Identifying Emotional Responses and Interrupting Negative Feedback
So I started to hint at emotional intelligence. There's a concept that comes from emotional intelligence thinking that I like to translate into a cause of conflict, and it begins with the way that stress leads to loss of awareness. I was talking to a group of doctors recently, and I asked them, is it amygdala or amygdalia? I don't know exactly. I've seen the word written, but I'm not great with the pronunciation of this word. Let's say amygdala. Amygdala hijacking. It's the way the brain and the body together respond to stress. I put my hand on a hot stove, I just pull my hand back away. I don't need to think about it. I have a reaction that happens before my mind even needs to engage cognitively. It's a defense mechanism. It's part of our biological programming. Boy, that's really hot. It's burning my hand. That's gonna leave me with a nasty burn if I don't take my hand away. No, you don't need to think all those thoughts. You don't need to be that concrete about it. You just take you...
r hand away. In fact, it's important that you just take your hand away. This is biological programming that comes from long before Emily Post ever wrote a book about etiquette. You've probably heard of the fight or flight response in your life. In response to a stress in the environment, a surprise, an awareness of something wrong, you have a natural instinct, an impulse to fight or flight. Anyone in this room a fighter? We got a fighter here? Yeah. Flighters? I'm a flighter. I'll put my hand right up. This is me. I, that meeting becomes tense, stressed, or difficult, I want nothing to do with it. I'm crossing out, I'm leaning back. This is between you all. Let me know when you resolved it. I see an email land in my inbox, something difficult, something I don't wanna deal with, it goes down in my dock. I have to remind myself to go answer it. It's gonna be sitting there a week later. That's a version of the flight response. Anyone here ever send an angry email? Something that you've regretted later? I've never sent an angry email in my life. I'm not a big fighter. I'm gonna tell this person exactly what I think. Help me out with the fight response, 'cause I'm not a big fighter. What's a fight response feel like? What does it feel like?
I raised my hand, but I'm reevaluating if I'm really a fighter or a flighter. I think it depends on the scenario.
It always does. It's oftentimes not a simple answer. I've heard from people that are definite fighters, and I see, it's funny, too, 'cause when you ask, any fighters in the room? The fighters all like, yeah, that's me. I'm ready to go. They'll tell you heat comes up in the body. They start leaning in. They wanna take action. They wanna engage. Physically some of it feels like heat. Sometimes they get adrenaline in the back of their mouth, start to taste that bitter taste. And that's the body really getting ready to fight. I ask what it feels like because what's happening by definition is the cognitive center of the brain's shutting off. You're not thinking to yourself, I'm gonna go fight right now. You're springing into action. You're fleeing the other direction. The fight or flight response feels like something. It's important to recognize what your emotional responses feel like, because in that moment, you're kinda not thinking. That's the whole idea. Stress. Believe it or not, incivility or rudeness, the experience of being treated badly or witnessing someone else treat someone else badly is a stressor that oftentimes leads to a fight or flight response that leads to a loss of awareness. We've been talking about how the primary cause of rudeness is people not thinking about what they do. That loss of awareness, that lack of awareness, is one of the greatest causes of incivility or rudeness. Big surprise, there's one more arrow left on this slide. There's one more arrow left on this graph. That's that incivility or rudeness causes stress, both to the person who feels it and to the person who witnesses it. So this is the negative feedback loop. You've probably seen the TV commercial about how one bad act leads to another leads to another leads to another. How do you interrupt that chain reaction? How do you turn it around? How do you start to initiate the positive chain reaction? I'm gonna suggest that it happens somewhere around here. That stressful moment leading to loss of awareness. We're never gonna eliminate stress from our lives completely. The unintentional rudeness will continue. That situation at work that is just difficult or awkward or uncomfortable, or just by definition stressful. There is a deadline. I work in finance. There's one time every year where all of a sudden it's stressful. Preventing that stressful situation from leading to loss of awareness. This is where I wanna jump back to our three goals. Think before you act, make choices that build and grow relationships, do it sincerely. So powerful. What's the first step in those three goals? Think before you act. Guess what you're doing there? It seems to pedantic. It is pedantic. It's a system for engagement. You're thinking. You're reengaging the cognitive center of your brain. That criteria for making the choice, the making a choice that builds or grows a relationship, that's the actual engagement of that conscious center. Now you're making choices. You're probably not just diving in or running away. You're thinking to yourself, what am I gonna do here? I'm gonna make a choice that builds or grows... Okay, I'm not just gonna check outta this meeting. I'm gonna stay involved. I'm gonna continue to participate. I'm not gonna ignore this email and then feel bad about it three days later when I haven't responded. If you're a fighter, you're not gonna fire off that angry or upset email. You're gonna say to yourself, okay, I'm gonna write it, I'm gonna let it sit, I'm gonna read it again in 15 minutes. I'm gonna read it out loud. I'm gonna have a coworker read it. I don't think this is something I wanna write about. I'm gonna pick up the phone and call this person. Stop and think. Make a choice that builds and grows your relationship. Do it sincerely. We can interrupt this negative feedback loop. We're gonna prevent a lot of that resulting incivility or rudeness. You've probably heard about work cultures that are just terrible. Places that are bad to work. Places that get a reputation. A certain office within an organization. A certain department within an organization. You don't fix it all at once. You begin by challenging people to be a little bit better. It's a question we often get at the Emily Post Institute. What do I do when I see someone behaving rudely? What if someone's treating me rudely and I just wanna confront them about it? You know what the official answer is that I give most of the time? Probably don't say anything. Most of the time you don't have the standing to address someone else's behavior. Sometimes that little reproachful look that helps bring someone's awareness to what it is that they're doing works, but you don't wanna walk around all the time mean looking at people. You don't want that to be the permanent expression on your face. You don't want that to be an attitude that you adopt and carry with you everywhere you go. 'Cause there's gonna be rude behavior everywhere you go. It's a great moment for a little self-reflection, a great moment to challenge yourself to be a little bit better, to not meet rude behavior with rude behavior. Two wrongs don't make a right. Guess what, two marginal wrongs don't make a right, either. Two rudes don't make a right, or don't make a polite. You're never justified in responding with your own rudeness or bad behavior. Take the high road. It's the place you wanna operate. It's the place you wanna be. And ultimately it might even come back around to you. These cycles are quicker and more immediate than we sometimes think.