Have you ever felt “triggered” by something and had no clue why?
Gotten upset or angry and then turned it on yourself for even having those feelings in the first place?
If so, you’re in the right place.
Today we're getting deep on why we feel certain emotions and how we can better understand them to show up better as leaders when we deal with conflict!
Our topic expert of the day is the lovely Tiffany Mast. Tiffany is a Senior Lean Six Sigma Facilitator at a community hospital under Johns Hopkins Medicine. Passionate about the improvement work that she gets to do every day with individuals’ ranging from Environmental Service Cleaners all the way up to the President of her organization.
In addition to being passionate about the improvement culture she gets to create, she is also passionate about emotional intelligence, especially in leadership, as well as from a personal development perspective. Her mission is to help women uncover their blind spots and build new empowered relationships with themselves.
First I asked Tiffany to kick it off by telling us more about “EQ” and what that means?
Tiffany says “EQ” Stands for emotional quotient. Although many people also refer to it as “EI”, standing for emotional intelligence. She goes on to explain-
“Really what it means to be emotionally intelligent is to be aware of your own experience, other people's experiences, and then to be able to manage your experience in a situation in relationship to be able to move through it successfully. There are different areas of emotional intelligence that are out there, the one I am currently focused on is how emotional intelligence shows up in conflict. What I mean by this is- Are people aware of how they're showing up in conflict? And are they aware of how the other people in that same situation are showing up? and then how did they take that information to move through it successfully for all of the people involved?
What kind of impact can that have on a leader, as well as an organization as a whole?
Tiffany brought up a quote that really resonated with her here, She quoted John Maxwell, he once said “I am my greatest leadership challenge”. She explains-
“The reality is people who are leading other people in an organization can't learn how to do that effectively until they have learned how to lead themselves. Part of learning how to lead yourself is gaining more self-awareness and specifically more self-awareness around your blind spots when you're in conflict because a massive chunk of what leaders or anyone in a leadership position have to do is deal with conflict at some level every single day, whether that's with one person or an entire team."
I then asked Tiffany what attributes the EQ tool asseses in us?
“For most of us, how we show up in the present is largely based off of the patterns that are created in our childhood and throughout our lifetime. That pattern, if you think of it in the context of conflict, that triggered pattern is what then creates the lens through which you make sense of the world in general. So you're making sense of the situation and you're creating a narrative in your head at the same time of what's happening to understand how your filtering those various situations of conflict so that you're getting the information out of it from yourself and from the other person. To say ‘okay what is true or what else might be true here and how can we now move through this more successfully’’.
kind of like the iceberg analogy, where you only see what's on top of the surface, Tiffany is working with everything... the whole big part of the iceberg that's down below the surface water.
She continues, “The EQ assessment tool that I'm a certified practitioner in looks at three different areas that are really important that make up emotional intelligence.” She explains that it looks at-
Self-awareness and self-reflection component: Your ability to be aware of your own experience… looking at what are you thinking, feeling, or wanting in the moment of being challenged.
self-regulation: Your ability to manage your own emotions effectively and then also manage your emotions in relationship.
Empathy; Your empathy accuracy, which looks at your ability to tune in to someone else and accurately see what they're experiencing in that moment of conflict, and then there's empathy compassion, which means you have the ability to join this other individual in that moment of conflict in caring anyways and it gives you the ability to stay emotionally connected even when you're challenged.
Tiffany really emphasizes the importance of empathy- “What I see a lot of times that leaders do is in conflict they just get really frustrated with their subordinates or with their peers or with their one up and they'll emotionally disconnect from the situation and usually shut down. I always say ‘okay I'm hearing that you showed up in this situation this way, so can you tell me what outcome you got from that’... typically all that they can share with me as well I just shut down and hear anything else that the person was saying. So when you emotionally disconnect like that it takes away your ability to take in more information from the other person to start to say okay one of my hearing in their language, what am I seeing and how their body is in shifting around, a lot of people forget to look at posture and breathing and all of that and so you're missing a really important vital information in the middle of the conflict to be able to help you assess the situation and again say ‘okay what is something I could say or do right now to acknowledge the other individual so that we can begin to defuse this conflict to start moving forward’”.
(Prefer to listen along? Tune in now to The Beyond Leadership Podcast)
So often we are taught as women in leadership positions to put that emotional barrier up and not to get emotionally involved, especially if we're in conflict.
So I asked Tiffany if she was saying the exact opposite is the right thing to do... that we need to stay emotionally charged in order to see that conflict through to the end to see it to resolution?
