The 4 C’s of Emotional Intelligence

Whether we’re presenting on-camera or in-person, building work relationships or supervising a team, being able to manage emotions skillfully is always beneficial. Over the last two decades, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has a demonstrated track record and can be a predictor for life success and professional and personal relationships. If we are able to identify our own emotions as we experience them and then moderate them for improved outcomes, we often experience more productive results.

After studying emotional intelligence over the years, I’ve categorized self-management tips for Emotional Intelligence into what I call the 4 C’s. They include the following:  Catch it; Control it; Calm it; and Clear it. Let’s briefly explore each one.

Catch It – the First “C”

When you first feel that potentially, all-consuming negative emotion beginning to surge, one of most important self-aware techniques is to Catch It in the act.  This means simply to be an observer and watch the emotion begin to surge within you. While simply observing and catching it, you are no longer identified with that emotion as you, and therefore, less likely to allow that emotion to rule over your subsequent actions and words toward others. For example, if you need to present on-camera and you begin feeling the angst of worry and anxiety beginning to surge through your body, turn your attention inward and notice what is happening. Identify the emotion you are experiencing to aid your understanding. The other aspect of this piece is watching your internal dialogue and the thoughts you are thinking, and consequently, feeding to yourself. If your train of inner thoughts is repetitively negative, negative emotions will emerge–as negative thinking breeds negative emotions. Likewise, positive thoughts breed positive emotions. Keep apprised of what your inner dialogue is telling you, and remember they are just thoughts and do not have to be heeded.

Control It – the Second “C”

The second “C” is Control, and this is where you begin to manage your emotions. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Once we’ve identified the emotion we’re experiencing in the moment, we can begin the intervention process. Sometimes this requires several techniques for mediating emotions. Overall, we want to avoid “emotional hijacking” which is where the emotional center takes over and resources are diverted from the rational part of our brains. In prehistoric times, emotional hijacking was critical to survival as there was often not time to think, and fight or flight responses were vital. However, in work situations or presentation situations today, this response can yield unproductive outcomes and often what results (either in words or actions) is later regretted. One point of intervention is to re-frame the situation by cutting others slack in your inner dialogue. For example, you might extend compassion and remind yourself that “maybe they’re having a bad day.” This re-frame can change your inner response and ultimately, the reactive emotion in you as well. Additionally, keep an eye on your physiological responses. For example, if you don’t think you’re nervous before giving a presentation to a large audience, yet you notice your hands sweating or butterflies in your stomach, these are signs that your body is responding with symptoms of anxiety. To intervene, direct your focus toward the audience, not yourself. Remind yourself that you are there to ensure the audience learns from the content and you will do your best to help them glean the most from your message. This helps direct focus off you and/or the lack of control or predictability you may feel in this circumstance.

Calm It – the Third “C”

To begin taking measures to mediate highly emotional situations, use the third “C” Calm. Beginning to calm yourself early in the onset is critical. Because once the stress chemicals have been released, it can take awhile for our system to regain balance again until after they’ve run their course. So as early as you are able, begin to do deep breathing or breathing exercises. According to Janet Zadina’s book, Multiple Pathways to the Student Brain, when the brain determines that all is safe, the body responds by breathing slowly and deeply. However, this feedback system also works in the feed-forward direction. Therefore, when our bodies initiate breathing that is slow and deep, our brain will perceive the message that all is well and begin to calm. Obviously, there are many different relaxation techniques available and you can experiment to see what works best for you. Meditation, exercise, and yoga are others you might consider. I once had a public speaking student who would sit on the floor and stretch before she began delivering her presentation, that was a way that helped her calm herself before speaking.

Clear It – the Fourth “C”

The last “C” has to do with clearing your thinking, so you can leverage both your potential for creative solutions and skilled problem solving. When we are consumed with high emotions, this is not the best time to make decisions. Finding that space of stillness in your inner thoughts can help you regain your bearings. This is similar to the conscious space you experience when you first wake up in the morning, but you haven’t yet remembered your to do list or what your problems are again. Focusing on deep breathing or walks in nature can help clear you thinking so that you can begin to regain physiological and mental balance. This way you can use both the rational and emotional areas of your brain to make balanced, better decisions, and you need both these centers of the brain to do so.

Hopefully, these 4 Cs will help you mediate your emotions to yield more productive outcomes. Although it may feel like you’re swimming upstream at first, eventually, you can wire new emotional behaviors and responses that can bring lasting change.