What Makes You Hot?

Julie Jones
There have been unprecedented heat waves across much of the US this summer. Add in electricity outages or air conditioning problems and tempers can flare. Think about your emotions — What causes flare-ups and raises your own heat index?

Can you think of a time in the past few weeks when you let your emotions get the best of you? Did you have an outburst of emotion? This might be called a fight, stepping towards, or “assertive” action.  Or did you retreat, go silent, or avoid the situation when your emotions were high? This is a stepping away or “avoidance” action.

What was the impact of your emotions and your actions on others?  

Emotional intelligence (EI) has been described as the ability to navigate changing emotions to productive outcomes. EI and building relationships with others have been identified as two of the largest skills gaps by Gallup®, DDI®, and LinkedIn® organizations. Additionally, TalentSmart®, a global think tank and consultancy company focused on EI, notes that people with average intelligence outperform those with higher intelligence 70% of the time when emotional intelligence is considered. EI is a superpower!

What makes managing your emotions so hard?
Jonathan Haidt, in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, uses the concept of a rider and an elephant to describe conscious thinking (rider) versus a gut feeling and reaction (elephant) selves.  The conscious thinking rider is like your rational, left-sided brain and the reactive elephant may be driven by emotion in your right-sided brain.

The elephant is usually bigger and stronger. It takes self-awareness, willpower, and positive habits from the rider to keep the elephant's reactions in check. Leaders who practice self-awareness, others' awareness, self-management, and relationship strategies have a higher likelihood of leader success because they are more effective at building and maintaining relationships with people especially when emotions run high. This is the 70% difference described above.

Emotional intelligence requires ongoing maintenance, especially in operations departments where stress, challenges, and time pressures are constant. Unlike other skills where your automatic brain may take over, especially with years of practice, emotional intelligence can rarely operate on autopilot. It requires you to effectively harness your elephant’s right brain reaction and activate your thinking, logical left brain, to create intentional responses.

The foundation of EI is understanding yourself, your emotions, and common triggers that make you hot.

Emotions can be described in a variety of ways but include words like feeling, sensation, reaction, sentiment, and response-driven from the right-side brain by a particular set of circumstances, experiences, people, or things. 

Primary emotions

Dr. Paul Ekman was an early pioneer in identifying emotions. He found that there are at least five and up to seven emotions of us experience and feel including - happiness, sadness, anger, fear, contempt, disgust, and surprise. These emotions can be identified through facial expressions as well. It is also important to note that each emotion includes an intensity level based on the strength of the reaction.

After testing more than 500,000 participants, TalentSmart® found that only 36% of people could accurately describe their emotions in the moment. This leaves more than 6 in 10 people who are not able to accurately identify the emotion and/or the intensity of the emotion at the moment. It’s no wonder why emotional intelligence garners such attention. 

In your heated moments, can you identify your emotion and accurately describe the intensity?

Intensity Happy Sad Anger Fear
Low  content down offended doubt
Medium joyful troubled heated anxiety
High ecstatic despair enraged dread

This chart is representative. Each person's chart will vary based on their experience, age, and perspective. It isn't right or wrong --it's how you are wired. The key is identifying common patterns or triggers that set off your emotions. With awareness of these situations and triggers, you can then practice self-management strategies such as pausing in the moment, taking time to think, or mentally reframing the situation to create more intentional responses.

Create your personal emotional intensity chart.

Pay close attention to anger, fear, and sadness. Identify your high-intensity adjectives for assertive (stepping towards) and flight (stepping away) reactions. Take it a step further and review common situations or triggers that make you hot. Both situations can cause problems when you lead other people.

Maya Angelou’s famous quote, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  is central -- EI is the superpower that can fuel positive feelings. When EI is unchecked, leaders can create a wake of emotions and negative feelings including a lack of respect, appreciation, or empathy.  

Think of the ways you regulate your temperature during a heat wave -- You might lower the temperature on the air conditioner thermostat, turn on a fan, go for a swim, or drink a refreshing cup of lemonade. What can you use to regulate or manage your reactions and create intentional responses to improve your emotional intelligence, foster positive relationships, and enhance business performance?      
Don't hesitate

Elevate Your Relationship Skills by taking  the Emotional Intelligence Course.