We must address our discomfort with difficult emotions like anger, envy, resentment and revenge to effectively manage conflict.
We create trouble by lacking the skills “… to confront with patience, insight and imagination the many problems that we face in our affective relationship with ourselves and with others.” The School of Life Dictionary* defines this as Emotional Intelligence.
We have little education about emotionally intelligent conflict. Before the team meeting, during the argument, and long after the fight, we often ignore our irrational thinking. We act as if our thoughts and emotions are fixed, the voice of our true self. Others are required to accept and forgive our impulsive words, the intensity of our feelings. Often without us returning the favour.
Our lack of skill in managing our discomfort with another’s distress may silence us. We are upset when other people are upset. As if their emotions control ours, we want them to calm down so that we’re not overwhelmed by tears or gritted teeth. We want others to be polite, accepting and compliant so we can quickly feel better ourselves.
We prepare for difficult conversations, letting past wounds influence our fear, to the point of considerable anxiety. We imagine all the possible things that can go wrong. The irritable, sharp tone of our voice is likely to be interpreted by others as anger, mistaken as an attack. The very opposite of our intentions.
We leave a workplace dispute with sweaty palms, a racing heart, worrisome thoughts. We go over interactions in fine but increasingly biased detail, convincing ourselves of slights, criticism and derision. We feel hurt, enraged, indignant. Ready to lay it on the line, to say exactly what we are thinking at the next opportunity.
Emotional Scepticism is “…an attitude of good-natured suspicion towards the majority of our first impulses and feelings.” With such a mindset we realise our minds are “… highly likely to be throwing off inaccurate or misleading emotions.”
With this knowledge we have the wisdom to pause, reflect and recognise the changing layers of our feelings and the impact of our actions.
*The School of Life Dictionary: The Language of Emotional intelligence, 2017
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