Emotional Intelligence Competency
                                                              Self Management

Self-management is the second EQ competency espoused by Daniel Goleman.  The author maintained, “handling
feelings so that they are appropriate is an ability that builds on self awareness.” Further, he opined that managing
emotions is a full time job. This article addresses two aspects of managing emotions that affect virtually everyone: (a)
managing rage and (b) managing anxiety and chronic worry.

Managing rage

It is axiomatic that everyone experiences anger at some point. It is, “a feeling of extreme hostility, indignation, or
exasperation” which results from conflict and frustration and creates stress. Daniel Goleman opined that anger is the
mood over which we have the least control and it affects everyone. He quoted Benjamin Franklin who said, “Anger is
never without a reason, but seldom a good one.” However, my view aligns more with that penned by Aristotle, in
Nichomachaen Ethics,  “Anyone can become angry—that is easy.  But to be angry with the right person, to the right
degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way—this is not easy.”   Hence, the issue is how do we
effectively deal with anger.

Just as there are multiple types of anger there are numerous approaches for anger reduction. One effective means
espoused by Goleman is to challenge the thoughts that trigger the emotion early in the anger process. Macmillan  
provided three alternatives.         

    1.Silence it – Visualize a totally soothing scene and mentally escape there just for a few moments.

    2. Express it - Verbalize your concerns, but only after you’ve calmed down, and only if you can state your
    reasons for being upset respectfully and clearly.

    3. Drop it - If you can’t talk it out, give in gracefully. (If you’re vying for a parking spot, surprise your foe –and
    yourself – by letting him have the space.)    

Atwater cautioned that despite popular belief it is not always best to express emotion rather than to hold it in. He
maintained that “blowing off steam” to the wrong person, such as your boss, could produce negative outcomes.  
Further, by giving in to the anger you may actually intensify rather than alleviate it. He suggested that the “reflective
approach” is usually more effective than ventilating anger. This approach entails keeping in touch with your feelings
but not taken them at face value.  Think over the situation and determine if there possibly is a good reason for the
offending event.  After calming down and thinking through the situation, discuss it with the offender using “I”
messages.  For example, I felt betrayed when you criticized my presentation in front of the executives.    

Finally, McMillan cautioned against a much touted anger reduction approach, hitting a punching bag. The author
argued that responding to anger with physical aggression increases the likelihood that physical means of anger
management will always be sought, thus mitigating the desire to employ more effective means of anger management,
such as the alternatives he provided.   

No doubt, anger is something everyone experiences. However, it does not have to produce negative outcomes. The
starting point for dealing with anger is to recognize it as an energizing force. Then determine the consequence of
various anger management methods and use the one that will produce the most desirable outcome.

Managing anxiety and chronic worry

Millions of Americans suffer from some type of anxiety disorder at any given moment according to Jackson. In fact it is
a common experience and part of everyday life that is an aspect of both emotional and physical change says
Matuschka. However, it requires treatment when it affects a person’s ability to function.  Anxiety is a, “state of
apprehension, fearful uncertainty, or dread caused by anticipated threat per Papalia and Olds. According to Hendrick  
anxiety disorders include (a) phobias, such as a fear of flying or high places, (b) generalized anxiety disorder (GAD),
which is chronic worry and tension, often accompanied by muscle tension, headache, stomach problems and
trembling, (c) panic disorders, characterized by debilitating panic attacks, feelings of terror that strike without warning
and can cause chest pain, shortness of breath dizziness, heart palpitations. GAD is characterized by at least 6 months
of frequent worries and three of the following symptoms: fatigue, restlessness, poor concentration, irritability, muscle
tension, and unsatisfying sleep. Anxiety disorders strike women three times as often as men according to Hendrick.
Affective components of intense anxiety are crying, irritability, hostility and uncooperativeness. This level of anxiety is
primarily treated with medication.

Jackson emphasized that all worry is not bad and a certain amount is necessary to live wisely. However, too much of it
prevents coping and can disrupt and derail your life.  A sign that worrying has crossed the line from normal to
excessive is when (a) your fears and imaginings are repeatedly out of proportion to the actual risk at hand, and (b)
those imaginings make it difficult to cope, pushing you dead in your tracks rather than pushing you to be more
constructive. The author provided the following antidote for toxic worrying.

    1. Learn to interrupt.  There is a 60 second period during which you can stop worrying in this track.

    2. Stay connected.  Toxic worry usually occurs when you are alone.

    3. Just the facts, please. Toxic worrying often occurs in the absence of facts.  Even when the news is bad,
       knowing the facts often enables

    4. Insert a positive thought or two.  It can shift your balance of thinking.

    5. Distract yourself in quirky ways.  Such lighthearted activities as repeating a silly nursery rhyme, tickling a
       child, or whistling can help reduce anxiety.

    6. Sleep, sleep, sleep.  Proper rest is important to battle anxiety.  However, sleep should not be used as an
       escape. Too much sleep is a sign of depression.

    7. Take three steps.  Make a list of three simple actions you can take to help right the situation or to change
        something in your life.

    8. Write it out.  Writing about the issues that is worrying you often can help clear your mind.

    9. Pray.  If you are spiritual, praying, meditating, and reading scriptures are effective to draw on sources of a
       “higher power.”

        10. Finally, remember that nothing lasts forever – not even worry.

Finally, the article Worry Well recommends two ways to reduce the harmful effects of chronic worry.  First, set aside a
specific time to worry.  Second, try to solve the problems that cause the worry.   

