Emotional Baggage Check

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(Image courtesy of Pixabay.com)

A few of us were talking about how to best prepare for an upcoming event.

You know the type of event: the one with lots of people getting together, both family and friends.

As fun as these events can be, stress and other pressures seem to also arrive whenever lot of people gather in one place.

Half joking, we developed a plan.

“What if we created an emotional baggage check. You know, when people arrive, we could have them check their emotional baggage at the door.”

We all laughed, but then it hit us. What if we really did this? What if this emotional baggage check worked?

How could it work?

  1. When you arrive at the event, you are given a card, and numbered envelope, and a pen.
  2. You write down on the card any difficult or hard emotions that you are carrying into the event.
  3. You place the card in the envelope and exchange it for a corresponding numbered ticket.
  4. You attend the event emotional baggage free.
  5. When the event ends, you have the choice of claiming your emotional baggage, or leaving it behind. (Any envelopes left behind are burned and buried.)
  6. Repeat steps one through three as many times as needed.

We are emotional creatures. Those emotions sometimes disrupt events and relationships, even when we try to keep these emotions to ourselves.

Instead of keeping those emotions bottled up, perhaps the physical act of writing down and checking the emotional baggage is enough to give us a needed break from those challenging or difficult emotions.

And who knows? Once we experience events without those emotional responses, it may feel good enough that we won’t pick them back up.

Conversations and How to Have Them

Together we discussed friendship, which was one of my favorite experiences. But recently I have noticed that friendship (or relationships in general) are built and fueled by conversations.

Over the past few months I have been observing conversations.

But conversations are weird.

Some are like duels.

Some are like speeches.

Some are veiled.

Some are superficial.

Only a few are deep and memorable.

I recently shared some of these conversation observations with a class. Not just any class, but the last class of the year. This particular class has become a yearly tradition and it isn’t lost on me that the final chapter of the year (right before the Holiday Season) is a class on Emotional Intelligence.

Before I shared, I asked.

“What does it take to have a good conversation?”

The answers came.

“Listening. Letting other people speak. Making eye contact. Not being distracted. Not looking at your phone. Asking questions.”

Great answers. Great advice.

It was the last one that really resonated with me. It is what I have been observing.

Asking questions.

You need all of the first things, but it is the last part that may make the real difference.

Asking questions.

Demonstrates that you are interested in others and not just about yourself. (I have a friend who has made extreme strides in this area, and jokes about how they used to be as a reminder. During a conversation they will jump in with “Enough about me, now I want to hear what you think about me.”

Asking questions.

Questions help you to learn about others.

My assignment to this class was to spend the Holiday Season practicing having conversations. This practice starts with asking questions. It may be helpful to try out a few of these questions over your Holiday Season as well.

  1. How are you? (And listen to the reply. Wait for a reply beyond “I’m good” or “Fine” and maybe ask a second time. Really, how are you?
  2. What is going well?
  3. What are you most excited for in 2017?
  4. What are three things that you would most like to accomplish in the next year?
  5. What is the last book you read?
  6. How are you balancing your multiple roles?
  7. Can you tell me a little more about what you do? What most excites you about what you do?

And the list goes on.

Be careful about asking a question, then jumping in with your own answers to each of these questions. Remember my friend’s quote, this is about them, not you.

Asking questions.

Go try it out and let us know how it goes.

P.S. Sometimes conversations drift towards things that are not as important (Politics, Sports, the Weather) and I have a fun trigger phrase with a few friends when we drift off. Whenever one of us dwells too much on the latest game stats or news story, one of us remembers to say, “Are you Sad?” (Because we must be avoiding real conversation out of sadness…) We all chuckle and get back to focusing on things that matter most.

The Attempted Compliment

Sometimes we become hardened towards those around us, even our customers.

Prior interactions, prior conflicts, or prior assumptions cloud our current view.

They complained, they were unhappy, they were…[insert specifics here].

Now we see them and the world through a tainted lens.

I heard a story the other day.

A customer complained. They needed some assistance. They needed something corrected.

A small team was mobilized to respond.

This team was on-site to solve the issue.

The customer approached this team at the end.

The customer began to speak.

The team responded first.

“Are you here to complain again, about something else?”

But, the customer was not there to complain.

The customer was attempting to compliment the response, the team, and the work.

The attempted compliment was shut down before it could happen.

Hardness had set in.

Where have we become hardened?

Where have we missed the attempted compliments?

Take a moment today and think about what you are holding onto, and against others (including your customers), that may be getting in the way of what they deserve.

The Forgiveness Receipt

Forgiveness Receipt

We do something wrong. There is a transaction that needs to occur.

