Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Everyday dilemmas

It had been a brutal week for both my husband Rick and me but we had survived and even triumphed over our career challenges. I had given three different presentations throughout the week, ending with a workshop at my college on emotional intelligence. It was the first time I had presented on this subject and, to add to the pressure, my department Director and our Dean had decided to participate. Happily, the seminar was a rousing success. Now, exhausted and proud, I looked forward to a lovely dinner at our local bistro.

Although we were famished, we decided to “go green” and take our bicycles. We had waited this long, we could wait a bit longer for our special meal. As we parked our cycles, we noticed the overflowing outdoor patio. Would we have to wait longer? Thankfully, we received the last table. It was going to be a fabulous celebration. What wine should we order? And then…. Thud. Thud. Thud.

We were seated next to the parking area where a boy was throwing his ball against the restaurant sign. Thud. Thud. Thud. I looked at the boy. He was oblivious to his game's effect on my nerves. Thud. Thud. Thud. I looked to a woman at a neighboring table. She was watching her son and then walked over to whisper in his ear. Whatever her message, the whacking continued. Thud. Thud. Thud. I glared at the woman. What to do?

I hope you aren't surprised to know that those of us who teach emotional intelligence aren't saintly. Practicing the techniques of EI won't make you perfect. But EI can make you more conscious of your patterns and your choices. As I sat in the bustling restaurant, I weighed my options.
1. I could continue to feel outraged that my meal was “being ruined” and sit, stew, and glare.
2. I could talk to the family and ask them to rein in their child.
3. I could try not to be bothered by the loud thumping behind me.
4. Rick and I could move to another table inside the restaurant.

Perhaps this would be an easy choice for you? Not for me.

1. It was difficult to let go of my feelings of righteous indignation, but I knew this was a self-defeating choice. My anger would ruin dinner for both Rick and me.
2. Talking to the family was a courageous alternative but….even if I was the model of diplomacy, such a discussion could prove upsetting to all parties. Was this annoyance worth that risk?
3. This wasn't really a choice for me. I was truly disturbed by the intermittent whacking.
4. I could think of no other possible solution but….. I didn't want to move inside! I wanted to eat outside! I had been stuck inside all week and this lovely outdoor meal was my reward!

What to do?

After further deliberation, Rick and I moved inside and had a lovely meal.

Emotional Intelligence recognizes that, while we cannot always choose how we feel, we always have a choice in our actions and even our reactions. My own self-reflections had warned me of some of my tendencies. I was then alert for my patterns of “seeking justice” or seizing onto righteous anger. Since I was more prepared to see my patterns, I was more prepared to question them and determine other choices.

Would my “dilemma” be immensely easy for you? If so, think of your own version-your own situation that rapidly triggers intense feelings-especially anger or fear. When you think of the circumstance, do you find yourself reacting automatically? Are your reactions serving you? Or would you like to change your patterns?

To be emotionally intelligent is to continue to practice our awareness and managing of emotions. It is a lifelong process. But if we continue to persevere, we will find ourselves gaining self-knowledge and mastery of difficult situations.

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