When I was young, my brother stuffed a mouthful of firework poppers into his mouth and chewed them. Impulsive, indeed. His scorched tongue and singed gums were a reminder of his impulsive behavior for weeks.
Do you ever say or do something impulsive that hurts a relationship, and you regret later? Words can come dart out of our mouth like a runaway train. Sometimes, it's only when we see the effect and reaction from those around you that we realize we've crossed a line. What now? Learning compassion for yourself, self-control, and emotional intelligence can greatly aid you. Promise!
Emotional sensitivity, impulsive behavior and compulsive actions all show a need for learning emotional intelligence. In these types of behaviors, we don't consider our impact or the actual consequences of our words and actions because we are simply reacting unconsciously. Without taking time to consider the actual short-term and long-term consequences of our actions, we can damage relationships and get passed over for promotions at work. It's a fact: not being able to control our emotional outbursts impedes healthy relationships both at work and at home.
For instance, you are having a bad day at work, and nothing is going as planned. On top of that, your boss just emailed you assigning you several “priority” tasks to get done today. Your boss has a habit of taking credit for your work so you are resentful and angry.
You are fed up, plus you know there is no way you’ll get all of this new work done today, along with your current tasks. As your stress level goes through the roof, you impulsively zip a note to your boss and say exactly what’s on your mind.
Hmm... self-awareness and emotional management would have come in handy about now. You are the driving force of your success—or failure.
Negative Costs and Consequences of Impulsive Behavior
What was written may not be something you would normally say. Too late.
However, because you are angry, you just let it all out. Unfortunately, after doing so, your boss is looking at you rather unpleasantly and is equally alarmed about your behavior. If your boss is empathetic, he may overlook your behavior this time. If not, you could be facing disciplinary action or even be fired on the spot.
Or on the home front, perhaps your spouse went for a much-needed run, and you're left at home with the kids. It's been weeks since you've had a break or any quality time together. You stew for an hour. The minute your partner walks in the door, you wield your disappointment and anger at them with a whole laundry list of complaints.
In neither scenario is emotional intelligence utilized, nor does either reaction support good communication and relations.
Related reading: "Five Ways to Identify Your Emotional Triggers (and How to Handle Them)"
What caused you to react? It is a combination of stressful situations and the emotions you are experiencing. Instead of allowing yourself a moment to take everything in, you let your emotions get the better of you and behaved impulsively. These types of behaviors can range from mild to more serious conditions, such as:
- Chronic hostility and losing your temper
- Blurting out whatever you think without discretion
- Overeating or uncontrolled spending
- Wasting time and taking long lunch breaks
- Gambling or Netflix binging
- Compulsive drinking or drug dependency
Self-Awareness and Self-Management Strategies
Improving our emotional intelligence can help us gain better insight and teach us how to control our impulsive and compulsive actions. Part of this process involves getting more in touch with ourselves through a series of exercises, including:
- Identify what triggers your behavior. An event or series of events triggers most impulsive and compulsive actions. However, it's not what happens to us; it's what we carry within us that lights the fireworks. And often, it's what we make the experience mean that determines how we feel. For instance, if you think a co-worker's remark was made because they don't like you, that will make you feel very different than if you concluded he or she was just having fun and was trying to lighten the atmosphere.
- Develop coping strategies. Once you understand what triggers your impulsive actions, you can start to take control with various coping tools, like taking ten deep breaths or going for a walk. One other strategy that can be helpful is asking yourself, "what if." This technique assists in reaching more logical conclusions and slowing down reactions.
- Discover healthier responses to replace compulsive reactions. There are varied responses that are often far better than just reacting in the moment. For example, you can think of short phrases to say when you're upset that are respectful and serve as a bridge until you calm down. By deciding them ahead of time, it gives you a better chance of controlling your reactions.
- Learn how to turn negative emotions into positive ones. Negative emotions are not bad. They are essential in letting you know how to respond effectively and create more positive outcomes. Listen to the emotion and ask, "What action is this emotion telling me I need to take?" Or think of three different ways of looking at the situation to change your perspective.
- Find ways to harness strong emotions and use these to create a better you that you love. When you manage your energy and emotions, your actions will create a happier life, a happier you. Intense emotions take practice to bridle, but once we do, they can be directed toward our passions.
Building self-compassion for ourselves is a part of enhancing our emotional quotient in the workplace and at home. Strong emotions typically mean we've been stuffing our feelings too long or not paying attention to self-care.
If you are tired of letting your emotions get the better of you, then it is time to accept all of your feelings and take the first steps at working toward inner peace. To learn more about emotional intelligence and how to improve it, please feel free to check out Heartmanity’s programs for growth and transformation or contact us at (406) 577-2100 for further details today!