developing impulse control

EQ In Practice: Impulse Control

Collaboration isn’t always easy. Seeing the world from different points of view and bringing our own experiences and interpretations to every endeavor creates plenty of opportunity for conflict, and requires that we are able to have control over the way we interact with others.

When our own values or beliefs bump up against things that don’t match, our brains are hard-wired to fight, flee, or freeze.  As the old saying goes, “act in haste, regret at your leisure’.

While there is sometimes a need to act quickly, or make a hasty statement, other times it makes sense to carefully think through an action, a statement, or a reply.

The skill that allows us to process a situation through and successfully know when, or when not, to act, is impulse control, an EQ skill essential to working effectively with others.

Taming The Gremlin

For many people impulses show up as a voice in our head, self-talk, or “that gremlin”. This is the voice (inside our head) that, when something we disagree with becomes visible, pipes up to say, “That’s absolutely not the way it works!” or “That person must be nuts!” or some other conclusion rooted in judgement.

As one might imagine, if we announced these comments aloud, we might instigate a response that is disruptive to the calm, professional, respectful environment we typically strive to uphold in a business setting.

Tune In To Your Impulses

Managing our impulses is part of sustaining effective interactions with others as well as making sound decisions. The first step to enhancing our use of this skill is to get tuned-in to our impulses. The root of our inclinations and methods of response are based on our view of reality and guideposts that help us interpret the world.

Starting to see our views as less than absolute, rather, simply one of many opinions about the way human beings interpret the world, helps us to create space in which we recognize there are other possibilities.

Zooming In

Putting the zoom lens on Impulse Control,we see it is a skill  counterbalanced by flexibility, where we allow other options to be presented and consider our own allegiance to a certain choice or approach subject to question, just as we would those that others may offer.

We may likewise see our confidence in managing stress parallel our confidence in managing impulsive responses. Observing our practice of assertiveness is useful in recognizing the role it plays to highlight our impulsive leanings.

Effective use of assertiveness to share our thoughts, conclusions or recommendations in any given situation requires an equal part of control for our impulses (to ensure we don’t respond more adamantly than is productive for the conversation).

Challenge For The Week

Become aware of when you lean toward acting before thinking through a situation completely. Consider:

  • What do you notice about the situation?
  • Are you passionate about this topic?
  • What belief are you honoring through your desire to act promptly?
  • Have you considered the voices of others before deciding how to move forward?
  • Have you sufficiently questioned the basis of your decision and how it will shape the outcome?

Ask yourself – what am I missing? Consider: If I see my name in the headlines tomorrow, alongside my decision – will I feel confident it was the right move, no matter the criticism?

The more in touch we become with what drives our inner voice and compulsion to act, the more we become effective at the hard-earned skill of impulse control.


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