“yeah because essentially our feelings are information, not instruction. I think a lot of times people take what they're feeling and they think ooh I'm feeling really angry that means that I should act in a really angry or defensive way. When they feel really sad and they feel like they need to act on that, when really your feelings and emotions have information and a gift, and then you get choice out of that. Part of the tool and part of the debrief process with the tools like going through each of the emotions and what's the information and gift in each. so going back to the anger example again you know the information in anger is ‘I've been violated’ either a belief system or you know somebody's attacking me verbally but the gift and that is learning to set boundaries or get motivation or get direction and so really saying ‘okay what is it and what this person is saying to me that's making me frustrated or irritated or agitated because all those fall under the anger category’ and then really starting to take more accountability for yourself. I think the other pieces a lot of times in conflict you see the blame and the other person and you're not taking the time to say ‘well what is it here in this conflict that I am accountable to, and what is it that's triggering me and why is it triggering me and what is that within myself that I need to address that has nothing to do with this other person.”
So you're saying that being triggered isn't just some millennial generation hashtag, it’s something that actually happens to us specifically when we're in conflict?
“Yes and I think you know a lot of times people put that label on because they're still allowing their emotions to drive their thinking and their behavior. Instead of using their emotions to inform their thinking and their behavior.”
“Being able to say ‘I'm feeling embarrassed here, like what is it in the situation that I'm embarrassed about…’ Asking yourself more questions to understand what's happening for you internally and objectively look at the other person or people, and take in what they're saying. A lot of times you just have to have grace for yourself and for other people as you move through that. One of the number one things that I say to leaders is ‘how can you look at yourself or the situation of these other people through the lens of curiosity and grace instead of frustration, impatience, or whatever might be coming out for them at that moment.”
Can you tell me a little bit about what this EQ tool has done for you, and what has it done for some of the leaders that you've worked with and given the assessment to?
Tiffany often uses an analogy to explain the EQ tool, saying “It’s like when you go to the eye doctor and they're adjusting the phoropter machine and slowly things get fuzzy and then a little more clear and sometimes they get fuzzy again... that's exactly how it feels when you begin to gain more self-awareness. It's like getting to put a new set of glasses on, it might not be quite the right prescription yet but you're learning to see things for how they really are. See colors, clarity, definition. It's also really freaking hard. I had this grandiose idea in my head that taking the tool and then gaining awareness would create ease and so much peace in my life right away, and it has created a lot of ease and peace in my life but there's also this piece of taking accountability for myself and learning to look in the mirror and take the time to ask more questions of me, because if I can't learn to leave myself better how can I expect to lead others.
The other piece is, if you've heard of Victor Frankel's man's search for meaning, the book is really powerful, he talks about how we have a stimulus and our response and as humans were like the only animal that between the stimulus and the response we get a choice. So what working on your self-awareness and growing your emotional intelligence muscles means is that you get so much more robust choice between your stimulus and your response than other people who aren't working on it. It's this beautiful ability, as you continue to grow in practice each day, to find more opportunities for choice that you wouldn’t have otherwise had because you were constantly looking through the hamster wheel of the emotions that were driving your thinking day in and day out. and so now you get to kind of step outside of that hamster wheel and say ‘wait a second… is how I was viewing the world or people or certain situations or myself how I have to continue for the rest of my life or you know are there new ways of thinking and behaving and showing up and just being’.”
If readers want to take this EQ assessment, what does that process look like and how can they get in contact with you to set that up?
“We typically do a twenty or thirty-minute discovery call to make sure that I really understand what the other person is looking for and if that matches up with what I have to offer. Then I'll send out a flyer so you can read more about what the EQ tool means and what it offers, then we set up a time, you take the assessment (The assessment consists of eight different videos that you watch that are created to specifically elicit a response from you) and then as soon as you're done with the assessment (it takes about forty-five minutes) I get your profile right away, and then we set up a time for you to have a ninety-minute debrief. In between that space, one of the pieces that I really love about this tool is it takes a few hours to really go through and read and study someone's profile to understand what their pattern is and on top of that I go back and reference my own EQ profile to see how my profile could potentially impact my ability to debrief that person and make sure that I avoid touching on those areas that would cause me to not be as objective as I could be. This is really great because we all show up with the lense that we have and the ability to go back and reference my profile over my clients means I can remind myself of my own emotional blind spots so when they're talking about ‘X, Y, Z’ things that could potentially trigger your pattern be aware of that and then set that off to the side so that you can truly show up for that person.”
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