As we head into the holiday season, it’s a good time to bring attention to the practice of self-management.  Time together with relatives often elicits old memories and deep emotions.

The practice begins by first becoming self-aware when ugly emotions start to swell up and our amygdalae (lizard brain functions) take over our higher cognitive functioning.  We can’t stop or prevent these emotions: They are a part of being human.  Sometimes we may even need to indulge them a bit so that the emotions have a chance to run their course.

During the time of heightened emotion, remember that it is just a stage in your biological process that enables you to react quickly to a threat or other danger.  Be curious when you first notice it. Know that you  have the ability to take back control.  Breathe deeply while counting to ten, go for a walk, or do whatever else works to help you create space between you and the intruding emotions.  I like to crack jokes or to poke fun at myself even as I am fretting and fuming, knowing that “this, too, shall pass.”

Our relationships in our congregations also have the potential to trigger strong emotions.  A large number of us love and care about our church communities, so this is only natural.  But as leaders, we are at our best when we are able to think clearly and respond thoughtfully rather than react automatically.

For a short overview of Emotional Intelligence theory, check out this video by author Daniel Goleman:

About the Author
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Leadership Development Consultant, Central East Regional Group (CERG) of the UUA. I have a vision of Unitarian Universalist congregations being led by thousands of diverse, spiritually mature and passionate people ready and willing to spread the good news of liberal religion.  I believe ministry is best when shared between lay and professional leaders. More information about me can be found on the UUA website.
  • Mark Bernstein

    Thanks for the blog and the video, Renee. Understanding emotional intelligence not only makes us more aware of our reactions, but can also make us more aware and sensitive to how members of the congregations are reacting to stress or conflict. What a valuable tool for leaders to have!