Related to the need to be a skilled active listener, and thus to understand what other people want to communicate, is the need to manage your own emotional self. While the idea of emotional intelligence is currently heatedly debated on both conceptual and methodological grounds, managers need to understand their own emotions (as they occur) and be able to handle them appropriately. Managers and lead- ers are frequently put into positions where conflict is either raging or bubbling under the surface. Frequently, tough decisions must be made. The outcomes of these decisions can have severely negative repercussions for some people—staff members might be laid off or fired, client services reduced, or programs eliminated entirely.
Even if you have used active listening to its fullest, sometimes people are going to be very distraught and angry. They may yell at you, threaten you, or start other unpleasant or even dangerous situations. It is at times such as this that your ability to notice how you are feeling (angry, frightened, irritated, afraid, withdrawn, and so on) is vital. Strong emotions can result in an “emotional hijacking” where your feelings literally avoid the rational parts of your brain and affect your “primitive brain” directly. Such a hijacking can cause you to invoke the “flight or fight” response, which motivates you to run away or to lash out. Hormones and adrenaline are immediately released by your body, which then stimulate action without thought. While this type of reaction is important if one is about to be attacked by a predator, it has less use in a nonprofit office. Being unable to take control back after an emotional hijacking can be quite damaging to your career and have negative effects for your organization.