HALT or you may regret the outcome

About half way through a session with senior leaders on how emotional intelligence impacts the work place, I had to admit that the prior day I failed miserably at it myself. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control your own emotions, while being able to empathize and work with others and their emotional state.

The discussion traveled toward finding ways to slow the world down, and understand your own emotional situation. We talked about identifying certain negative emotional triggers, or those events, people, or activities that can hijack you and cause you to react instead of respond to those around you.

One leader spoke up about a technique that served them well during their career. This technique was a simple way that a mentor encouraged them to think about their emotional state, before the term emotional intelligence was in the mainstream.

One simple word: HALT

HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. When you feel yourself getting emotionally charged, you are supposed to stop (the word HALT helps you remember that part) and ask yourself if any of these attributes are true.

Am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I lonely? Am I tired?

These four states are not exclusive and more than one can be true at the same time. The mentor compared these four to an engine: one with four cylinders. If all four are in a good state, the engine (our emotional state) runs smooth and without issues. If one cylinder becomes disabled, the engine starts to run pretty rough, but it may still get us there. If two or more are disabled, it is time to shut the car off and seek help.

For me, about two and a half cylinders were disabled at the time when I interacted with a few people in my circle. I was angry (my primary emotion), tired, and little lonely. The HALT approach would have helped me identify some of the primary causes of the hijacked emotional state. My emotional glass was cloudy, and it spilled out on those around me.

Of the four parts of HALT, lonely was the one state that at first felt strange to consider until I unpacked it a little. It is easy for me to identify when I am hungry, angry or even tired. Identifying the lonely that proved most valuable. Most days I am surrounded by people, but do not have time to connect deeply. Connecting with others becomes even harder as I pack more and more events into work and life, but the lonely remains.

HALT helped me as an “after-the-fact” diagnosis of what happened, and the new goal is to use it prior or during the next stressful event.  I hope it provides you with some insight into your world and your relationships.

After apologizing and trying to own my emotional state, I went and had breakfast with a close friend. With the lonely cylinder repaired, the engine is beginning to run smoothly again.

2 thoughts on “HALT or you may regret the outcome

  1. I needed this today. I needed to read it now, this morning, before engaging with people face to face. It gave me the ability to prepare for the fact that I am running on almost no cylinders BEFORE interacting with anyone. So I have taken care of hungry, I have done some reading that has calmed my anger and I connected, just enough, with someone to fill my heart a little. Thanks for this. I am sure everyone in my office will appreciate it too, even if they never know they need to!

    1. So glad it helped! This may be one I have to read and re-read periodically.


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