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E.I. Part 9 | RELATIONAL FAULT LINES

Guiding Questions: When your emotions flood and take over your body, does your energy and heart rate go up, or does it drop? Are you ready to fight, or are you ready to shut down?

Key Takeaways: Every strong emotion carries an impulse to react, and managing those impulses is the foundation of emotional intelligence. Being able to manage your emotions when they become flooded is a foundation of emotional intelligence and leadership. Being a great teammate or leader is hard if you can’t control your emotions. Think about and reflect on what triggers you, understand how your body reacts to being triggered, and practice responding, not reacting, in a productive way when it does happen.


The in a game in Detroit in 2004, the Indiana Pacers were leading the defending champion Detroit Pistons by 15 points with 45.0 seconds left, when Pacer forward Ron Artest fouled Pistons center Ben Wallace from behind.


What happened after that changed the careers of many of the athletes on the court.


A furious Wallace pushed Artest, and a fight broke out on the court between a few players from both sides. The players were separated and as the referees were discussing the consequences, Artest laid down on the scorer’s table.


All of a sudden, a fan named John Green hit him with a drink thrown from several rows up in the stands, and Artest immediately charged into the crowd to attack him, and several of his teammates followed.


NBA commissioner David Stern threw the book at the Pacers, hitting Artest with an 86-game suspension, and his teammates Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal with 30 and 25-game suspensions.


None of their careers and reputations were the same after this, and I wonder if they would have done anything differently if they could do it over again.


EMOTIONAL FLOODING


In chapter 9 of his book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes that Emotional Flooding is when your mind, body, and heart get hijacked by your emotions.


Every strong emotion that we feel is a trigger to make us act on something, and managing those impulses is the foundation of emotional intelligence. Being aware of what triggers you and how your body responds is one of the first steps toward mastering your emotions. An important second step is being able to recognize the emotional hijacking of others around you and how to manage that.


When Artest was hit with that drink, his emotions flooded him so strongly that he ran into the stands, and when they saw their teammates running into the stands, Jackson and O’Neal’s emotions flooded them, causing him to run after them.


FIGHT vs FLIGHT


Relationships can become strained and even destroyed if the people involved become swamped with emotions. John Gottman is an American psychologist whose work focuses on divorce prediction. He is so good at his job that he can predict divorce within three years with 94% accuracy.


He says that an early warning signal that a marriage is in danger is harsh criticism. In a healthy marriage, husbands and wives feel free to voice their complaints, but too often, those complaints are expressed in a destructive fashion, like an attack on their character.


The key to providing constructive criticism and feedback is by stating specifically what is upsetting you by addressing the action, not the person.


Before you can do that, it is important to know how you responding to Emotional Flooding.


You know you are flooded when someone’s words or actions affect you to the point where you become swamped with dreaded, out-of-control feelings. People who are flooded can’t hear or without distortion and can’t organize their thoughts enough to form a clear-headed response; they just react or shut down.


People have different reactions to getting flooded. Some people’s blood pressure rises when they become flooded, and others drop when they become flooded. If your blood pressure rises, you tend to fight back when you become flooded. If your blood pressure drops when you become flooded, you are more likely to stonewall or put up a barrier, as a defense against feeling emotionally overwhelmed.


The danger of not being able to manage your emotions is that when someone feels attacked, they either fight and attack back or shut down and stonewall. If you fight and attack back, the fire gets bigger, but if you stonewall and shut down, the other person will become even more emotionally flooded and shut down even more or fight back harder!


XYZ


Psychologist Haim Ginott recommends that the best formula for a complaint is “XYZ”:


When you did X, it made me feel Y, and I’d rather you did Z instead.


Before you can do that, it is important first realize you are emotionally flooded, and work to regulate your emotions and your heart rate. Every strong emotion carries an impulse to react, and managing those impulses is the foundation of emotional intelligence.


Nothing productive can be resolved when someone is in the middle of an emotional hijacking, so being able to soothe and regulate yourself and others is a key skill to learn and master.

  • Calm-Down: Once you start recognizing your triggers, you will begin to notice your physical reactions to them. If you notice your body getting hot, your jaw tightening, or for me - the feeling of blood rushing to my head and my fists balled up, that is a cue to take a step back, power down, and regroup. Taking just 10 seconds before you react can save you from a lot of trouble; science says that it takes only 10 seconds for your body to begin releasing stress hormones after being flooded.

  • Detoxifying Self-Talk: Manage and control what you are thinking about. Flooding is triggered by negative thoughts you have about a person or situation, so catching and challenging those thoughts instead of being enraged or hurt by them can help you become free from their hold. Monitor what you are thinking about, and know that just because a thought runs through your brain doesn’t mean it’s true or you have to believe it. How you think about yourself and others is a lens and perspective that affects most of your actions.

  • Non-Defensive Listening: Listening is a skill that keeps teammates and couples together. Even in the most intense arguments, if someone or both can manage to listen past the anger and respond instead of getting absorbed in the anger. Try to edit what you hear: ignore the anger of the messenger and listen to the main message.

Being able to manage your emotions when they become flooded is a foundation of emotional intelligence and leadership. Being a great teammate or leader is hard if you can’t control your emotions. Think about and reflect on what triggers you, understand how your body reacts to being triggered, and practice responding, not reacting, in a productive way when it does happen.


SOMETHING(s) TO THINK ABOUT


1 - What are some things that trigger you?

2 - How do you respond to being triggered? Does your heart rate rise or drop? Do you fight back or stonewall?

3 - What can you do to better respond when you are triggered?

Much of this information was taken from the introduction of Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence. You can find more about the book here: Emotional Intelligence


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