Emotional Intelligence and Reacting to Strong Emotions at Work

What To Do When Facing Strong Negative Emotions in the Workplace

Everyone has heard about emotional intelligence (Daniel Goleman).
Everyone "sort of" knows what we mean by emotional intelligence.
Everyone (almost) knows how important emotional intelligence is.

And yet - that very hard challenge of - being emotionally healthy and intelligent when others are in places of emotional distress and extroverting that distress - now that takes quite a bit of emotional intelligence.

When there is strong emotion at play (like fear, anger and sadness), leaders must really practice the Non-Anxious Presence and avoid being pulled into the emotional drama. It is helpful to have some practical and immediately applicable strategies and tactics for how to be "non-anxious."

Here are a few suggestions for "how-to" do this.

Stop and make sure you know what you are feeling. (Very hard to do in a moment of anxiety or stress).

Stop and make sure you do not REACT... In the presence of strong emotion - any emotional reaction you have will be unhelpful. And often a rational response back will be interpreted at - uncaring. 

Stop and pay attention to what the other person is feeling and emoting. Don't load your interpretation into it. You may misread them, especially if you are powering up with an emotional response.

Stop and be present with them.
Acknowledge what they are feeling and saying.
Communicate they are important.
Practice calmness but not nullness.
Be emotionally present but in emphathetic ways.
You can say you want personal time to process what they are saying.
You can ask them to take a break and do some reflection and plan to re-engage a bit later when the "surge" is over.
Ask them to help you understand what happened when they had the strong negative emotional expression.
Be positve and clear headed in all responses.
Affirm them, but do not validate inappropriate negative emotion.

These things are just a start.

What other ideas do you have?

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International