TED Talk – Jessica Woods: How to avoid catching prickly emotions from other people

Have the actions or emotions of another person ever drug you down like an anchor? Or, have you ever built up expectations in your mind only to witness the event go in the opposite direction? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, we think you’ll find our target piece this month both insightful and helpful.

As human (feeling) beings, we are quick to pick up on the emotions of others; both good and bad. When our beliefs lie in contrast to the prevailing dynamic, it can be hard to pivot or prevent those emotions from penetrating us. Suffice it to say, most, unfortunately, cannot. The influence is too strong and before you know it, you are fully consumed.

Such situations can present themselves in the form of a toxic boss or a low-performing team. The forces needed to combat adversity or overcome negativity simply aren’t present. As a result, you fall victim to the poison your boss is spreading or you share in your team’s pessimism.

TED Talk speaker, Jessica Woods, coaches her clients on how to better regulate their emotions without letting them impact performance. She offers insight into how and from where emotions originate. Furthermore, she provides different strategies for regulating emotion so that the actions of others don’t dictate our own.

Strong emotions can surface on the heels of assumption. Simple events or scenarios can quickly be perceived as pre-mediated, ulterior-motivated acts which prompt us to respond hastily or harshly. Woods encourages us not to pass judgment on others or situations, but rather to reassess and reframe. Once we’ve paused, processed, and gathered much-needed information, we put ourselves in a better position to act.

Part of becoming emotionally intelligent is being self-aware. However, a larger component of EI success is self-management. While we can learn about ourselves with relative ease and limited barriers, the outside world and those with whom we interact are always changing. Stimuli can come in many different forms. Knowing ourselves is helpful, but knowing how to manage our emotions despite these external factors can go a long way towards ensuring consistency in performance.

This insight can create a powerful opportunity for leaders. Just as negative emotions can impact performance, so, too, can positive emotions. Woods uses the analogy of the sports team who is behind late in the game. A team captain can help his/her teammates stay positive and resilient in the face of adversity. Conversely, the words or actions of just one teammate who has chosen to give up can also be contagious and can steer the team towards defeat.

The old adage tells us that we can’t change people, only how we respond to them. Woods shows us that our responses don’t have to mimic the emotions or actions we see in others. We can pause. Instead of judging a few words or a single act, we can look at the entire situation. We can fill in gaps through curiosity, not assumption. In the end, we may just be able to improve not only our interactions, but our relationships, our performance, and possibly even our quality of life as well.

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