I had the opportunity to do a radio show this week about my book, Overcoming Fake Talk. The interviewer was very much intrigued by the notion of the energy that we portray as we express our thoughts and opinions. Understanding the dynamics of the energy that accompanies your conversations is a great way to improve the power of your message.
Whether you are aware or conscious of your energy or not, you should be. We project or exude a feeling or energy that others pick up on. That energy either influences them to be receptive to what you have to say or leads them to be resistant or defensive toward you and your message. In essence, you are the message that you portray.
Years ago, I returned home from a business trip late on a Friday evening. My children were still awake anxiously awaiting my return home. My younger daughter, Livya, was having some difficulty falling asleep, so I chose to read her a number of stories to help her relax and settle down. After about 30 minutes I tucked her into bed, kissed her good night, turned off her light, shut the door and went downstairs. Looking up the stairs a few minutes later, I could see that Livya’s light was on from underneath her door. I assumed she probably had turned on the light to read awhile longer.
When I passed the bottom of the stairs and looked up to the top of the landing, my jaw dropped in shock at what I saw. At the top of the stairs sat a naked Livya. Somehow she had opened the jar of Cetaphil cream on her changing table and smeared it everywhere. This heavy, white cream was all over her face, body, down her legs and arms, and in her hair.
I uttered her name, “Livya!” as I started up the stairs. While my wife ran into the other room to retrieve her camera, I climbed the stairs. Somewhere in the darkness, I heard another one of my children say, “Look out everyone. Dad is insanely angry!!” That observation by another child caught me so by surprise that it probably saved my two-year old from the spanking of her young life. What was most surprising was the statement of the child who couldn’t even see me.
What gives rise to your personal energy is the way you think about or the assumptions you hold about the person in the situation that you must address. Even in the absence of data, we make up the data and project into the future what the consequences to us will be. In the situation above, I assumed there was a huge mess awaiting my attention in Livya’s room, which proved to be the case.
In order to understand how we create our energy or our feelings, we need to be more aware of the “thought trail” that creates the ensuing results. Just as negative thoughts produce negative feelings, words, and actions, so positive thoughts create positive feelings, words, and actions--all of which yield results. So, if you don’t like your results, you need simply backtrack from results by reviewing your actions, words, and feelings which will lead you eventually to the thoughts that created what followed.
Bottom line: If you want to change your results, you need to change your thoughts.
Here are a couple of suggestions that will help you to manage your own emotional energy more efficiently.
Notice Your Feelings. Your feelings drive everything you say and do. Although your feelings should be obvious to you, we are usually unconscious and unaware of the emotions that pervades our demeanor. You might ask a person you trust to give you feedback about the feelings you exude. Many times an individual’s emotional reaction is a reflection of your energy. Another’s reaction may help point you back to an observation of your own feelings. Noticing you feelings allows you to deliberately change those feelings.
Notice Your Thoughts. This is much more difficult because most of us don’t often stop and think about our thinking, nor do we assess the accuracy of what we think. Shifting your attention away from the person and toward your thoughts will reduce the energy you are exuding in the moment because you have turned your mental attention to your thoughts and away from the situation that originally had captured your attention subconsciously.
Surface Hidden Thoughts. Often we are not aware of the thinking that is running our behavior. Try this simple recipe to surface your thoughts:
“I’m state your emotion because finish the sentence.”
For example, what if you completed the verbal recipe to surface your thoughts, it might sound like this:
“I’m angry because this guy is an idiot.”
Once you surface your thinking, you can assess its accuracy. Try to finish the sentence above as many times as you can. You will be surprised at the ideas, judgments, or interpretations that you will surface. What is so remarkable about this process is that often you will forced to recognize your own irrational thoughts or assessments of what the person said or did that triggered an emotional response from you. You will come to recognize that your emotional energy says more about you than the other person. Taking the time to identify as many hidden thoughts as you can and assessing their accuracy will allow you to eliminate irrational emotional energy going forward.
Look for Evidence. Once you’ve made your thinking more visible, look for or identify any supporting evidence or data for your thinking. Don’t be surprised if you don’t find any. When that happens you will have to admit that whatever you may have used as evidence for your interpretations are the assumptions you originally held about the situation or the person. Absent any supporting data, you must admit that your thinking is inaccurate or incomplete. Often we are challenged because we see our assumptions as fact, when they are not. Looking for evidence reduces your emotional energy and allows you to look at existing evidence in a different light.
Select Your Emotion. Remember that negativity pushes people away, whereas being positive creates more objectivity and serves as an attractor in creating the respect, relationships, and results you desire. If thinking negatively naturally creates negative feelings, then deliberately thinking positively will create a positive emotion. I have found that if I can identify a particular emotion that I would like to exude or convey with a specific message and if I can hold a word in mind that describes that emotion as I deliver the message, then I can deliver the message with that emotion. This process requires that you be intentional about the emotion you wish to deliver.
Managing your emotional energy is about being intentional about what you want to create through your conversations in your professional and personal life. Creating and using a more positive energy will improve the quality of your conversations while also helping you to achieve the results you desire.