At this time of year, many of us pause to engage in some kind of personal reflection. What came to mind for me was a practice I developed during my corporate career at Steelcase. I named it my “24-Hour Think.” I initiated this practice when I recognized that, more often than not, my emotions got in the way of my business perspective and I needed to take a step back before reacting subjectively rather than objectively. I didn’t know it then, but it actually was a practice for managing what we now describe as “Emotional Intelligence.”
I want to share this simple practice with you with the hope that a similar approach might help you reframe some perceived negative experiences at work, home, or in the community, in ways that result in more positive and productive interactions. Here’s how it goes:
- When you’re faced with a situation that triggers a negative or likely unproductive emotional reaction in yourself, start by acknowledging the feeling. This can happen, for example, when someone sends an email that is accusatory in nature, e.g. they say that you didn’t get back to them as promised. You might have any of the following emotional reactions:
- Anger – “How dare they?”
- Sad – “I wish this hadn’t happened.”
- Scared – “Will this derail our relationship?
- If you recognize what you’re feeling and why, then at least you have a decent chance of assessing whether it is grounded in reality. Maybe you did mess up and owe them an apology. Maybe you sent a response but it got stuck in Spam. Maybe they’re feeling that you haven’t been focused enough on their needs overall and this was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for them. Or maybe they didn’t mean to be accusatory at all and simply wanted to remind you to get back to them.
- Next, think about whether the situation is urgent and requires an immediate response, or, if a 24-hour cooling down period will create a context for a more objective response. More times than not, a response back can be delayed a day. That gives you a chance to manage your reaction and choose a relating/communication strategy that is empathetic and geared towards achieving the desired ultimate result.
After using this practice consistently over time, I found that my capacity to respond with Emotional Intelligence became possible in 24 minutes. And in nearly all cases today, in 24 seconds! It is a practice after all which, by its very nature, implies practicing it.
Whether you’re feeling stressed about the family dynamics that naturally surface at this time of year or you’re leaving work for a holiday break feeling less than confident about a recent interaction with your boss or a co-worker, give yourself the gift of the “24-Hour Think.”
Isn’t what you have to gain likely more valuable than what you have to lose?