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Training Your Experiential Mind

Increasing your emotional intelligence is important. It can reduce stress and improve relationships.

Your Experiential Self

Interpretations aren’t right or wrong. However, these assessments can be either destructive or constructive. When evaluating your experiential self, you need to consider your initial interpretation, your follow-up interpretation, and your behavioral reaction.

Initial interpretation

Your initial interpretation has the strongest effect on your emotions. Interpretations aren’t right or wrong, but they can be constructive or destructive. Common pitfalls in interpretations include:

Reading too much into events – For example, if your boss asks you when you will finish the report you’re preparing and you interpret this as meaning he wants you to hurry up, you may be reading too much into his question.

Making generalizations – For example, if you form the opinion that you are going to hate working with a person simply because he was unpleasant to you the first morning, you are making a generalization. Perhaps he’s a very likeable person who was having a bad day when you first met.

Assuming negative intentions – For example, if a person does not invite you to a lunch with your other colleagues, you may assume she left you out deliberately. However, she may simply have overlooked you because you weren’t there when she invited the others.

Personalizing events – For example, if your boss refuses to pay for you to do a language course, you may assume that it is because she doesn’t think you’re a worthwhile employee. However, your request may simply have been denied for budget reasons or timing.

Follow-up interpretation

During the follow-up interpretation, you assess your initial interpretation and make adjustments. There are some common pitfalls for this interpretation:

Blaming yourself – “That person is being rude because I’m an idiot.” Denying facts you don’t want to believe – “I couldn’t have hurt his feelings.” Unrealistic thinking – “I’ll figure it out somehow. I don’t need any help.”

Behavioral reaction

The final step in a response to an event is your behavioral reaction. These responses, like interpretations, can be destructive or constructive:

Aggression – This is a very common destructive behavior. The aggressor lashes out or attacks others during times of high emotion. Although aggression is appropriate in some cases, it often alienates or angers other people.

Uninhibited expression – Some people choose to express their emotions freely without any control. They don’t consider the consequences of showing strong emotions to other people. This kind of “free expression” can alienate others and hurt other people’s feelings. It can also lead to embarrassment.

Overcontrolled expression – Some people reign in their emotions so much that they don’t seem to have feelings at all. They appear cold and withdrawn to others. People can’t figure out how they feel or what their opinions are. This type of control leads to avoiding the resolution of problems.

Self-punishment – Some people punish themselves when they feel they’ve done something bad. They might feel extreme guilt or deny themselves pleasurable experiences. They may also force themselves to do things they don’t like to “atone” for bad behavior.

Overdependence – It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for help or advice. However, some people rely too much on others. They don’t have enough self-esteem to accomplish goals on their own. Overdependence is destructive to relationships and can cause self-esteem to drop even more.

Extreme self-reliance – Some people are overly independent. They refuse to allow others to help or advise them. It makes other people feel inferior. This extreme self-reliance is also a source of stress. Everyone needs help sometimes and it’s okay to enlist others in some situations.

Withdrawal – When you withdraw, you stop participating. Withdrawal can be appropriate in some situations, but can be damaging if overused. It puts distance between you and others and makes it difficult to form relationships.

Context is extremely important to evaluating behavior. The context provides a framework. Most destructive behaviors are only constructive in extreme or rare circumstances. Aggression is rarely appropriate, but is a constructive response if you’re being assaulted. Most destructive behaviors are only constructive in the short term as coping mechanisms.

When you evaluate your experiential self, it’s important to consider your initial interpretations, your follow-up interpretations, and your behavioral reaction. Each of these can be assessed for constructive or destructive components.

It’s important to consider context when making these evaluations. Context is the key to appropriate evaluation.

The techniques available for training your experiential mind are very different approaches. Some tools will work for some people; other tools are a better match for other people.

The technique that works best for you depends on the problems you experience. You should experiment with each strategy to increase your emotional intelligence. There are three proven techniques for retraining your mind.

1. Train your emotions through logic

This is a process, and your skills will develop over time:

Step 1 – You must identify the ways in which your interpretations are constructive or destructive. You can do this by writing down your initial and follow-up interpretations and reactions and assessing each.

Step 2 – You must substitute destructive interpretations and behaviors with constructive ones. Generate a list of constructive alternatives. At first, you’ll only think of these options after the destructive response occurs.

Step 3 – You’ll need to identify the times you tend to have destructive responses. This pattern will become apparent after you’ve tracked your reactions over time. You might notice that when you’re tired or stressed, destructive responses increase.

Step 4 – The final step will occur over time. At last, the substitution of constructive interpretations and behaviors will become automatic. Your thought process will improve and you’ll find that your emotions become more productive.

2. Correct inappropriate emotional responses

To correct yourself with this approach, you need to reframe your thoughts. This means changing the way you think. First, you must accept your current emotional state. Then you must decide how you’d like things to be.

Finally, you should generate a list of actions that will help you meet your goal, for example, one such action may be to identify the characteristics of a job you’d love. This process will help you look forward to an improved emotional state.

3. Learn from your emotions

This technique doesn’t involve steps or procedures. It involves listening to your emotions. Have you ever gotten a bad feeling about a decision or an action? Often, these emotions correspond to concrete facts or reasons.

By listening to yourself, you may improve your behavior. For example, When you have “bad vibes,” ask yourself, “What’s causing this feeling?” You may find that you have bad feelings when you’re uncomfortable for a logical reason.

Almost every career you can think of involves interacting with other people – whether it’s working side by side or dealing with customers. By increasing your emotional intelligence, you’ll be able to improve your relationships with others. You’ll also decrease your stress level by improving your thought process.