You can’t believe John would have the nerve to call you out in the meeting. You are the manager and were leading a department meeting. John has been on your team for several months now and really hasn’t been a problem… until today.
In the department meeting, you were talking about a new initiative you are excited about that will really improve how your team works with your customer. In the middle of your presentation, John suddenly lashes out at you and exclaims that you haven’t thought things through. It was abrupt and disrespectful.
It all happens in just a few seconds and you have a few seconds to decide what to do. You feel yourself getting angry and you note that John is obviously upset, so you make the smart move. You wait.
“I’ll tell you what John, obviously you have strong thoughts about this so let’s meet up tomorrow so I can understand more.”
Why is this a smart move?
Our human brains have actually evolved from 3 different brains. The first brain, which gets the first shot at handling every experience can be considered our “reptile brain”. This brain handles immediate threats and basically puts us into fight or flight mode. If fight or flight isn’t required, our thoughts move to the next brain which is our emotional brain. The emotional brain “feels” first and “thinks” later. If the thought requires few emotions or if we have control over our emotions, the thought advances to our third brain which is our logical brain.
All 3 brains serve a critical purpose, but the logical brain is best at handling complex situations. Unfortunately, when we are angry, our emotional brain is in control and we aren’t able to be as logical as we’d like to be.
In this scenario, John is clearly thinking from his emotional brain. This is where your own emotional intelligence kicks in. Your emotional intelligence (or EQ) is your ability to manage both your emotions and the emotions of others. If you have a low EQ, you will hit John back hard for challenging your authority in the meeting. You will be responding to your emotional brain and maybe even your reptile brain. If you have a high EQ, you will recognize the complex issues behind John’s outburst and control your own emotions.
The punch line is simple. Don’t fight angry because you won’t be any good at it. In fact, don’t fight at all. Conflict is not only unavoidable, it is important. Fighting happens between angry people and can be considered to be nonconstructive conflict, so don’t do it. Give yourself and the other party time to cool off, then have a meaningful discussion.