You come home after a stressful day, you walk in the door, your partner expecting you keenly as you have those tickets to the concert and you are supposed to leave in twenty minutes. Aaand you forgot.
You didn’t sleep well, you have a back pain, you meet a colleague who asks you a random question that just doesn’t land well.
The time is running, you are leaving just in time to make it to the doctor’s appointment, and your kid gets a tantrum.
I can imagine that in any of those situations, your nerves are stretched to breaking point, you lose it, you overreact. You blow it.
You regret it later.
Can you relate to these situations?
If you are anything like me, you hate when you are not in control. You want to be able to react the way you want to. You detest when you act nervous, or, even worse, nasty.
You want to create a safe home for your family. You want to create a warm atmosphere in your workplace.
You can’t afford to lose control, or better put, you don’t want to.
You realize that you are not achieving anything by being stressed or acting unpleasantly, telling someone off, or raising your voice.
You would love to be able to step back at any given time, relax, and feel good about yourself and others.
If you are no zen guru, you’d need to develop a few habits that will raise your EQ to the new levels. I have studied quite some books, I have attended trainings, I hired several coaches and I think I have it. Here’s how to make your interactions a blast.
#1. Reset Your Identity
I have recently read a post from a fellow personal development group member on FB: “I have worked with so many coaches and they are all about self-awareness. Self-awareness is not my problem though”.
I don’t want to challenge her statement. I want to use it to point out something that is often out of our radars. Something we don’t tend to think about unless we are pointed to it.
Who do you believe you are? What is the negative chatter in your head about when you screw it? What is your self-talk about when you blow it?
Let me give you an example: my self-talk, or in hind sight, my excuse was that “I am impatient”. My identity was: “I am emotional and impatient”.
The moment I realized that I needed to change my identity and my self-talk, my interactions started to change.
I just needed to re-frame my identity to something that was inline with my goal of being kind to myself and to the world. My new identity is: “I am emotional, caring, and loving to myself and those around me.”
One of my clients had a belief that he wasn’t likeable. That made him constantly on the defensive side. He had to reset his identity to “I am worthy of love and attention” and “I am approachable and friendly” to be able to start to act the way he wanted.
Another of my clients had a belief of “I am busy and I don’t have time for others’ BS”. She had to re-frame her identity to “I am a super-productive team player” and her belief to “I am successful when my team is successful” to be able to lead her leadership career forward.
#2. Dream Right
If you are reading this article, you are very likely to be aware of your flaws already. If you are consistently reacting the same (not desired) way, it’s likely that there is a program in your mind that you are running when the trigger kicks in.
The best way to get that program out is to replace it with a new one.
Take time to write about your desired reaction anytime you blow it.
Going with our three examples, when you got home and your partner awaited you with excitement about the concert you forgot about, how would you have wanted to handle the situation?
Maybe you would love to have taken a deep breath, smiled to your partner, reassured him that you would make it on-time, given him a hug, changed super quickly, laughed about your no make-up outfit and moved.
Maybe you would love to have taken a deep breath, looked at your colleague, smiled, and carefully listened.
Maybe you would love to have hugged your baby, waited in full presence until the tantrum is over, called to the doctor that you would be late.
Research shows that when you are more likely to change your behavior if you verbalize it. Just grab pen and paper and take a note of how differently you will handle the situation next time.
#3. Dream With Intention
A good way to start your day is by setting the intention. Brush your teeth, take a deep breath and smile to the mirror. This small act of self-kindness helps your brain to flood your system with the right cocktail of hormones.
Smile is something that comforts us — hard wired. When the brain receives the information that the smiling face is your own, it gets that you are fine.
Set the intention. Nothing super complicated, just thing about the day ahead and set the intention to act with kindness.
You can even have a little card on the mirror that says: “I am kind to myself and those around me.” Even though on some days you might not be actively aware of reading it, it still gets you on the right track subconsciously.
#4. Be On The Lookout
When you think about it, what are the circumstances where you tend to overreact the most?
Self-awareness is more than being aware of ones’ reactions. It’s also about knowing what are your trigger buttons.
Time pressure, pain, tiredness, desire to finish the task at hand, a particular topic, just to name a few. Which are yours?
#5. Make It Easy
Once you know what your triggers are, work on your circumstances. This is the part where you take action.
Do you get over the roof easily when you are under the pressure of time? How can you plan your day in order to avoid time pressure as much as possible?
I used to tell my kids off when I was under pressure. My new approach is two fold. One, when I am with my kids, I am not married to the plan and I go with the flow. Two, I leave with at least one hour buffer when I really have to be somewhere on time with them.
When I really want to finish my planned tasks, I schedule some alone time. I lock myself in the meeting room. I arrange babysitter to watch after my kids and work in a coffee shop.
I used to (and, to be honest I still am) grumpy when I am tired and in pain. The moment I realize it, I take a break and lay down for five to ten minutes to take some rest.
If you feel like trying, you can go with Brain.fm or Soulvana app. Brain.fm comes with broad selection of binaural beat meditations that promises to help relax (or focus, or learn, or sleep). Soulvana offers group meditation features.
No need to over-engineer it though. While meditation is generally considered beneficial, if it complicates things for you and might stop you from taking the break when you needed, forget about your mobile and simply relax.
