I remember the first book I read when I started studying hypnotherapy – it was Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence. Written in 1996, it still remains relevant to this day, perhaps even more so now in the way we conduct our thinking and our response to everyday events and situations in our lives. When it comes to emotional intelligence, essentially what we’re talking about is learning how to become a master of our emotions, rather than being controlled by them. It’s the ability to not only recognise an unhelpful emotional state, but also to successfully intervene and influence a more appropriate response to the situation.
It all sounds very rational doesn’t it, and of course, if you’ve ever been gripped by a powerful emotion, be it fear, or anger – you’ll know it’s not always as easy as that; emotions felt in real time can be very convincing indeed.
Goleman talks about the concept of ‘emotional hijacking’ – the idea that part of the brain responsible for ‘switching off’ emotional distress is in the left prefrontal lobe, but that when we are in a highly emotional state, this ability is dampened down, and instead the limbic system takes control, which is responsible for triggering the ‘fight or flight response’, and the physical sensations that accompany high emotion.
So as entrepreneurs, why is Emotional Intelligence so important to our businesses?
Firstly it stops us from being so black and white in our thinking, so it allows us to think more rationally, which of course is vital in being able to make the right decisions to move forward. Emotional intelligence also means we can think more creatively which helps us to create interesting and useful blog articles, or dream up new products and services. Finally, it helps us to do our best work with clients – when we are feeling grounded, and able to think clearly, with all our creativity available to us, we are able to be of service to our clients.
So how can we improve our emotional intelligence?
Developing good emotional intelligence is really about having effective strategies to hand, in order to influence the way that we feel and respond.
1. Future Pace Yourself
Very intense emotions can lock us into the present, to the point that nothing beyond that moment matters, but of course in reality it does matter. Maybe you’ve had the experience of saying something that you later regretted very much, once everything had calmed down? We’ve all done it. By time travelling ourselves into the future it begins to force us to gain some perspective.
- What will I remember from this situation one year from now?
- Will this matter one month, one year, ten years from now?
The ability to future pace, by asking these questions, can really help us to see the bigger picture, which in turn calms us down.
2. Influence How You Feel
There tends to be this misconception that the emotions we feel are somehow being ‘done’ to us, and that we have no say in the matter. It might feel like that at the time, but the reality is we can do something about it, sooner than just waiting for it to pass.
I learnt this at a ‘NLP For Business’ seminar with David Key, many years ago. The way to dispel a strong emotion is to move the body. Walk, dance, jump up and down. Try it, it works! There are many more ideas about how to change your emotional state within ten minutes in this blog I wrote here.
3. Change Your Physiology
I am becoming aware that rarely a blog post goes by without my mentioning breathing techniques somewhere, but when we’re in an emotional state we don’t have the capacity to remember anything more complex, to do. Most importantly – it works. It is often assumed that emotions are ‘all in your head’, but actually what we are talking about is a physical response. Our heart rate increases, digestion is affected, and it can even suppress the immune system, which is why when we’re feeling exhausted or run down, we’re more susceptible to colds and flu.
The way we breathe correlates to the way we respond physically. So when we’re stressed we take in more air than we breathe out (just like exercising), and our breath becomes more shallow. Anxiety and anger thrive on that quick, shallow breathing, so to do the opposite, has therapeutic benefits to our physiology.
- First breathe all the way out to get started
- Breathe in slowly to the count of 7 through the diaphragm
- Now breathe out even more slowly to the count of 11
- Continue doing this for around two minutes and notice the changes.
So those are my three top tips for when you’re feeling over emotional, or you need to think more clearly about a situation. Practised regularly, you’ll notice beginning to feel more grounded and centred within yourself, which in turn will help you to naturally be more rational in situations that previously were proving to be a challenge.
Sarah Swanton is the Founder of Happy Healthy Entrepreneur, which is all about helping business owners and entrepreneurs successfully navigate their way through the ‘inner journey’ of being self employed, so they can do their best work with clients, and build a business that supports them, not exhausts them! Click here to get access to your free Mindset Toolkit for Entrepreneurs which includes the self hypnosis audio ‘Switch Off & Relax’ as well as a copy of the Burnout Antidote Framework.