I bought my first car well before I was licensed to drive. As the son of a son of a mechanic, I developed a love of the open throttle during the muscle car generation. Consequently, I have bought, repaired, restored, and sold more cars than I can track. Regretfully, many were sold too cheap. But the decision was always with an eye to the next vehicle, whether practical or foolish. Sometimes, while chasing a classic car I would find an emotionally motivated seller who was unaware of the car's true value. On the other hand, equally motivated sellers did not realize the declining worth of their possession. For my part, I learned early on to keep my emotions in check as there was abundant rolling stock out there and I could find that owner who was motivated to sell.
Offset emotionally motivated tendencies by slowing down
Reflexes and emotions often work against us. That can be said for those individuals who put unrealistic value on their possessions, and perhaps the car that their father cherished. However, there’s evidence that behavioral patterns and our emotions are NOT our masters. In a dedicated longitudinal study begun in 1938, Harvard has followed, interviewed, and evaluated participants to understand coping strategies and how humans are affected by their thinking versus their emotions. A recent article by Kevin Dickson at bigthink.com examines the study’s findings with researchers who devised a model that helps us slow down and assess our emotionally motivated responses at each stage to help control our responses.
Spoiler alert: Our emotions often mislead us
Dickson imbeds a video (length 4:30) that helps us see misleading emotions more clearly. Not surprisingly, the segment calls out how we need to pause and step away. The advice to focus on outcomes, check our ego, avoid being over-confident, and calibrate our decision is appreciated. Our emotionally motivated engagement can clearly be tempered with a walk around the block. Though difficult to harness, intensity and pressure should be avoided at all costs.
As if life had a “pause button”
Additionally, Dickson’s article gives us cues to help us pause… (take a breath) … so we can recognize self-awareness well beyond our emotions. WISER is an acronym that compels a flexible mindset and includes tools and strategies to remind us to slow down and choose the better path.
Be WISER about your emotions
The author cites a particular day-in-the life incident and applies the WISER model to facilitate understanding. However, the key words are sufficient to demonstrate how they apply and what they do to bring emotionally motivated reactions under control. Subsequently, the difficult part is to stop yourself, take a breath, lower your shoulders, and THINK.
Watch – This is the awaited pause button: “Thoughtful observation can round out our initial impressions and expand our view of the situation…” (Waldinger and Schultz). Easy to say but extremely hard to pull off. However, taking time here can save many apologies or embarrassing situations.
Interpret – Take stock of your observations. Be exceedingly clear of what you know and, more importantly, what you do not know. Empathy and understanding of others’ views are key. Accurate information can avoid hasty conclusions.
Select – Choose wisely your course of action. What is your desired outcome? Where are your strengths and weaknesses and what is at stake? If contentious, can this be turned into a positive experience?
Engage – Every situation is unique in this regard. Does humor diffuse the tension? Would both parties welcome a private discussion?
Reflect – What happened and why? Does your credibility remain intact? Review the cause and effects to help understand the emotionally motivated cascade that transpired and how you can do better next time.
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