#6. Keep score
The best way to become self-aware for any behavioral related goal is to keep score. In my case it has the self-management effect too. I knew that I was to keep score, and that knowledge alone helped me adjust my behavior.
Nothing too complicated. Pluses for any situation you handled well, minuses for any situation you could have handled better. So your day can look something like this: “+,-,-,-,+,+,+,+,-,-”
The method doesn’t really matter. Paper, app.
I used the app coach.me. You can create a habit there, give it the name that resonates with you, and tick the box for successful completion every day. You can even hire a coach there to help you build the habit and keep you accountable.
I work on my project of keeping calm in stress for over a year now and I found that keeping score helps me with all four areas of building higher EQ, as defined by Daniel Goleman in his behavioral psychology best seller Emotional Intelligence.
The four areas are:
- Self awareness (thought)
- Self management (behavior)
- Social awareness (thought)
- Relationship management (behavior)
I improve my score just by keeping my score, if it makes sense. The simple fact I keep score makes me more aware of my thoughts, feelings, and negative self-talk.
And since I don’t like minuses, more often than not I evaluate the impact of my words I am about to say on others and adjust my behavior before I act.
#7. Become A Social Architect
Part of the magic comes from knowing how you want to come across to others (Goldman’s step 4 — Relationship management).
Who you want to become and why.
It’s also your North Star.
If you want to be a kind and likable person who builds trust with others, what will you have to believe about yourself? About others?
How do you want others to perceive you?
Once you know, observe what behavior makes you trust others. Observe the people that you find likeable and kind. What is it that you want to mimic and replicate?
#8. Make It Universal
How you do anything is how you do everything — says Jim Kwik, world renown expert on speed reading and learning.
What it means is that you can’t get your schedule in order if you are generally messy. What it also means is that it’s hard to be loving and kind to your beloved ones if you treat strangers badly.
You are about to park your car, you start rearing and suddenly, this other car speeds and parks to your intended spot. How do you react?
Will you just leave and find another spot?
Will you yell at the driver who took yours?
Or will you knock on the window, smile, and kindly tell the driver that you were about to park and ask if she saw you?
How you deal with strangers is equally important as how you deal with your closest. Why? Because you are working on transforming who you are, which requires clarity, consciousness, and consistency. If you work on just your behavior, it will not fly long-term, no matter how hard you try.
#9. Fill Your Well
This is encouraging and can have a profound reinforcing effect. Take a note of all the nice words people tell you.
Store it in one place and read it periodically. Read it anytime you feel low, or blue, or like you are not good enough, or like you will never make it.
Fill the well of your motivation and self-esteem.
#10. Deploy This Secret ”Law Of Attraction” Ingredient
Chances are you have heard about the Law of attraction. Most teachings suggest you go with three steps: Get clear of what you want -> Ask the universe -> Receive.
You did get clear on what you want. You know who you want to become. You know what transformation you are after and you are crystal clear on how you want to come across.
You know your starting point. Maybe you perceive that there is a big gap between your current behavior and your desired behavior.
It can be overwhelming. So here is the secret ingredient that can be universally applied to any transformation:
Act as if you were already there.
No wonder. Your brain likes to walk on familiar paths and this path is new. So just go for it. Give it a try for seven day. And then for another seven. And then another seven. Until one day you find out that the new path is familiar now. You have changed.
#11. Fill The Cups In Your Heart
One of the reasons you are frustrated by not having your emotions under control is that you know that behaving awful solves nothing. Best case, it makes you detest your behavior. Worst case, it makes you detest yourself.
Which is a vicious circle. You don’t like yourself, your cortisol hormone levels increase, you get frustrated, you act badly, you detest yourself, you get frustrated, …
A mom of three little kids has this beautiful story.
One day, her 7 years old daughter asks her: “Mom, who do you love the most in the world?”
The mom says: “I love myself the most.”
“Really?!?”, asks the daughter in astonishment.
“Really”, replies the mom with a smile. “Because there are these little cups inside my heart. And when I fill those cups with love for myself, it makes me feel really good. So I can fill them with more love for myself. And with some more.
Until the cups are so full of love that they start to overflow. And then there is more love that I need and I have the love pouring all around me. People enjoy being around, because I have enough for myself, and I have enough for everybody.”
“I see”, says the little girl. “I will love myself the most in the world too!”
“Clever girl”, smiles the mom.
You see, you do need to love yourself first. Like with oxygen mask in the plane when the pressure drops, you need to take care of yourself first, before you can take care of others.
Your New, Bright Universe
I wonder. Are you, like me, tired of all the over-reactions? Situations that you could have handled elegantly but behaved like a fool? Reactions that make you feel bad and call for apology? That make you ashamed?
You come home after a stressful day. You forgot about this concert. You take a deep breath, hug your partner, apologize, make a little joke, and start to get ready so you make it on time.
You didn’t sleep well and your back hurts, but when your colleague asks you this question, you stay silent and let her elaborate a bit more before. Not only it buys you time, you also realize what her motivation is and can relate to her. You are welcoming, empathetic, you build trust.
Your kid has a tantrum and you lovingly wait until it’s over. You hug him. You make a plan together. You create a safe place for your child. You are the best parent in the world.
Just follow this recipe. There is zero risk.
The best part? You are proud of yourself and love yourself more every day. Intention, awareness, and action take you there.