Being smarter with emotions is a choice. Yet, putting ourselves in a position to pause momentarily at that specific point in time when the proverbial fork in the road reveals itself is daunting. I’m fascinated by how easy it is for humans (myself included) to become so fixated on achieving an outcome that we lose sight of the process. Yet, it’s the process - because of the skills learned, experience gained + insights discovered - that transforms us. Processes, rather than outcomes, enable us to become better versions of ourselves.
It’s helpful to consider that each day is comprised of hundreds of processes. Within the boundary of each process, we have two options: 1. We can pay attention to what’s going on around us (known as mindfulness) or 2. We can operate on auto-pilot (known as mindlessness). According to a recent study, a whopping 96 percent of the 3,000 humans surveyed claim they were living life on autopilot.
Such is the case with emotional intelligence (EQ). We’re more likely to default to what we know + are comfortable with (auto-pilot) than we are to choose awareness of emotions (mindfulness), because humans don’t control their emotions, they’re automatically triggered.
In the context of daily business interactions, there are numerous opportunities to implement EQ skills with topics that create discomfort for one or both parties. That’s why it isn’t surprising that money is among the most awkward + difficult subjects. To provide a clear picture, take this real-life example into account as two humans, a client + a vendor, work through a finance-related challenge.
The back story
The vendor approaches the client about transitioning to a more efficient + effective invoice + payment process. The vendor agrees to the idea and expresses excitement about the timeliness + efficiency provided by the chosen payment platform. Since this digital approach replaces the practice of cutting checks and mailing them within invoice terms of two weeks, it appears a win-win for both sides.
But, as with anything new, it’s rarely as easy as humans think it should be right out of the gate.
The vendor’s enthusiasm for quicker payments in tow (who wouldn’t be thrilled for such a blessing?) turns to confusion as invoice deadlines approach. A few days for wiggle room with a new system feels like a good idea; a few days turn into a week. The vendor experiences an influx of emotions because the anticipated efficiencies of the new payment platform aren’t manifesting. The vendor’s desire to problem solve with the client feels overwhelming; there’s already a long list of “to-do” items for the day.
The very moment the vendor notices emotions beginning to creep in is the ideal time to choose to pause + recognize a choice exists: allow emotions to drive actions or allow actions to drive emotions. Pausing also helps the vendor acknowledge the potential hidden costs associated with operating on auto-pilot (mindlessness) vs. EQ (mindfulness).
It would’ve been easy for the vendor to get caught up in his/her inner voice that doesn’t serve any human well. It’s the voice that shows up as a result of fear welling up within humans + often grows more prevalent the instant something goes awry. In this case, it could’ve manifested in the form of doubt - doubt about the decision to change payment methods, the effectiveness of the chosen payment platform + the client. Doubt often sounds like this within the brain:
- “What was I thinking when I suggested changing the payment process?
- Why on earth did I think this payment platform was reliable?
- I can’t believe the client would let this happen. Doesn’t he/she realize how important cash flow is to a business?”
How many of us have these conversations with ourselves frequently throughout the workday? That inner dialogue does nothing for us. Rather, it inhibits us from “kicking into gear” our ability to creatively + inventively solve problems in ways that align with our inner values.
The impact + power of choice
Because the vendor chooses to identify the positive in this particular situation, he/she didn’t see “an issue” arising. Instead, he/she sees the chance to be smarter with emotions + mindful of their impact. As blessings would have it, the client shares similar views.
Luckily, the vendor had learned two crucial skills prior to this situation: 1) his/her breath is his/her steering wheel 2) the need to quiet one’s inner voice to focus on what’s transpiring in the moment - not the previous moment or the moment that’s about to happen. Both skills are essential to ‘showing up’ mindfully + with some level of EQ savvy. Once humans begin to understand the impact of emotions on ourselves + others, we free to ourselves to choose our responses to surrounding circumstances rather than react to them.
When it came time for the potentially stressful + emotionally charged conversation, the vendor closes his/her eyes + takes some deep breaths before dialing the phone. The client’s pleasant demeanor remains upbeat as the two humans exchange greetings + questions, taking a genuine interest in one another. The vendor makes sure to express gratitude for the client’s efforts to transition to a different payment approach + asks if he/she had time for some humor related to the transition. Pairing humor with an awkward + difficult topic creates unexpected interpretations. Long before humans could talk, laughter was known as a safe, early social signal to form human bonds.
This phone conversation is an example of what happens when one human chooses to ‘show up’ calmly, ‘step in’ with a desire to find humor in the situation + ‘commit’ to the process instead of the outcome. Because the vendor chooses to see the situation from an enlightened perspective (vs. from a perspective laden with negative emotions) it leads the client to be more generous with his/her time. It also creates somewhat of an unwritten code of conduct whereby the client embraces calmness + humor as well.
I encourage you to pause momentarily + think about a similar scenario you’ve experienced in the workplace. Did it go smoothly as this example?
Creating conversation flow + the result of an EQ savvy conversation
Making a conscious effort to keep emotions in check is key to the conversation’s flow. Additionally, the vendor chooses to:
- Stay out of the weeds (by squelching the inner voice attempting to distract + create fear about all the possible negative outcomes - which rarely ever come true)
- Breathe deeply (research proves that our emotional states + how we think + interact with the world can be altered by changing our breathing patterns)
- Believe in the client + both humans’ ability to co-create a solution
- Trust that the client shared the desire for a timely resolution
In less than 10 minutes, the vendor + the client wrapped up their conversation with laughter, a reflection of their learning + clarity about the actions each of them was responsible for to keep moving forward. By midday, the vendor is overflowing with gratitude when he/she notices the arrival of funds from the client. In fact, the client even went a step further. He/she took the initiative to pay another invoice ahead of the deadline. As a result, two payments were received within a short period of time. What a blessing!
Later the same day, the vendor calls the client to express gratitude + appreciation for his/her efforts. The client shares that receiving this second phone call was the best part of his/her day. He/she is grateful to be working with someone who made the time to share positive + uplifting news.
Applying ‘show up’, ‘step in’ + ‘commit’
Daily life - be it at work or home - is full of potentially sticky situations. In this example, it’s clear both humans gave conscious thought to how they wanted to ‘show up’ during the phone call. This was evidenced by the fact that at no time was either human defensive with voice tone or word choice.
Both humans also made the choice to ‘step in’ by agreeing to approach the opportunity with curiosity + a heart for learning. Both enacted habit five of Stephen Covey's renowned The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by seeking first to understand, then to be understood. What each human had to say was valued which was illustrated by the calm + emotionally regulated demeanor throughout the interaction.
Lastly, both humans exhibited their commitment to ‘being’ a certain way by working to co-create an outcome that served both parties well.
Questions to ponder:
- What would the outcome have looked + felt like had both parties not chosen the path of emotional regulation?
- What if the vendor’s approach was strictly solution focused rather than relationship focused?
- How would approaching the opportunity with doubt impacted the conversation?
- What relationship damage could’ve transpired had the vendor allowed fear, rather than belief + trust in the other human, to drive the situation?