Leaders have egos and therefore have some awesome emotions. Sometimes these emotions are positive but sometimes they can be negative. As you can imagine, leaders need to keep these emotions in check.
Emotional hijacks – this priming, this mechanism, which is usually so positive in evolution – can take us over. During these hijacks we can become very angry. When the dust settles we often think, “Oh, why did I say that?”
I spoke with Paul Ekman for my Wired to Connect CD Knowing our Emotions, Improving Our World, about how to identify emotional triggers. One of his recommendations: simply keep a record of your hijacked moments. Here’s what he had to say.
“You know I have ambivalent feelings about the term hijack because in some sense it absolves us of responsibility. If someone hijacks us, “Well, it’s not my fault.” Okay, but it is. It is our responsibility to learn to become emotionally intelligent. These are skills, they’re not easy, nature didn’t give them to us – we have to learn them.
I recommend in my book Emotions Revealed that people keep a log of regrettable angry episodes. Write down just what it was about, how it happened, what set you off, and what did you do that you think you shouldn’t have done.
After you’ve got 30 or 40 of them, try to see the commonality in the triggers and responses. You’ll usually find a particular script that underlies what’s causing you to have a particular perception on certain situations, to cast people into roles that they really aren’t in, and to try to replay a plot that doesn’t really fit.”
How do you recognize and manage triggers? Share your advice in the comments below.