Relax, Don’t Do It! Why Managing Your Impulse Control Matters In Business

Part Four of a multi-part series on Emotional Intelligence

Sitting in front of your computer, just back from a relaxing holiday, you scroll through the volumes of emails which have accumulated while you were away.  You open one up from your boss and you read the words, “How come you and your team can’t seem to get this right?”

Your amygdala gets hijacked, and you dash off a caustic reply, without thinking through the consequences. “Why can’t you get off my ass?,” you respond. Next thing you know, your boss calls you into his office and rips you a new one.  You’re in the doghouse for weeks.

I can go from zero to 100 quickly. How about you?

If your answer is yes, then you may be someone who has issues with impulse control – one of the elements of Emotional Intelligence.

Impulse control is the ability to resist or delay a drive or temptation to do or say something or to decide too quickly or rashly.

For me, it can show up in raising my hand too quickly to say yes to an opportunity without thinking through the consequences; or adding my two cents before my opinion has been solicited. Low impulse control can lead to feedback that you are impulsive, explosive, overly-talkative, and short-fused. Social media has (unfortunately) enabled many of us with lower impulse control, giving us a forum to shoot off that caustic comment or poorly thought-through point of view.

When coupled with other Emotional Intelligence elements like low empathy, those with lower impulse control can do some serious damage in the relationship department. 

With too little impulse control you have a tough time filtering your behavioral impulses. 

Side note: when I was a kid, I’d often get report card comments along the lines of “highly imaginative but must learn self-control.” Guess I am a slow learner.

On the flip slide, too much self-control can result in the perception that you are detached, emotionally withholding, or overly structured or planned.  

Here are some tips to bring your impulse control into an effective range:

  • Think about the long-term implications of your actions. Consider the guiding principle: “Does it need to be said, does it need to be said by me, does it need to be said right now?”

  • Ask yourself your motivation for speaking up – am I trying to show off, contribute meaningfully, lend support?  (As my friend and fellow coach Karen Sullivan says, “W.A.I.T” – an acronym for “Why Am I Talking?”) I often write that down on a piece of paper when I am in meetings to be more responsive rather than reactive. 

  • Commit to waiting a designated amount of time before committing to new projects to give yourself time to reflect on the pros and cons of participating.

  • Before reacting, discuss your opinions and options with a trusted friend or advisor who has more balanced impulse control.

  • Resist the urge to jump into a conversation first, in order to let others have their chance.

What is your experience with low or high impulse control? What tips have you found most helpful in bringing yourself more into balance?

If you’re ready to take the next step in your Emotional Intelligence, reach out for a complimentary connection call.


Ready to start? Take this short EQ Quiz and find out where you stand:

Matthew CallahanComment