Stress is a factor of anxiety and worry that affects many people, probably more than we suspect. However, stress
means different things to different people. Psychologists Papalia and Olds defined it as the “physiological and
psychological reaction to stressors and affirmed that it effects everyone, even before birth. Stress is characterized by
both painful and exciting experiences, thus some kinds of stress are worse than others. Further, it consists of stressful
events, our reaction to them, and the interaction between the two according to Atwater.

Authors Baron and Byrne used the term stressor to define the events that are capable of causing stress and explained
that stressors do not always cause stress. The authors provided the following list of common stressors derived from a
study of stress among non-students.

    High levels of stress
    • Death of spouse
    • Death of parent
    • Divorce

    Moderate levels of stress
    • Death of a close relative
    • Death of a close friend
    • Jail term
    • Major injury or illness
    • Marriage
    • Loss of job
    • Increased work load on the job
    • Following a new love interest

    Low levels of stress
    • Minor violations.

The authors pointed out that the stress emanating from such events can lead to physical and psychological problems.
Thus, a means for coping with stress is necessary. As it relates to job-related stress, Nelson and Quick advocate
preventive stress management at both the organizational and individual level. Below are their tips.

Organizational Stress Prevention

1. Job redesign – Enhances work control by lessening job demands and increasing employee decision making.

2. Goal Setting – Increases task motivation by reducing role conflict and ambiguity while focusing attention on the task.

3. Role Negotiation – Reduces stress by allowing individual to modify their work roles.

4. Social Support Systems – Supportive coworkers and supervisors may be one of the most important factors in
managing stress in the workplace according to studies.

Individual Prevention

1. Learned Optimism – Begins with identifying pessimistic thoughts and then distracting oneself from these thoughts or
disputing them with evidence.

2. Time Management – Prioritize demands based on relative importance and urgency.

3. Leisure Time Activities – It is more than just not being on the job.  Effective use of leisure time centers on enjoyment.

4. Physical Exercise – Aerobic exercise and flexibility training are important to stress prevention.

5. Relaxation training – The use of prayer and meditation can help prevent stress.  

6. Diet – A health diet is important to overall health because it reduced vulnerability to distress.

7. Opening Up – implies that an individual trusts colleagues with self-disclosure.  Sensitivity training approaches from
the 1960s were intended to increase self-disclosure.  (Are you familiar with any of these?)

8. Professional Help – seek professional help if it is warranted.  

Papalia and Olds elucidated that there are two approaches for coping with stress. Problem-focused coping is when we
try to solve the problem and emotion-focused coping is when we try to manage our emotional response to the problem.
In problem-focused coping we may change the environment or our own actions or attitudes (e.g., possibly confronting
a person we see as responsible for the problem, or getting more information about a situation). There are three
approaches to emotion-focused coping: (a) using defense mechanism like denial, intellectualization, projection; (b)
taking legal or illegal drugs; (c) changing consciousness through techniques like meditation; and (d) forcing ourselves
to thing positive thoughts. The authors maintained that we are more likely to use the first approach in situations we
think we can change and the second one when we think we cannot do anything about the threatening situations.

Atwater discussed defensive coping and the variety of defense mechanisms individuals often exhibit in response to
psychological stress such as anxiety, frustration and conflict. Defense mechanisms are spontaneous, automatic
responses to stress designed to protect our self-esteem against anxiety. However, instead of reducing stress, defense
mechanisms merely take our mind from it until we can gain composure. Some of the more common defense
mechanisms include:

    1. Denial – the refusal to see or hear unpleasant or threatening things.

    2. Repression – the unconscious blocking from consciousness of a threatening impulse or idea.

    3. Displacement – discharging your negative emotions onto safer objects.

    4. Projection – the mechanism whereby we see in others those unpleasant things we can’t accept in ourselves.

    5. Regression – falling back to patterns of behavior more appropriate to an earlier age.

    6. Sublimation – the redirection of basic desires toward more socially valued activities.

    7. Rationalization – an attempt to explain unacceptable behavior in a way that makes us look good.

    8. Reaction – formation – the attempt to deny acceptable desires or feelings by adopting exaggerated feelings
    of the opposite type (pp. 176-177.)

Other negative coping devises include cursing, over indulging in food or alcohol, and excessive sleeping. The author
stressed that effective stress management entails more than alleviating the symptoms.  Environmental and lifestyle
modifications are also necessary.

Baron and Byrne (1991) advocated two approaches for modifying or reducing the effects of stress: (a) fitness, which
entails regular exercise, and (b) hardiness, which is seeing yourself as in control and viewing difficult situations as a
challenge and opportunity the belief that one has control over his or her own life. This approach entails knowing how
to solve problems and developing a sense of control.

Finally, Papalia and Olds asserted that personality affects the way we handle stress.  Although the authors provided
no empirical data to support that view, Higgs' findings suggest the same. In a study on the relationship between
emotional intelligence and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a widely used personality assessment in the
workplace, Higgs’ found a negative correlation between the MBTI function “feeling” and resilience, which is an aspect
of emotional intelligence.   


For many, stress and work go hand-in-hand. DuBrin emphasized that the ability to overcome setbacks is an important
characteristic of successful people. Thus, he advocates reliance as a strategy for achieving wellness, which is defined
as, “the ability to withstand pressures and emerge stronger for it.” It entails not succumbing to the challenges of life, a
key aspect of emotional intelligence.


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