More people lose their jobs due to emotional misadventures than to poor technical skills. Someone reads an email as disrespectful, and they fire back a hot answer. Burned. Another person hears their work criticized, feels gut-punched, and start plotting revenge. Backfire. Another one believes they’re the subject of gossip and starts an ill-placed rumor against an ally. Exposed.
The fortunate ones control their behavior before it gets out of hand. they never fire back, never unload, never monger rumors. Later, they look back realizing what they might have done to short-circuit their career. The not-so-lucky blow off steam and make a huge mess, realizing too late they messed up. Emotions catch all of us off-guard and why should they not?
Whenever our senses take something in, our emotions get first crack at processing that information. “Our brains are hard-wired to give emotions the upper hand.” (Bradberry and Greaves, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, 5). The problem is that our emotions are often wrong. They want us to fight or take flight, but with just a little time to engage our reason we make different (better) choices.
3 ways to overcome emotional hard-wiring
- Get enough sleep the night before. Rest and reason have been sleeping together for years.
- Get more personal. If it’s an email that upset you, respond with a phone call. If it’s a shouting match, respond with slow, calm speech. Start by pointing out areas of agreement or with something they do well–disarm your opponent with kindness.
- Try to get in the sender’s shoes. If the email seems mean-spirited, ask yourself what you might do if you thought as they think. What if your life was like their life? What if you had their responsibilities? What if there’s something negative in their life about which you know nothing? You might even call and ask them to give you some background to their thoughts. Not ammo to discredit them, just, “Hey, this email has me concerned. I want to understand it from your perspective. I want to make things right. Can you give me some more information on what went wrong?”
It may not get you completely free from emotional entanglements. It may be that the other guy is a complete jerk. But at least you’ll have time to let your rational brain go to work before your emotional brain goes crazy.