I remember the incident of a man (owner of a small-scale company) who would vent out his anger on to his employees when he was not able to do so on his clients, had financial problems and no business. It so happened one day that, he was operating from his home office and had some reverses on phone from the client (his clients were not paying on time and had hugh payment out-standings). This had turned him off and was really frustrated, furious but unfortunately oblivious of his own feelings at that time. Out of rage, he calls his Head-operations (newly appointed with no experience of factory operations, his job description not defined clearly, etc) and just starts blasting him for not sending him the attendance report of the security guards. Head-operations were taken aback and didn’t know what happened. What was his mistake? After all, he was never told that this particular task was included in his job description, nor did he have any experience in operations to know naturally that it was the responsibility of the job title to do so.
Why did the company owner behave in the way he did?
He was unaware of the impact that the disappointment of not getting the payments and business had on him. He did not have the capacity to recognize the feelings of anger, disappointment, and bitterness that made him lose his head. He was also not aware of how his feelings drove him to vent out his anger and frustration wrongly on the Head-operations.
What were the better options with the Business owner?
- He could have first recognized his internal turmoil perhaps by getting connected with the physical reactions such as some tightness in the neck and/or stomach, feeling hot and perspiration, frown on the forehead, etc. By asking himself and getting to the ‘why’ of the situations that could have upset him, he would have been conscious of his anger being related to not receiving payments and business from the clients. He would have recognized that these disruptive emotions of anger and frustration made him vulnerable to behave improperly with his Head-operations.
- He could have just taken a walk outside doing nothing when the disruptive emotions run high, allow those feelings to cool down and then call anybody.
- He could have also taken 10 deep breathes, focus on the breathes as it goes in and out and have a glass of water.
In this scenario, the business owner knows that he is getting angry/is angry now, recognizes why he is in this state and is aware that he is at risk of behaving improperly with his colleagues. (by the way, the victim in the above story is yours truly).
Emotional Self-awareness is the strong foundation on which the whole tower of Emotional intelligence is built on. This is the first key to knowing more about yourself and understanding yourself. But unless you are aware of what is happening inside of you due to any external triggers, understanding your normal tendencies, what you are doing, why you are doing it, and most importantly how it is going to affect others, you cannot bring about the change in you. Absence of self-awareness will always put you in the position that “there is nothing wrong or there’s no need and reason to change”. That’s why self-awareness is very basic and mastering this skill alone will pave way for you to be successful in other areas of emotional intelligence. Without it you may try to fix all the professional and personal problems, but you will be going only round in circles, you don’t ask/get feedback (since you repel people with your behavior)-you would be unable to monitor your progress and hence your chances of achieving your goals will be diminished.
Being fully aware of our feelings requires not just acknowledging them, but identifying them and understanding what message they are trying to tell us.
How to increase your Self-Awareness?
- Get into the habit of sitting quietly in a calm place say during the morning, lunchtime, and before going to bed. Ask some of the following questions to self. There is no right or wrong answer but answer them honestly.
- How am I feeling?
- What am I feeling?
- How long has this feeling been?
- In which part of the body does this feel manifests? E.g. am I clenching my teeth, am I getting sweaty palms, is there any tightness in my stomach or neck, am I perspiring, is my heart rate increased, am I having a headache, is the rete of my breathing increased, etc.
- Once you are able to tell yourself how you are feeling, try to understand what started your disruptive feelings. Was there any particular trigger? Or remembrance of a past unhappy incident, try to identify the emotions. By practice as you get better at it try to label these emotions. Again, these emotions can be in different shades depending on the intensity of the feeling, which in turn will depend on the severity of the trigger, your perception about the incident, etc. E.g. say for Anger the various shades could be irritated, annoyed, frustrated, mad, upset,…..furious in the ascending order of intensities of anger. For the feeling of sadness, it could be dissatisfied, moody, unhappy, miserable, disappointed, ….. depressed. Remember that all emotions are not disruptive. Some are positive as well. Practice recognizing positive ones like pleased, enthusiasm, pleasure, joy, peace, gratitude, inspiration, curiosity, etc.
- Why that Emotion?
You have identified your emotion with a label and also trying to find what that emotion is trying to tell you. However, you need to find the underlying reason for that emotion as well. E.g. if you are feeling afraid try finding if it’s because you feel under-confident/ you might fail or is it because someone will hurt you, people will laugh at you, you will feel miserable about yourself, you will lose something (if yes, what?), etc. Similarly, if you are angry try finding out is it because you feel vulnerable, in-secured, out of control? Or are you angry because someone made you feel bad/insulted you or are you angry because you accepted a work assignment that you never wanted to do in the first place? All the roots of anger can be different, but the emotion is the same.
Is Anger the main culprit?
Yes, perhaps it is, in the emotional spectrum. When we get angry, we lose our thinking power making us oblivious of our surroundings and to ourselves. We even may not know that we are angry. We are only faintly aware that something is happening but don’t know what it is. If you are angry, sarcastic or belittling and don’t even know it, two things will happen for sure- physiologically, you are risk of various health issues ranging from High BP, cholesterol, headache, up to heart problems if getting angry has become a routine thing for you. Secondly, you turn off people without understanding why. They will flee from you. Even if you are extremely talented at work, possess some unique qualities, or skills you have acquired, you may not get the chance to demonstrate them. Key relationships will be sour before they can be developed. Your capacity for empathy will diminish, which will further make you insensitive in dealing with others in all situations.
Benefits of Self-Awareness:
- You are able to recognize when you feel out of sorts, irritable, sad and you are then able to see how these feelings alter the behavior that may repel/or drive others away from you.
- Since you have a total grasp of your emotions, you feel more confident in all your dealings, be it people or business.
- Since you are aware of your reactions that will turn off people or alienate them from you, you are able to build better, long-lasting and meaningful relationships.
- Self-Aware people have a strong value system for themselves and these are the major drivers in all their decision making. This helps them to make sound decisions.
- And because they have clarity of thoughts, words and their own actions, they are able to communicate effectively with others.
Would like to end today’s’ blog with a very apt thought by famous fabulist-
“He who knows the universe and does not know himself, knows nothing”- Jean De La Fontaine,1679