I talked with a former colleague and friend last week about someone at her new workplace who sends passive-aggressive e-mails (slightly snarky, but written so the person could deny that snark was intended). The conversation began around whether to have a conversation with the person or ignore it. We discussed my friend’s intent around building a positive relationship and how whether to have a difficult conversation is impacted by the expectation of long-term vs. short term partnership as well as how a negative relationship will impact the project on which they are jointly working. And then we got to the main point:
It’s pretty predictable, that when passive-aggressive people are confronted, they will either go with passive (“You read my e-mail all wrong! I completely support your direction.”) or aggressive (“I wouldn’t have been that way if you weren’t such a horrible leader.”) Some might feel a rush of irritation or defensiveness with this lack of straight talk. But high performers don’t let the emotion take over. You don’t have to accept a “losing” position, but also don’t have to sink to “I will take you down.” You have the power to control what you say, how you say it, and how you behave. (And especially what you Tweet.)
I have been heavily influenced, personally and professionally, by two books that focus on Emotional Intelligence: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.
According to Bradberry’s blog on the topic, TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and they found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.
There is excellent advice in both of the aforementioned books on HOW to manage emotions, below are my top five:
- Remember how your parents told to you “count to 10?” The best way to stay calm is to create a literal space between something happening and how you respond.
- It’s very difficult to be effective if you are physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually spent. You’ve heard it before, but high performance relies on eating well, sleeping enough, calming your mind, building in periods of rest, and reminding yourself about who you want to be and the legacy you would like to leave.
- Assuming you are a person of integrity, express your intent, don’t assume that other people know it. For example, “I want us to have a good working relationship, both because it’s better for the project and because it is more enjoyable for us as we work together every day.”
- Stay positive. Not unrealistic, but positive. The most important career skill (life skill) is the ability to say, “Based on where I am (including all constraints), what can I influence?” You can’t always control the circumstances, but you can always control how you react to them.
- Ask for help. My former colleague is very intelligent, both intellectually and emotionally. I was able to reframe the situation because I wasn’t emotionally invested in the situation or the outcome. It not only helps the situation at hand to ask others for help, but strengthens the relationship.