How to Avoid Emotional Reactivity

April 21, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

All relationships have certain things in common, whether personal or professional: first, every relationship you enjoy must be based on mutual respect; second, both parties must be willing to listen to each other; third, empathy is key to keeping the relationship moving forward.

Staying neutral is the key to effective leadership

Effective leadership involves staying emotionally neutral. I don’t mean numb or emotionless, just in control of your emotions, not reactive. To be a better leader, avoid idealizing or reacting to the extreme positive (I love this guy, everything he does is perfect) or being critical or extremely negative (this guy is an idiot). Both of these reactions reflect your projection and capacity to deflate or inflate yourself. The result is emotional reactivity – causing you to swing too far in either direction.

When you live at either end of the spectrum you are unable to give un-weighted feedback, or to see another objectively. This is what I call getting “triggered” by the behavior of others. It reflects low self-awareness and a huge growth opportunity. When you notice yourself being reactive you can reflect on what is triggering you. What is it I see in this person that is important to me and why? How am I feeling and why? What is the thought or memory that I am aware of as I reflect on this person? How is this about me?

If you ask any one of these questions you will follow a rabbit trail that will lead you to more learning about yourself, your belief systems, and potential stuck places. Just the slowing down of your thinking will open you up to different possibilities for response and great executive capacity.

Your executive capacity expands because you become more able to hold opposite points of view, and to relate to and even understand different perspectives. This ability moves you to higher levels of consciousness and leadership. From this place you are able to handle more complex organizational and relational challenges.

To learn how to become neutral, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do I develop an ability to contain my emotions?
  • How can I become more self-reflective?
  • How can I learn to internally process what I am experiencing, before responding?

It’s human nature to judge and favor one side of a contest or conflict over the other. That’s why we love sports so much. But, as a leader, you can’t afford this type of indulgence. We are all challenged to catch ourselves before the emotional pendulum swings too far – the benefits extend well beyond stronger relationships and influence, to include personal and professional growth.

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Executive coach, top team facilitator, author and speaker. I work with individual leaders and their teams to help navigate personal and professional transitions and to increase leadership capacity and improve communication and relationship skills. I founded my coaching firm in 2001 following 12 years asa CEO. Check out more on me and my coaching process in my book "The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don't"

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