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?

The Two Teams

The Two Teams

When working with teams about their collective behavioral styles, I have noticed that in the long run there are only Two Teams. As I check in with various teams’ progress at certain intervals the Two Teams have two distinct results.

Team One is doing well. Team Two is actually worse than before.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.

Team One is communicating differently, achieving results, and having less conflict.

Team Two is communicating differently, not achieving results, and having more conflict.

What separates these Two Teams?

Why does Team One prosper and Team Two decline?

The answer was simple. After a series of meetings, calls, and follow-up visits a pattern developed. I took notes of each group but the difference became clear.

Team One Pattern

After the initial session, each member of Team One reflected on their own primary style. They made a list of what worked for them as a member of Team One. They made a second list of what didn’t work or needed modification in order for them to be a better member of Team One. Over the next few months each Team One member worked on what didn’t work and tried to leverage what did work.

Team Two Pattern

After the initial session, each member of Team Two reflected on their primary style. They made a list of what worked for them as a member of Team Two. They made a second list of what didn’t work or needed modification in order for others to be a better member of Team Two. Over the next few months each Team Two member worked on trying to get others to change their behaviors and style and did not focus on how they could change.

Will you focus on how you can improve to make the team better?

OR

Will you make a list of how much better things will be when other people change?

The choice is simple when you realize there are only Two Teams.

I Will Be There Someday

long-stairs-225x300

(Image Courtesy of Angryjogger.com)

Coaching someone is an interesting adventure. You are trying to help someone develop themselves, establish and accomplish their goals, and encourage them when the journey becomes difficult. A typical coaching session includes checking in and checking up on any progress since the last session.

Progress can be slow.

Progress can be hard.

Progress is about making a repeated effort, over and over again.

Having someone else check in with you can be helpful.

Having someone else check in with you can be frustrating.

Sometimes there is great progress.  Sometimes progress is slow. Sometimes obstacles get in the way. When checking in, you can sense when progress has been slow by the tension during the meeting. There is a quiet hesitation as you begin to ask questions.

When frustration builds, answers sort of blurt out.

“I will be there someday…”

Those words told a story. A story of frustration at how steep the journey had become. A story where each subsequent step was harder than the last. A story that felt endless when trying to envision the top of those stairs when standing at the bottom.

Those words told another story. A story with a little hope. A story that needed to rest between steps. A story that needed to remember to occasionally look back, and see that each step was one step closer to the top. A story that despite the hardship, still believed that “I will be there someday.”

Where has your journey become steep? Where has the progress slowed or stopped?

Maybe today is a good day to remind yourself to take that next step, and remember that YOU will be there someday.

 

I Stink at Positivity

When you listen to people, you can hear the funniest things. We were connecting with a friend the other night and were talking about being positive.

“I stink at positivity!” They blurted out.

We all laughed.

For the remainder of our time together I kept coming back to that statement. I haven’t been able to shake it.

Our words reveal so much about us.

We can be so hard on ourselves.

Our words can create self-imposed limits.

We stop pushing against and become defined by those limits.

Spend the next few days listening to your own words, and those around you. Listen especially for the “I am” statements. Once you understand the landscape, maybe a similar approach can be used to reverse the trend.

Instead of limits, we could speak of possibilities.

“My positivity can be better, and I am making progress.”

This conversation reminded me of another recent interaction I had with someone who runs. I kept hearing the same statement over and over.

“I am not a runner.”

When I pressed further, I realized that this person ran about five races last summer. They trained hard, but past self-limits had convinced them that they were not a runner. They had convinced themselves that “a runner” was a specific kind of person who was better, faster, and thinner than they were.

We talked about how contrary this self limit was in the face of the evidence.

Running Shoes: Check.

Running regularly: Check. (But the internal voice kept telling them it wasn’t enough.)

Running outfits: Check.

Running five races: Check.

The evidence was clear: and it added up to a runner.  However, the self-limiting narrative remained. It took few tries, but eventually they were able to articulate the change.

“I am a runner.”

Without these self-imposed limits…we may just Change the World.

Iodine on Eczema

vintage_iodine_bottles

(Image Courtesy of http://www.misopocky.com)

A few weeks back, I was asked for some advice about how to address the media about a recent story where a news outlet really got the story wrong. The reporter got a hold of some facts, but out of context the story unfolded in a negative light.

The person was prepared to unload on the reporter based on some advice, and “set the record straight.” While we talked, we discussed the possible outcomes and various questions.

Would this approach improve the situation? Would the reporter write a better story as a result? Would this escalate or calm the negativity?

As the conversation progressed, they shared a story with me.

When their child was young, they came home with something that looked like ringworm on their arm. Based on some advice, they immediately applied iodine to the area (look it up kids, this was our parents cure for a lot, especially minor cuts: we think it was the sting that they liked the best).

The area worsened, and became more inflamed. More iodine was applied and the cycle continued.

Eventually, they sought additional advice from a doctor.

“What you have here is a case of eczema.”

“So it is not ringworm?”

“No, and that iodine is just making it worse.”

While we spoke again about the reporter and the story, the question became an easy one: Is this going to be like putting Iodine on Eczema?

The answer was simple: Yes.

Instead of an aggressive approach, they decided to put the facts together like a story. A story that wove in the reasons and the successes associated with those original facts. Instead of just sending it along, they called the reporter and asked for a meeting.

A few days later, I received an email with a link to the new news story. It was positive and even the headline made reference to the earlier article being like comparing apples with oranges.

I had to ask myself, when have I put Iodine on Eczema? When would a little healing salve made things so much better for my situation, my work, my story, or my relationships?

The Relationship Reset Button

Reset Button

(Image Courtesy of Acceleraction.com)

So often in relationships, whether at home or work, with family or friends or loved ones, the past can overly shape the present.

You had a disagreement with that person. Now every interaction is awkward.

You lost your cool. Now others walk on eggshells around you.

You used to be fascinated by someone’s uniqueness. Now these issues only seem to cause you frustration.

You overly questioned someone’s work. Now they feel that you don’t trust them.

While working with a small group, we noticed this pattern and discussed how it impacts their ability to work together. The more I reflected, the more I noticed this pattern in my own circles.

The past interactions do not disappear, they build on each other to form a strange and often distorted view of others. I read recently that our memories can deceive us. Our memories exist, but each time we access them again they can change and the newer version of the story replaces the old memory.

I thought about how this can impact our relationships. Perhaps this is why it is so hard not to feel like a little kid around your parents. Maybe this is why people in more close relationships are heard complaining about the other one (many times in front of that person). This may be why it is so hard to rebuild a relationship at work that has gone south.

Those memories keep building and changing in a way that reinforces the negative issues.

What we could use is the Relationship Reset Button. This handy device would be available to any two people or a small group where all parties decide to let go of those past hurts, judgements, or misunderstandings. With a simple press of the button, everything would reset. They would be able to start fresh, start new, and get another chance at their relationship.

Yesterday I worked with this small group again. They pushed the Relationship Reset Button. There was history. There was conflict. There was a past. It wasn’t easy, but they stared over.

They let go, and began to appreciate each other’s differences.

They started to anticipate what the others may need, and started to provide that instead of being frustrated by requests.

They started to see that together they could accomplish so much more.

Along the way, some of the past began to return, but they would get together and remind each other that they had started over. These occasional issues didn’t build a new history, but were seen as lingering shadows that would continue to diminish as their new relationships grew.

Where can you use the Relationship Reset Button? Where has the past overly shaped and distorted some of your best relationships? The new year is about to start, so why not go ahead and press it and see what this year brings?