Emotional Intelligence: Skills To Help In Stressful Situations

Emotional Intelligence: Skills to Help in Stressful Situations


Byron Stock

It seems I never miss a Christmas without a visit to a crowed, large-chain toy store to find items that my grand children can’t live without. A number of years ago, I had an unforgettable experience in one of the toy stores. I remember the store was quit crowded, and people were having some difficulty maneuvering the aisles.

I was slowly working my way through an aisle and was stopped by a lady who was looking at a toy and didn’t notice her cart was blocking the pathway. The lady in front of me looked back at me and our eyes met with a knowing smile. Both of us understood that the lady didn’t intend to block the path and would be moving on momentarily. So we both just waited patiently.


All of a sudden the woman who was in the way noticed that she was blocking us. As she turned, she exploded in a tirade, “Why didn’t you tell me you were there? How rude!” (This description was very mild compared to the words that actually came out of that woman’s mouth.) The lady directly behind her tried to explain, “It’s OK. Nobody was upset. We were trying to be patient and wait so we didn’t interrupt your thoughts.” The first woman became even more enraged. In an instant, both women were exchanging bursts of angry words.

The event took place in a split second, and, as the two women wheeled away from each other in a huff, I found myself left wide-eyed wondering what just happened. Both women became emotionally hijacked by the event. I was relieved that their tirade of anger wasn’t aimed at me.

As we recall the disturbance, it may seem easy to judge the woman who blocked the path (the first lady). Her angry retort to the considerate words of the waiting woman seemed unfounded. This anger incited the “waiting” lady who reacted in kind. The “waiting” woman’s angered reaction fanned the fires, and the event exploded in loud shouts and inflamed words.

This disturbance serves to illustrate how perception and judgment can trigger emotions (in this case negative) and can cloud people’s thinking causing them to overreact to situations. Apparently, people waiting behind the woman who blocked the aisle, triggered negative emotions and she reacted angrily. Perhaps she felt defensive, self-conscious or intimidated which might have threatened her self-esteem or made her feel she was being treated unfairly. Negative emotions can cause a fight or flight response. In this case the negative feelings evoked a fight response. And the angry woman’s lashing out to the waiting woman triggered the same fight response. Sometimes these kinds of situations can escalate to yelling and can even become physical (thankfully not so in this event).

It’s typical to judge people. But that judgment is unfounded when we consider that no one knew why the woman exploded so violently. There could be any number of reasons underlying her emotional response. Perhaps she was pressed for time, or had a very sick child who wanted the toy, or the cost of the toy was beyond her means.

This event stresses how important it is to be aware of our emotions (a core competency of Emotional Intelligence). This awareness enables us to choose what we want to experience rather than react to situations. Additionally we can better manage our emotions when we curb our judgments, recognizing that we do not have insight into why other people might react to events the way they do.

Byron Stock, a former engineer and director of corporate education, guides individuals and organizations toward excellence by helping them develop their

Emotional Intelligence

. For almost 2 decades, Byron has focused his practice on Emotional Intelligence, offering

emotional Intelligence training

, speaking, coaching, and testing services that target today’s issues.

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Emotional Intelligence: Skills to Help in Stressful Situations