I attended a sports psychology conference and was intrigued by a presentation by one of the speakers. She had a slide up with different animals.
Essentially these animals all have different personalities and this plays out how they deal with challenging situations, what she referred to as conflict handling orientations (Thomas, 1976). An example she used was during a difficult discussion with her mum at crucial point she had to decide which animal to be, was she the shark and went on the attack or the wise owl hold back and get more information before taking a position or tortoise retreat into a shell and end the discussion before things escalated and got out of hand.
This struck a cord in me, over the last 2 years there has been significant changes in my life, getting married and pursuing my passion in performance psychology, both have had a significant impact on my family and work dynamics. So much so everything had to be flipped on its head. I was not even aware of the different animals we play in conflict situations or the impact our choices have around all our key relationships. For instance someone at work I thought was close to me and could call a friend, since my growth in emotional intelligence and understanding the dynamics at play during difficult discussions, I no longer kid myself that our work relationship was what I thought it was. I feel like my eyes have had scales washed away. My key message is paying attention to communication especially for challenging situations, such as in performance environments. The consequences of not navigating difficult conversations skillfully from a place of emotional intelligence are huge. One I can definitely attest to and the damage caused is long lasting.
I could go on about the importance of developing emotional intelligence, but I will leave that for another blog, I will provide a definition of emotional intelligence, ‘the ability to monitor one’s own and others feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions’. I would love to hear back from people on how they navigate challenging conversations and how they choose which animal to select.