Introducing "Emotional Retelligence"

attitude leadership values Feb 27, 2021

Let's face it.  Life comes at has hard.  How we handle those challenges reflects our character.  None of us are perfect though.  They are times in our life where we feel the  pressure.  We struggle. It's inevitable.

The good news is that there's a way around it.  There are some tricks of the trade that we can leverage to overcome the emotional hit -- at least minimize it.  I call it Emotional Retelligence.  It's about retelling - essentially hacking -- your emotional state realtime.  It's powerful! Here it is in a nutshell. 

#1 - Acknowledge the Emotion.   Admit what you're feeling.  Don't deny it.  Let's say you are planning a big event, and that sense of overwhelm just hits you hard.  In that moment, admit to yourself what you are feeling. It might be something like,

  • "man, I'm feeling little anxious about this"
  • "no lie, I'm worried about this won't go well"
  • "I have no idea how I'm ever going to get this done." 

Being honest with how you feel opens up the opportunity to harness the emotion for something good.

Another common scenario where emotion can get the best of us is when someone makes a critical comment, or gives a physical facial response / gesture that might as well have been a critical comment. In both cases, whether the comment or the gesture, it might make you feel inferior, questioned, or insignificant.  You may even have the urge to defend yourself.  But if you self-acknowledge that feeling as soon as it happens, you can divert it.

Let's play with another scenario.  Suppose technology gives you fits.  The remote doesn't work right.  The web cam on the zoom call just doesn't work.  Or maybe even the dog is just to stubborn to come in, and you've got to get to work.

The emotion you feel is real. Acknowledge what you feel.  But rather than cursing the gods, take a moment to identify and label the emotions and think of them as  gremlins that want to take you down.  Those gremlins are in our head.  They seek to destroy.  But if we shine the right light on them.  They'll scatter. That leads us to the next phase.

#2 - Label to Disable.  So, after admitting what you are feeling, now finish the labeling.  It might sound something like this,  "Okay - that's anxiety, that's fear, that's doubt.  I don't need  to let that rob me of what is possible? That's an enemy.  That's a gremlin that's not going to get me." 

Labeling, in this manner, is what allows us to choose a different scenario -- an alternative path, and more satisfying experience that will look back later with fondness rather than regret. This is where a critical brain switch happens.  But we have to have prepare ourselves for the switch.    

#3 - Know Thy Values. The best way to prepare yourself for the emotional battle and flip the switch, is to know yourself.   Socrates (or was it Aristotle) made this quote famous.  But how do yo know yourself? 

It's actually easy. Periodically review, maybe daily, your qualities and values -- your strengths.  Self-affirmations are super critical.  They help defend the gremlins and get you through the emotional benders.   In fact, they are not just tool of defense, they are a tool of offense.  If you start the day with a short list of "Who You Are Values" and daily affirmations, it will keep you mindful of the impact you can make in the day, and they will serve as a shield and sword on the gremlins.  

#4 - Take a Deep Breath.   This is huge.  By taking a deep breath reminding yourself of who you are - your qualities your strengths your values, will set you up for the next step. It helps prepare you for a different course and a different outcome than where the gremlins would have taken you.  Often I think of the scene in A Bug's Life from Pixar, when a leaf falls to the grounds disrupting all the worker-bee ants carrying food to the alter. The leaf causes a panic.  But one leader steps up, and calms everyone.  "Do Not Panic.  Do Not Panic.  Just go around the leaf."  It's a great scene.   When I take a deep breath, I remind myself of that line. "Do Not Panic.  Here's Who I am.   Just go around the leaf."

#5 - Question a New Path.  So after admitting the feeling,  labeling them, reminding yourself of who you are and then taking that deep breath, it's time to take control. You are the leader of yourself - not those gremlins.  As Dr. Henry Cloud shares, "You are ridiculously in charge." You don't have to fall prey to the emotion -- as hard as it is.  Here's how you question and create a new path.  "What can I do to keep my cool and persevere?  What can I do to make sure I am fully present and I am there for others."  Getting frustrated isn't going to help anybody.  Getting frustrated is only going to make things worse. Ask this question.  "What can I do to cary improvise, adapt and overcome?"  What can I do to let CALM be my default?"

#6 - Give It to God.   Now I'm a person faith.  This makes a difference for me.  When I take that deep breath while I question a new path, I turn to God and ask for His hand, his help. "Lord. You feel my anxious heart. But I'm going to trust you. Give me the strength. Give the clarity.  Allow remember why I'm here. It may not go right. But allow me to be present. Allow me to connect with others."

#6 - Go.   This part is critical Thinking about the problem and NOT taking  action -- not getting out of your comfort zone -- will only make the gremlins BIGGER.  How comfortable is that?  Remember you gotta go around the leaf. If you put your trust in God, then take that next step and put Him to the test. (The Scripture tells us to do this). Remember to Stay Calm and Go! You got this. The gremlins scramble when we throw light on them and when we take positive action.   

Wrap Up

These Seven Steps to Retelligence I hope are practical and powerful.  Take a minute to review these one more time.  Let again this list below, and see your self taking these steps.

  1. Acknowledge the Feelings. This is so critical.  When we try to ignore how we feel -- when we suppress it, it just finds another way to percolate back up. There's part of our brain - the emotional brain - that likes to be part of every decision -- but it's not very smart. Imagine yourself writing on the emotion in a journal so that you can diminish its power and tackle it in step two.  
  2. Label to Disable. When you acknowledge your emotions, your fears, your doubts, your frustrations, and LABEL to DISABLE , you can do something with it.  You diminish their power and you flip the switch.  You let your executive part of your brain take over. (It's a little bit smarter than that emotional brain)
  3. Know They Self.  You are created for a purpose.  You have unique talents, strengths and values.  Credit yourself for how you were created and who you are.  The world needs you.
  4. Take a Deep Breath. Allow yourself to discredit the gremlins, and credit yourself with your qualities.   Take that deep breath. You are made for this moment.  Seize it.
  5. Question a New Path.  This step is about using the power of questions to set a new path.  Ask yourself, "What can I do to keep my cool and persevere?  What can I do to go around the leaf?"
  6. Give to to God.  Why keep the gremlins close to you. Offload it God.  If you are not a person of faith, then find someone who can empathize and listen without judgement.  The point is don't do this alone. 
  7. Go! Leadership is about taking action.  Remember, you are ridiculously in charge.  Extreme ownership starts with you.

Here's what I've discovered,  by following these Emotional Retelligence steps, you can learn to take a negative and use it a spring board to face the challenge in front of you and be a real leader. It's powerful. Emotional Retelligence is something that I've learned that I need to do daily, otherwise I might struggle.  When I start the day on (1) what I'm thankful (2) what I want to accomplish that day, and (3) I remind myself of my qualities, and values as affirmations -- I am... statements -- then I'm ready.   When I do this I have prepared myself for whatever challenges might come, and that's when I leverage these Seven Steps or Emotional Retelligence. 

I would love to hear how this strategy works for you.  It's been an impactful for me, let me know how it works for you.  

Be Well


P.S.  Special credit to my bride and best friend Barbara Gustavson for inspring this framework in her study of breath health.   She gets all the credit. :-)


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