations the reason lies with me and I need to prepare better than blaming the people around me.
Some of the above reasons may resonate with you. But I would recommend you to carry out an analysis of each and every situation which exposed your weaker emotional controls. This would provide a specific insight into your personality and the situations which make you appear emotionally weak.
Ralph Emerson said “When I discover who I am, I will be free”
When we increase our self-awareness we will be free from the emotional outbursts.
When we increase the self-awareness, we increase our ability to notice that traffic policeman flashing amber and red before we get into an embroil.
Yoga and Meditation helps a great deal in increasing the self-awareness and control over our emotions. Practised over a long time, they will enable our senses to recognize the flashing signal and help us to hold our emotions from a tirade.
Maintaining a journal of emotional turmoils on a daily basis also provides a paves way for increased self-awareness and thus helps us for a smooth sail through emotional turmoils.
Krishna tells Arjuna that the sub-conscious mind can be trained to make the alert more visible or forcible. The first step towards that being our Self-awareness and a conscious effort to nudge towards better side. When we train our conscious mind to the altered trait, our sub-conscious mind follow suit.
About a month back, I was taking a stroll with my 11-year-old son. He curiously asked me “How could you remain patient in every situation?” and he paused to give me a meaningful look and concluded, “…well almost every situation”.
I just smiled. I know that I have a long way to go. I need to make that patience pervade my life.
An Opportunity knocks once is true. It is upon us to use that window of opportunity when our mind alerts us about the possible redlight that we are about to cross.
We can either succumb to negative emotions and be a meek witness to its ravaging effect in our lives or
respond positively to life situations, spread happiness and enable lives to blossom beautifully.
What is your choice?
Where are you placed on this journey?
What specific steps do you take to increase your emotional intelligence?