“But no leader can afford to be controlled by negative emotions, such as frustration and rage or anxiety or panic.”
While walking through a hotel reception area, I overheard a loud voice speaking into a nearby phone and stopped to listen. It was fairly early in the morning and I was making my way to a conference in the hotel’s meeting area. The man on the phone was shouting at whomever was on the other end. As I listened, I observed that the man – who was dressed as if he were on vacation – was yelling at an employee, probably someplace far away from the resort location where he and I were standing. As I eavesdropped, I became aware of the quickening of my heart rate and respiration. What could someone in this person’s company have done to deserve such profane anger? I examined my growing anxiety in the moment. I concluded I wasn’t afraid of being “caught” by this guy as I eavesdropped. Rather, I had tensed with fear as the release of the man’s violent language infused the space we briefly shared. My own fight or flight reaction kicked in. Unlike the recipient of the boss’ anger, I was an unknown observer. The employee had the option of hanging up the phone. That might have exacted a high price such as the loss of employment, but would perhaps have been the most courageous behavior. I, on the other hand, had a simple option. I got out of there by simply walking away.
I have thought about that experience often. Usually I returned to a single question, “What was it like to be on the other end of the phone?” Remember that time in your life when an authority figure, a parent or boss came towards you saying, “I WANT TO TALK TO YOU!”?
So, what does one do when an emotionally hijacked boss or colleague “goes off”?
- Look at the Energy Management Model below
- Identify your place on the map. Take your time. Slow down.
o Self-aware: You recognize the emotional fight or flight responses the anger event is triggering in you.
o Self-care: You pay attention only to your awareness of your own responses and practice on-the-spot meditative disconnection from the moment of anger.
o Self-dare: You express your decision to depart the anger engagement demanded of you. Yes, this could even mean hanging up! Or, simply and quietly saying, “I’m available to talk with you about this when your anger has subsided to a point where you and I can talk calmly about this matter.”
You’re looking for ways to separate yourself from the emotional process driving the behaviors.
Walk away both literally and figuratively towards your health, sanity and self care.
Peace and Courage, Howard