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What's the Story?

His company restructured.  His job duties stayed the same.  His salary didn’t change.  He started reporting to a different person and one of the people who reported to him started reporting to someone else.  That was how the re-structure impacted him.  He was embarrassed.  He felt demoted.  He wasn’t sure if he could stay anymore.  

What just happened here?  Anybody have an idea?  He saw something that wasn’t there.  He misunderstood the purpose of the restructuring.  In his mind, it became a commentary on his ability rather than a shift to a more efficient design.  

How many times have we “seen” something that isn’t really there?  First, there is an incident.  (The corporate restructure is announced or your mother-in-law . . . )  Next comes an emotion.  (My reaction to the corporate restructure or my mil).  My behavior follows my emotion. (I storm into the bosses office and huff and puff or yell at mil).  There is one huge and important piece of the formula that is left out.  

Incident -> Emotion -> Behavior is not the entire story!

In a nano second between the incident and the emotion, I’ve told myself a story.  The employee told himself that the leadership didn’t think he was good enough.  Or you told yourself your mother-in-law was out to get you. It happens in a flash and it doesn’t have to be the truth.  It’s just the story we tell ourselves and, for the most part, we operate unaware of the story. 

Think about a time your behavior came from an emotional place.  What was the story you told yourself?  My spouse doesn’t love me.  My child hates me.  My boss thinks I’m stupid.  The clerk thinks I don’t know what I’m doing.  The neighbor just doesn’t care about us.  What’s the story?

It seems preposterous but we react to some story we made up in our mind.  When emotions run high, it’s our responsibility to uncover the story we’re telling ourselves.  New York Times bestselling author and law firm founder, Bob Goff has a great way to fight this tendency in his life.  He chooses to go with the best possible explanation.  What is the best possible explanation for this?  Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?  That changes the story immediately which impacts the emotion resulting in a different outcome.



How Fit Are You?

Emotionally Fit, I mean.  I was just chatting with a friend who was admitting she’d had a melt down last night.  Her emotions took over and she expressed herself poorly which led to more confusion and general relationship disaster.  A handful of things went awry:  

  • She was unaware of how her own actions/expression affected the other person.  
  • She was unable to maturely reveal her emotions and exercise restraint.
  • She lacked the compassion and understanding of human nature that allowed her to connect.
  • She was unable to trust quickly.
  • She was not resilient when she encountered this disappointing situation.

Thankfully, she was able to see all that in the aftermath.  


What would it take for us to get ahead of the meltdowns?  Emotionally savvy people successfully manage difficult situations; express themselves clearly; gain respect of others; recognize when they are reacting rather than responding; motivate themselves.  

Now that we are full on in December, typically an emotionally charged month, wouldn’t you like to be emotionally savvy?  It could save you so much emotional drain!  

The first thing for us to remember, and maybe the absolute hardest, is

emotions are not something that are done to us

W H A T??  I thought he made me mad.  No, it turns out that you chose to be mad or sad or happy.  And what we choose over and over again becomes automatic for us.  It may feel like those emotions are out of our control but think about the last time you were yelling at your teenager who had just done something idiotic and your phone started ringing.  When you answered the phone did you have the same intense, fiery anger and shout your greeting to the friend on the other end?  Probably not.  So you can control it!

Another positive step toward increasing your emotional fitness or intelligence or eSavvy is to

identify what you’re really feeling

If you’re not used to paying attention to your emotions this will be challenging.  What do you really feel?  Yes, you’re lashing out or turning inward but can you name the emotion.  Dig a little deeper.  Maybe you can identify that you are feeling sad.  Is it sadness or loneliness?  Are you feeling separation or isolation?  Take some time to learn something about yourself here.

After you’ve given yourself some time to uncover and tune into the true emotion,

re-direct yourself with a handful of questions:


  • What do I want to feel? (Surprisingly, you may discover you want to feel angry or sad.  That leads to thinking through — why?  What do you gain from that?)
  • What would I have to believe to feel the way I want to?  (It’s highly likely that you are believing a lie about yourself, the other person or the situation.  What would happen if you just assumed the best plausible explanation?)
  • What am I willing to do, say, create in order to bring change right now? (There is some sacrifice involved in making change. What will you risk?)

If we were teaching emotional fitness to a child, we’d say something like be the boss of your feelings.
Wading through the massive amount of information about emotional intelligence or fitness or, in our case, eSavvy, can be overwhelming.  So for December just start with remembering: 1) emotions are not done to you, 2) identify what you are feeling, and 3) re-direct your emotion by wrestling with some well chosen questions.

Pick one of these traits —  self-awareness, self-regulation, and self motivation — and comment below.  What would it take for you to develop more of that trait in you?