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Self-Regulation

We’re back, and we’re continuing our discussion about emotional intelligence!

Today’s blog post surrounds the next item on our emotional intelligence list — self-regulation! Read on to learn about this necessary skill, and find out how it can bolster a leader and his or her effectiveness.

Claressa: Self-regulation is fascinating. Like any behavioral trait, it can come easier for some than for others. When talking about emotional intelligence, this trait is one that I most easily relate to. It’s an easy thing for me to remove emotion from a situation – to step back and truly assess what’s going on. That’s basically what self-regulation is all about: taking the emotions out of things and understanding how you will likely react.

Martha: Of course, the feeling of wanting to react in a certain way doesn’t disappear.

“…with self-regulation, you have mastered the ability to step back and identify your emotional triggers.”

Claressa: No, but with self-regulation, you have mastered the ability to step back and identify your emotional triggers. This allows you to divert those feelings appropriately, so that you can lead others appropriately. It’s been described as an ongoing “inner conversation” that allows us to control bad moods or emotional impulses. When you’re a role model —  a leader in an organization — that kind of skill is essential.

Martha: So, what I hear you saying is that people with a high sense of self-regulation still feel those emotional impulses. They still have bad moods, still have those highs and lows, but are able to more productively control them.

Claressa: Exactly! Let me give you an example. You’ve heard of the phrase “people pleaser?” Someone who wants everybody to be happy, wants anybody who reports to them to feel like they’re being heard. And not only that – but to have action taken so that those people are pleased.

Martha: Yes, that’s not uncommon to see.

Claressa: That, in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. However, if that person isn’t stepping back and understanding the emotions and facts behind those decisions, it can have some really negative effects. We’ve worked with people like this, where self-regulation simply isn’t present, and we find that these impulse answers are often given without consideration of all of the facts. This lack of awareness of a situation, combined with an impulse decision made to please another can come across as dishonest if that decision doesn’t pan out.

This is a huge piece of self-regulation. If you are truly practicing self-regulation, your ability to step back from an emotional place and give yourself room to fully assess the details of a situation will create an environment of trust and fairness.

“An environment of instability and emotional impulse can be a dangerous one, regardless of your industry.”

Martha: That environment of trust and fairness is a really big deal. As leaders, we know from experience that that kind of environment starts from the top. If you can’t create that sense of stability, you’ll be able to see the negative effects take root in your people, your department, your team. An environment of instability and emotional impulse can be a dangerous one, regardless of your industry.

Claressa: Right. Having the ability to say “No,” to those impulsive urges can be difficult, but ultimately it’s a display of integrity.

Martha: It can be difficult. Just take a look at the news; you often see people doing really terrible things and think, “How is that even possible?”

I think the reality of the situation is that people feel trapped — they feel they can’t turn around once they’ve started down a negative path. And when an opportunity presents itself (no matter how immoral it may be), there’s no impulse control. They see an easy fix, an easy out instead of having the integrity to do the right thing. They take the path of least resistance, and that gets people in trouble.  

“Self-regulation is something you have to learn and master. It’s never too late.”

Claressa: It does. And when a leader can cultivate that self-regulation they can lessen the resistance in the long run. When you remove the impulse decisions, the people-pleasing, you can reduce dischord and increase productivity overall. We’ve all been there and we’ll be there again. Self-regulation is something you have to learn and master. It’s never too late.

Martha: I totally agree, with one added point. The final piece to the self-regulation puzzle is to be able to “go with the flow” when change is occurring. Being comfortable in the idea that things are going to change… in the idea that you might not have all the answers. That’s a very challenging state to achieve, but it’s possible! People with a high sense of self-regulation have mastered the ability to avoid the anxiety of the unknown and say, “You know, I’m just going to keep moving down that path, and know that everything is going to turn out okay.”

And the takeaway today?

Claressa:  After self-awareness comes self-regulation. Know what causes your mood changes, know what emotions trigger you, and understand how you can neutralize those and be the leader you want to be.

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