Tag Archives: Emotion Regulation

The One Way to Constructively Defuse an Argument

Constructive conflict is a healthy part of any organization. Deprived of it, we end up with a lack of innovation, status quos are not challenged, necessary questions are avoided, and there is a lethal amount of consensus. The key is how we address this conflict.

One way to face conflict is fast and furious. Like the multi-sequel movie franchise, we can follow Dom Toretto’s philosophy:

I live my life a quarter-mile at a time. Nothing else matters; not the mortgage; not the store; not my team and their bullshit. For those ten seconds or less, I’m free.

When we lead through a “quarter-mile at a time” mindset, we are likely to engage in such practical strategies as seeking compromise, utilizing empathy, avoiding blame, apologizing, and forgiving past actions. However, while these techniques can be effective, they do not work when we are in the midst of a heated argument where we feel emotionally invested. So how can we improve our ability to resolve our interpersonal conflicts?

According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, you are more likely to resolve conflict through superior reasoning strategies when you consider the situation in the long run. By distancing yourself from your current feelings, you are better equipped to unravel negative events and find resolution. Otherwise, according to another study, you are prone to ruminating, recounting, and re-experiencing the negative event indefinitely.

Still not convinced you are better off with a marathon (versus sprint) mentality? A study in Psychological Review found that imagining the future is a natural outlet to thinking more abstractly about an interpersonal conflict. Once we are able to transcend the present moment and put the negative events in context, we are less focused on recounting it and more focused on thinking about the bigger picture. And with enhanced adaptive reasoning strategies, the research reported that participants had a greater influx of positive emotions and insight.

To resolve conflicts, we need to think beyond a “quarter-mile at a time.” How will it pan out tomorrow, next week, and next year? It may not be as harrowing as a fast and furious solution, but the measure of successful leadership is not reliant on how quickly you reach the finish line.

Yoda on Regulating Your Emotions

yodaAs we continue Star Wars Week, I am making every effort possible to contain my excitement for this weekend’s extravaganza. Like the Jedi Master I yearn to be, this ability to control my restlessness is an essential aspect of successful leadership. And who better to teach us than Dagobah’s own, Yoda.

Yoda is the ultimate sage of the Star Wars universe. You may argue that it’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, but Yoda taught Obi-Wan; hence, the sage of the sage is truly the ultimate of sages. One of Yoda’s primary lessons in utilizing the Force and avoiding the Dark Side involves the ability to regulate one’s emotions.

You will know [the good from the bad] when you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.

Yoda’s wisdom is supported by a recent study which found that an individual’s expression of frustration, anger, and dissatisfaction compromises their ability to act in a constructive manner. It precludes others from reacting favorably to their input and adversely affects performance, promotions, and growth opportunities. Additionally, leaders who display a lack of emotional self-control generate a culture of disengagement, poor communication, and generally low morale.

As leaders, we set the tone. If our go-to response is panicked and reckless then we are creating unrest. This sucks up the positive energy and replaces it with needless tension. Instead, minimize unhelpful distractions through the awareness and regulation of your emotions. A few practical steps include:

Taking Part in Introspective Activities. We are each capable of enhancing our attentive competence. Such practices as journaling, meditation, and regular physical activity are proven to increase the ability to direct focus, filter out distractions, and manage emotions. These activities may feel like an indulgence, but they are effective if done on a frequent basis.

Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

Prioritizing Your Attention. We are surrounded by distractions that undermine how we react to unfavorable situations. Multi-tasking, technology, and unfocused strategies divert our attention from what’s happening in the now. To conduct truly meaningful work, we can add value via facilitating (versus directing), one-on-one conversations (vs lecturing), and personalized motivation (vs ubiquitous “good jobs”).

A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was.

Conserving Free Time. We face intense demands on our time; it’s easy to blink and realize another week just went by. To maintain the emotional state for which you aspire, block out time on your calendar for weekly creative sessions. This will help replenish your mental energy and provide a sense of control, which is essential for emotional regulation.

In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.

Follow the path of Yoda to retain control over how you choose to display your feelings. Unless you lack a general sense of self-control (in which case leadership may not be your fore), it is not difficult to think before you react. But it does involve a conscious decision to determine how you want to be seen. If you want to be viewed as a “Jabba the Hutt,” act however you like, but if you want to be the “Yoda,” do not try to carefully pick your words and actions… “Do or do not. There is no try.”