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To be effective in business, you need to be in control of your emotions. Being in control does not mean being emotionless—it means you can choose how to react. At Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, we practice self-regulation.

When we think of self-regulation, we usually think only of self-control, like the not-screaming-at-someone type of self-control. If that is all you are thinking, you’re missing all the good stuff. Self-regulation goes far beyond self-control. Daniel Goleman identifies five emotional competencies under the domain of self-regulation:

  • Self-control: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check.
  • Trustworthiness: Maintaining standards of honesty and integrity.
  • Conscientiousness: Taking responsibility for personal performance.
  • Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change.
  • Innovation: Being comfortable with novel ideas, approaches, and new information.

Everybody wants to have all these qualities. We all like to be adaptable and innovative, for example. Yet, a lot of us do not succeed at upholding these qualities all the time. Why? Because we often feel compelled by our emotions to move in a different direction. But all of these competencies have one thing in common: choice. When we develop the ability to turn compulsion into choice, then all these qualities become tangible to us.

At SIYLI, we like to make a distinction between self-regulation and becoming emotionless. We recognize that you’re not a robot (if you are, you can skip this paragraph) and being aware of and experiencing emotions is key to becoming a happier, more productive worker. Self-regulation is not about avoiding emotions. There are situations in which feeling painful emotions is appropriate. For example, when your best friend shares sad news with you, it is probably best if you also share some of her sadness.

Self-regulation is also not about denying or repressing true feelings.

Feelings carry valuable information, so if you deny or repress them, you lose that information. One SIYLI participant at Google, learned to listen closely to his feelings and began to grasp the full extent of his dissatisfaction in his current role. In response, he moved into another role at Google shortly after the course and became much happier and more effective at his work.

Self-regulation is not about never having certain emotions. It is about becoming very skillful with them. For example, there is a significant difference between anger and indignation. Anger arises out of powerlessness, while indignation arises out of power. Because of that difference, when you feel angry, you feel out of control, but when you feel indignant, you can retain full control of your mind and emotion. Hence, you can be emotional and fighting for change without ever losing your cool. Indignation is, therefore, a skillful state and a good example of self-regulation at its best.

Imagine the next time you are working in a group that doesn’t see eye-to-eye on a project’s goals. Instead of yelling your point of view, what if you took the time to channel your anger into indignation. Then you could argue passionately and persuasively. It’s much easier to influence others with a reasoned and compassionate argument in lieu of yelling (it’s also easier on the vocal chords).

So the next time you need to make your points heard in a business meeting or at home, take a moment to really think about what you want to say. Examine why it’s important to you and really focus on how you can most effectively communicate it.

Always remember you can win more arguments with mindful minutes than minced words.

SIYLI Suggestion:

In a business meeting or conference call, don’t respond immediately when you’d like to make a point. Take a moment to examine what you’re feeling and whether or not your emotions are productive. If they are, find a way to use them to compassionately further your cause. If they aren’t, take a moment to acknowledge them and try to move forward.