Thursday, July 20, 2017

Things Better Left Unsaid



One of the principle skills of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is self-control: managing impulses to say or do inappropriate things even when the urge is strong to do them. The stakes are high when we don't think before speaking or don't consider the negative consequences of being impulsive.

In fairness, we all struggle with maintaining self-control because we have biological impulses that work against us. For the purposes of survival, we are hard-wired to feel before we think. A small gland in our brain triggers this instinct and for a brief moment takes over our rational thinking, as Daniel Goleman calls it "an amygdala hijacking." We have all been the victim of it, reacting in the heat of the moment and feeling out of control to stop it. And in some cases, the outcome may be serious.

Low self-control presents itself in angry outbursts, compulsive talking, interrupting or talking over others, impulsiveness, poor judgment, loss of emotional control (crying), and utter inappropriateness.

We have a good biological reason to have low self-control but that is absolutely not an excuse for it. There is no getting away with, "It's not my fault, I was the victim of a hijacking.” Sorry. Most of the time, the critical time to use self-control is the first five seconds of the trigger. When you feel the blood rush to your face and your heart race with adrenaline, is when you need to stop and count to five. The impulse wave will pass and you get your rational mind back.

One profession that could benefit overall from increasing self-control is sales. Most salespeople tend to talk way too much. When I am working out in the field doing performance coaching via job shadowing with salespeople it is very common to see chronic chattiness in interactions with customers. In one case, the salesperson spoke for 46 minutes of a 50 minute meeting (and yes, I timed it) and barely let a customer get a word in. It was torture for me to witness it and I couldn't get the song out of my head, "you talk too much...you never shut up...” Consider your talking/listening ratio when interacting with others, particularly customers.  

If you could use some help in increasing your self-control or need to coach someone else, here are some tips:

1. Be mindful of any impulses to say what you are thinking; use long pauses and take opportunities to buy time while you collect your thoughts.

2. Call a time-out if you sense growing anger; use cooling off periods and remove yourself from the situation.

3. Identify triggers for your impulsiveness; pre-plan strategies for dealing with people or situations that you know will test you.

4. Use the "draft" folder in email; it is there for a reason. Before sending any emails written in the heat of the moment, sleep on it and reread them the next day before you press Send.

5. Manage your stress; lower Stress Tolerance makes you more vulnerable to losing control.


Exercising impulse control is not easy, but with some conscientious effort it can be dramatically improved. And just think how nice it will be to spend less time apologizing for saying something that you later regretted.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Month in a Minute

Clockwise from bottom left:  Speaking at ACFO-ACAF in Canada, Engagement Day, Steve and me in the Sandbox at SNHU, Caitlin and Annie at graduation, Steve at Alkermes, Downtown Ottawa.
June was quite an adventurous month for us. It started with a trip I was scheduled for from Boston to Ottawa Canada. It is a direct flight, about one hour in length. I was booked with Air Canada at 6 pm. At 7 am, I was notified by TripIt (an amazing travel app, if you don’t have it, you need it) that my flight was canceled. I called the airline to get rebooked and they had no other direct flights that day which meant I had to add a stop in Toronto, adding another hour to my trip. As the agent was rebooking me to a 3:30 pm flight, she informed me that it had also just been canceled. That left me with a 12:30 pm flight to catch, still through Toronto. The reason for the trouble was Logan Airport in Boston has runway construction so fewer flights could actually depart on time and combined with the drizzling rain we had that day, there was low visibility.

I rushed to leave my house in New Hampshire by 9 am, prepared for the inevitable traffic going into downtown Boston on a weekday morning and the 2-hour international flight rule. I arrived at Logan and got through security by 11:15 am. My gate was one of 3 in a very small section of the airport. By 11:45 am, a delay was posted to my flight of 15 minutes. By noon, it was delayed another 30 minutes, making my connection in Toronto impossible to make. I prepared to go find a gate agent to help me with a rebooking and there were none to be found. They completely left the gate area. After speaking with a TSA agent, they told me that I would have to leave security to go out to the check-in desks if I needed to rebook. Really?

Off I went, only to be told that there were no other later options through Toronto, so basically, I was not going to be able to fly out that day. At that point, I had still not been notified by Air Canada of my initial flight cancellation or the delays. I was booked to speak the next morning at the Canadian Financial Officers Association conference as a keynote so canceling that was not an option. So, I tried to rent a car one way so I could at least keep the return half of my flight intact. All the car rental agencies at Logan were sold out. I got back in my car and headed north (essentially backtracking past my house). I arrived in Ottawa that evening at 9 pm, 12 hours after I left that morning. Ugh.

On the personal side, this has been a busy month too. I am officially engaged to David, Caitlin graduated from high school, I got an offer on my house (we are still negotiating terms), and I was able to travel to Seattle, Spokane, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Phoenix.

Hope your summer is off to a good start and free from travel woes!