What Are Your Triggers?

What Are Your Triggers?

It has been well documented that Emotional Intelligence distinguishes the really great leaders from the ‘just OK’ ones. But EI can feel kind of elusive. Like, what does it really mean for me….right now….today??

While there are many models, I like the one from Case Western Reserve University that describes EI according to four domains:

Self Awareness

Self Control

Social Awareness

Relationship Management

One part of emotional self-control is managing your impulsivity – your triggers.

We all have them.

What are the scenarios that lead to behaviors (through words, facial expressions, body language) you regret?  What really drives you crazy? Increasing your EI means being aware and NOT reacting.

Here’s how to do that:

Identify a common scenario.

Identify the thought about the scenario.

Identify the emotion.

Identify your typical reaction.

Is the result one that you like? If not, then come up with a plan (including thoughts, emotions and actions) for how to deal with that same scenario next time.

Here’s an example:

Your employee walks into your office and says there is a problem. They won’t be able to meet a deadline promised to a customer.

Thought: Not again! No one takes responsibility! Everything is on me! I can’t rely on anyone!

Feeling: Frustrated and angry.

Action: You say this to your employee: “We need to communicate! Why did this happen? Come on guys! We have to do better! Why didn’t anyone tell me!”

Result: The team shuts down, blames each other and next time, they decide not to tell you.

Is this the result you want?

Most leaders probably want to avoid the problem ever happening again, right? What emotion does that require?


If that’s the emotion you NEED, what thought would create that? How could you react in the moment?

How about this? “Wow, that is not good. Let’s get together in 30 minutes to figure out what happened and how to avoid it next time.”

This requires pause. Self control is about creating space between thought, emotion and action. The only way to get good at this new behavior is to practice.

You can mentally rehearse these triggers and new thoughts, emotions and behaviors, so you’re prepared.

What are your triggers?

How can you prepare for them?

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