Do you ever look back at patterns in your responses to certain situations? Do you ever consider that if you had responded differently in the moment, then this would have given you a different outcome? In the past I didn't consider this, but now I perceive situations differently.
I noticed my perspective challenging situations had changed after recovering from my second acquired brain injury in 2018. This is when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, a condition in which my immune system attacked my thyroid. I had psychosis because my illness was so severe. I hadn't even realised I was sick. I felt exhausted every day but I put it down to being a busy working mum. It was my husband who raised the alarm to the hospital staff that he suspected there was a problem with my thyroid following some symptoms he had noticed after taking me in for some tests. I was in hospital for 3 weeks and the first week is a blur.
This was my wake-up call. The nurse had said to my husband that my brain would recover over time. Neuroplasticity is the brain's capability to adapt and evolve to change itself through growth and re-organisation. This is when my interest in neuroscience began. This was a turning point in my thinking. Before my diagnosis, my emotional response to situations out of my control, was to be frustrated because this was my default behaviour. I didn't question my thinking back then. I would have a short fuse and expect other people to understand how I was feeling without any open communication.
I didn't realise I had a choice in my emotional responses back then. I didn't have inner peace when things didn't seem to be going my way. I wanted to just block out how I felt, just patching up my problems rather than addressing the problem.
After my diagnosis I realised I could have inner peace even through the discomfort. I was anxious and fearful about picking my life back up when I came out of hospital. My faith had brought me through my recovery with a new awareness. I was at a crossroads in my choice of emotional response to what had happened. I could either carry on hitting every bump in the road and become derailed every time from then on into the future, or pass through the discomfort of the situation with a sense of control over my emotional responses to it.
I have often reflected on the fact there are certain situations in life which are out of our control, no matter how we think we can step into the driving seat to steer in the direction we want to go in. This also includes trying to control other people to feel the same way as we do for example. Some of the situations out of my control which I wanted to take control of before my diagnosis included redundancies through office closures, unsuccessful job applications and disengagement from my work.
In my research of developing self-awareness, I discovered a simple but effective framework which can be used to appraise a situation which is causing discomfort. The discomfort we feel during challenging situations is likely to be either because our personal values are being offended or we have identified a need. This is because our personal values are linked to our emotional triggers. My frustration to situations out of my control, had identified a need to develop my self-awareness.
The framework I use for navigating situations causing discomfort is:
Control - Consider if you can control the situation. If not, what are the aspects of the situation you can control such as your emotional response?
Influence - Consider if you can influence the situation using assertiveness to step in/negotiate for a win-win outcome for both parties.
Accept - If you cannot influence the situation, you will need time to accept the situation and move on. Accepting some situations can cause emotional difficulties so time for healing is needed.
In summary, there are certain aspects of any situation which we can control. Therefore we should focus on these aspects such as our emotional responses by developing emotional competence. We often focus on our perception of a situation rather than the situation itself. Emotional competence is learning to read, convey and manage our emotional responses and those of others to respond constructively.
I have learnt we can shape a situation positively through our emotional responses - verbal and non-verbal, rather than letting our emotional triggers take charge which is our habitual emotional response.
If we can find hope during discomfort, this is when we engage with our work and other people. Join me for my free digital workshop on leading with emotional competence to learn the skills and strategies to navigate situations of discomfort.
Leading with Emotional Competence
I help corporate executive women to be more influential during emotion-charged situations by developing their emotional competence to respond constructively.