We need to apologize. We need to say we are sorry and ask for forgiveness.

A real apology:

Not a

“I am sorry if I [offended, hurt, misunderstood, overreacted…]

But more of a

“I am sorry for [offending, hurting, misunderstanding, overreacting…]

I read recently that how we respond during this transaction is important. Instead of saying “that is okay” which implies that what occurred was acceptable, the article encouraged people to complete the transaction with “I accept your apology” or if you are able “I forgive you.”

A helpful idea ran through my mind: The Forgiveness Receipt.

The Forgiveness Receipt would be proof of the transaction.

The Forgiveness Receipt could serve two purposes.

Purpose One: A reminder for the person that needed to ask for forgiveness. I recently noticed that I tend to apologize more than once, as if the first one didn’t take. The person I kept apologizing to kindly reminded me that we had already transacted this apology, and I didn’t need to keep revisiting the issue. The issue is gone, and The Forgiveness Receipt would be a great reminder, especially when I am feeling a little insecure.

Purpose Two: A reminder for the person that forgave. I also noticed that I tend to revisit old offenses, long after the transaction. The Forgiveness Receipt would serve to remind me that the I forgave, and can no longer hold that offense against the other person.

Until I can find a receipt book worthy of this task, The Forgiveness Receipt will be more of a mental note. Or maybe this T-Shirt would serve as a better reminder.

Be sure to ask about your receipt.

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Perspective

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Ironically I got to speak to a group on emotional intelligence a week before the holidays. We joked about how the class was a perfect place to learn and practice before we interacted with our families and friends at various celebrations.

Stress can run high during this season, and sometimes we need Perspective.

I found that Perspective in a post called The Tail End on one of my new favorite sites WaitButWhy.com that demonstrates visually a life time of events. Super Bowls left to watch, dumplings left to eat, visits to Fenway Park remaining…

What brought the most perspective was the remaining time the author projects he has remaining with his parents (5% remaining) and his siblings (15% remaining).

Perspective is when you suddenly realize that there may only be 15 or 20 more holidays together if you are lucky.

Perspective is when you remember that there are no more holidays with others.

Perspective is when you just want a little more time.

I did my own calculations with some people close to me and I realized that between holidays, and birthdays, and the 3 to 4 other times we hang out per year, I may only have 60 more times to connect with them.

That is it, 60 more days.

When someone is diagnosed with something critical, we tend to rally, connect, and spend more time in those remaining days. The small things fade away, as we try to savor those last moments that remain.

Ordinary time has a funny way of pretending to be in unlimited supply.

Perspective reminds us to not be fooled by time’s pretending.

 

 

 

Homework, Frustration, and Emotional Intelligence

Homework

While having lunch the other day with a friend, the conversation moved from simply catching up on the details of our lives to deeper places. We started to talk about emotional intelligence and the role it plays in our success.

To provide an example, I shared a story.

A few years ago, while trying to help one of our daughters with her homework, I got upset. The helping, the explanations, and the examples were not gaining traction. In fact, it seemed to make things worse. My emotional glass got cloudy.

I have already admitted to having Emotional Rickets when it comes to emotional intelligence. Of the five hierarchical steps by Daniel Goleman, the first two always help me unpack issues that I may be having.

Step 1, Self-Awareness

Step 2, Self-Regulation

If I am having a problem with Self-Regulation (getting upset), I go back down a Step to Self Awareness and try to figure out what is happening.

What is the negative emotional trigger? What else may be going on inside?

“Why is helping with her homework causing you to get upset?”

“I don’t know, maybe because I want her to succeed.”

“Ok, that is one possibility, but helping her succeed shouldn’t cause you to be angry. What else is happening, what are you afraid of?”

“I am afraid that she won’t do well, that she won’t get into college, that this time was somehow wasted.”

“Keep going.”

“I am afraid that this means that I have not helped or prepared her enough. That her failing is a reflection of me. That I am not a good Dad.”

There it was: the real issue. Fear of failing as a Dad.

I was trying to Self-Regulate an emotional state around homework that was really about something else. By going back a step, by finding greater Self-Awareness, the Self-Regulation becomes easier.

It was never about the homework. In fact, the inability to Self-Regulate was actually contributing to that fear becoming a reality.

Thankfully, she still lets me help with homework. (After some serious apologizing and a few tears.) Those feelings or fears still exist, but the ability to regulate the emotions in the moment have become much easier.

The next time you find yourself getting upset about homework or having trouble with Self-Regulation when [insert your specific story here] try this simple process.

Take a step back, ask yourself the hard questions.

What is really happening? What are you afraid of?