How Emotionally Intelligent People Use the ‘Emotional Postmortem’ to Control Their Emotions and Improve Their Relationships

PG thought this item might be useful for character-building.

From Inc.:

“Oh, boy. This time I messed up.”

That’s what I was thinking when some years ago, I let my emotions get the best of me. I believed a colleague had stolen something of mine. Not literally; I thought he stole an idea. At least, that’s how I felt.

I knew the way I should handle it. I knew I should approach him calmly, state my concern without any type of accusation, and give him the chance to explain the situation.

But that’s not what I did.

Instead, I went in like a ticking time bomb, asking emotionally charged questions before …

I went off.

In the end, it turned out to be a huge misunderstanding. I felt horrible, because the colleague was a nice guy, and up until that moment we had a pretty good relationship. Of course, I apologized profusely, and he said it was OK and we’d consider it water under the bridge.

But to this day, every time I think of that moment, I cringe.

If you’ve ever had a moment like this one, maybe you can relate. In emotional intelligence terms, we refer to this as an emotional hijack.

In an emotional hijack, a small part of your brain known as the amygdala, which serves as a type of emotional processor, “hijacks” your brain and causes you to react without thinking. In my case, some built-up tension and various other factors caused me to see a situation unclearly, jump to conclusions, and hurl harsh accusations at a colleague.

It’d be great if we could identify the circumstances that lead up to emotional hijacks before they happen, but that’s not usually how it works. But learning to analyze an emotional hijack after it happens can be almost as valuable.

I like to call this process the “emotional postmortem.”

Just like a medical or project postmortem, the goal of an emotional postmortem is to determine the cause of “death,” or failure. When you identify the cause for a hijack, you can devise a plan to help you avoid repeat episodes in the future.

Link to the rest at Inc.

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  1. The world is not made for disabled people. When I bought an Airwheel S8 (basically a bicycle seat on an electric hoverboard) as my mobility device when I turned 70, I checked out ADA recommendations – ‘whatever the person chooses should be accommodated if possible’ – I expected some pushback from the retirement community I now live in, a four-story carpeted building with elevators.

    But management freaked and went on the attack and sent out memos to everyone saying they had to be consulted BEFORE anyone bought a device, to make sure it was safe for the community, etc., etc.

    I had not consulted them – what if I couldn’t actually ride a device that has a slot on the electric unicycle forum? I wasn’t about to ask them for permission to try. Also, none of their business.

    They were being extremely officious, and I went to a meeting, taking along the husband, after I had been riding it perfectly safely around the facility (and outside) just fine for a month, during which it caused no one any problems.

    I went in armed with ADA website printouts. They went in with the Resident’s Guide which basically says they get to make ALL the rules, all the time, and can change them whenever they feel like it. Which we had signed (you can’t make any changes to the contract when you move in).

    Probably completely unenforceable.

    My sole intention was to NOT let it become a matter of principle where they felt they HAD to win.

    Even prepared, it was complete hell for me. My dander rose almost at their first words, heated my head, and only by being VERY careful did I manage not to say or do anything I shouldn’t have, to hand them a letter from my doctor (!) which said I could ride it (I didn’t need his permission according to the ADA), and to point out nothing had happened in the month or so I had been using it.

    They wanted me to add a bell/horn and a light in front. I said that was ridiculous, as me sitting on it is about as big as me, standing (the thing is tiny – wheels barely poke out from my long skirts), and I was very careful not to go faster than anyone else in the halls…

    I won, but the physical cost of having the emotional side kicked up lasted for a week. My body processes adrenaline very poorly. I am very careful not to point out that I won. No one else has bought one, and I show it off all the time (good little ambassador I am), and let anyone on the staff who would like to try have a turn.

    But I will never forget the pressure, my inability to calm myself in the moment, the physical sensations of being stuck in a pressure cooker, my husband quietly saying something or other (which helped), even KNOWING if it came to that, I would probably win a court battle but not wanting to have anything to do with the stress of that. And I blessed all the people who fought for those rights, and insisted they be updated for ANY mobility device, in writing, on the ADA site.

    The emotional hyperawareness has been repeated going through TSA. And asking the airlines to honor my request to have my device go in the cabin in the wheelchair closet (crew like to put their suitcases in it), and I had to do a lot of tapdancing for underlings on both flights, after which one of the pilots said, “What’s the problem?” I explained once more, and the pilot picked the S8 up with one hand and put it in the closet himself. Because, regardless of who is right, the pilot gets the last word – for that flight. The stakes: having no mobility device when we got to where we were going, for the whole time there.

    The stress – I don’t know how something that small would do in a cargo hold – has been immense. And exhausting. And I have zero energy. Control is a nice illusion.

    Each time I do that autopsy before AND after, trying to make it easier on myself and those who might follow. It isn’t possible to cover everything, and there’s one of me and a whole lot of them.

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