Cool Under Fire: Sketching Out The Basics of Self-Regulation

I hope you’ve been tagging along on our EQ journey through Self-Awareness this year. With just a little attention, you may have afforded yourself some valuable attributes for pulling ahead in your career, from refining your executive presence, to discovering your blind spots, and even exploring the EQ benefits of meditation. Well, your self-awareness is about to come in handy in another beneficial way. It has outfitted you to begin effectively Self-Regulating.

Self-Regulation implies adapting your behavior so you can be present as intended, putting you in control of how you show up to the world, especially in the workplace. It means noticing and identifying your emotions in the moment, as they’re occurring (something only 36% of us are currently capable of), and then shifting gears on the fly to maintain your professionalism. It is for this reason that we consider Self-Regulation to be the Jedi Mind Trick of Corporate America!

Self-Regulation also has the function of enhancing your executive presence, which signals to people who interact with you that they’re in good hands. Just imagine how unproductive your colleagues might be if they were accustomed to you overreacting, freaking out, or worse. Since 85% of career success hinges on an individual’s personal conduct, it’s wise to cultivate an aura of safety when in the presence of your co-workers. But that doesn’t imply it’s easy to pull off. Remember: Self-Regulation requires you to catch yourself in the moment– before you flip your lid! Let’s start our investigation by considering the identifiers of a Self-Regulated professional.

Painting the Picture

A good place to start is to ask yourself, “What is the essence of Self-Regulation?” What does it look like?” Well, there isn’t just one neat answer to such an inquiry. Instead, there are multiple indicators that a person has good self-management skills. If you’re evaluating your own Self-Regulation status, consider each of these questions, which were “crowdsourced” in effect from the participants of DRIVEN’s recent Self-Regulation webinar:

Are you cool under fire?

Can you think quickly on your feet?

Do you listen fully?

Do you pause before speaking?

Are you patient, kind, compassionate, understanding and sensitive?

Can you separate emotion from logic?

Are you able to work with people whose working style you’re not fond of?

Can you refrain from “nervous talking” and commenting on everything?

Do you keep your cool in challenging situations, staying in control of your emotions?

Do you respond, not react, in stressful situations?

Do you take your time and not allow yourself to be rushed?

Remember, the overwhelming majority of us would answer “no” to most of these. Just think of them as a starting point, and a reference point in our exploration.

On The Flipside

Here’s a set of questions from the other perspective. Can you recall a time in your life when you completely overreacted? A time when you had a meltdown or flipped out about something that later, on looking back, had you questioning your extreme reaction? Have you gotten so frustrated with something or someone that you found yourself yelling or storming out in anger?

These scenarios represent most us and are clear indicators of Amygdala Hijack. Exploring the brain science behind Self-Regulation is your best way to prevent such scenarios in the future. It all starts with a simple acknowledgment that you’re prone to hijacks, followed by a careful look at the personal factors leading up to them. For instance, a comment from a DRIVEN OfficeHours participant about Self-Regulation was so direct, yet so revealing:

“There’s definitely a strain in the way I speak— I typically am very smiley and speak with optimism. In high-stakes situations or when I am stressed, there’s more urgency in my voice to get what I want to say out and it feels almost like a forced conversation.”

This participant seemed to be on the path toward overreaction, but through a sense of Self-Regulation, can avert outbursts before they occur. If you’re thinking, “I’ve been in similar situations and have experienced a full-on amygdala hijack”, just release a deep breath, and with it, any sense of shame. It has happened to every one of us at one time or another. In my next article, I’ll take you through the aforementioned brain science of these kinds of flip-outs, and explore why the challenge of Self-Regulation is rooted in stress by demonstrating how we can get “stuck” there, unable to dig out.