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  • Writer's pictureKaren Thrall

Emotional Intelligence Requires Self-Regulation

Updated: Apr 10

“When anger rises, think of the consequences.” - Confucius

Many think that having a high Emotional Quotient (EQ) means understanding and expressing your feelings well. But surprisingly, only 20% of EQ is about knowing yourself. Emotional intelligence is made up of five important parts:

1. Self-Awareness: Understanding one's own emotions, strengths, and weaknesses, and how they affect interactions with others.

2. Self-Regulation: Managing one’s own emotions, preventing impulsive reactions, maintaining composure, and adapting positively to changing circumstances.

3. Self-motivation: Having an inner-drive that stems from an intrinsic motivation, such as resilience, determination, focus, confidence, and positive self-esteem. 

4. Empathy (which is different from being an empath): A desire and ability to connect with individuals, be present, attentive, and take time to understand the perspective of others.

5. Social Skills (which is different from being an extrovert): An ability to adapt well to social situations, engage in conversations, build positive relationships, and communicate effectively.

EQ is important because you’re gaining a happier and more cooperative work environment. Having these skills creates a workplace where people respect and trust each other.

In order for EQ to work at its best, all five components are operating at their best. 

  1. I am aware of how I’m doing emotionally.

  2. With this awareness, I am managing my emotions well.

  3. By managing my emotions well, I am practicing self-motivation and self-direction.

  4. Because my emotions can impact my environment, I am attentive to others.

  5. By being attentive to others, I am building positive relationships.

During my tenure at John Fluevog Shoes, I was going through a difficult time. While I was very committed to growing my emotional intelligence, the problem was that I stuffed my emotions and fooled myself into believing I was fine. That’s not a recipe for EQ success. Since EQ starts with self-awareness, I was already working within a deficit, because I wasn’t always self-aware. 

My emotions would get the best of me at the most random times. I would have these unpredictable explosive outbursts which would affect the office dynamics. My lack of self-regulation was creating unnecessary problems at head office.

John Fluevog Shoes headquarters is located in Gastown, one of the oldest parts of downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, and a hotspot tourist destination. Local retail boutiques, Michelin star restaurants, quaint coffee shops, and urban nightlife keep Gastown lively. The office is an open space mezzanine located above the flagship store. It was once a parking garage, and the building, which is made of brick, reaches 40 feet in height with a glass industrial ceiling and glass end walls. Music from the store fills the entire space, as well as the bustle of customers and tourists trying on shoes. In the back glass wall, you can see float planes and barges coming and going, and the city's ferry taking pedestrians past Stanley Park to North Vancouver's shoreline. Each desk resembles a scaffold, with open shelves that also serve as an enclosure, along with a heavy-duty nylon that covers the back of the desk all of which provides a measure of privacy. Rows of wall to wall fall and spring collections adorn headquarters and expressions of art are exhibited everywhere. 

Being mindful that our voices carried, we were all diligent in keeping appropriate levels, to not disrupt the work flow of our peers.  In all its grandeur, there was that invisible privacy dome that we all respected. The atmosphere was creative, festive, and lighthearted. The sense of humor at John Fluevog Shoes is by-far one of the greatest strengths the company exudes. Laughter was normal. The brand’s slogan touts, “Unique Soules for Unique Soles”, a true representation of the company’s culture.  Everyone is welcome. Just the way you are. 

As you can imagine, my moments of emotional angst did not complement the environment. When I got upset or voiced my frustration, I was like an emotional stick of dynamite, disrupting the entire atmosphere. There weren't any sound-proof closed-in rooms. Whatever you felt, was felt by all.

In those moments of anger:

  • If I felt excluded in the decision-making process, I would become vocal and defensive.

  • If while contributing to strategic planning I didn’t feel respected in the conversation, my temper would flare up and I’d become reactive.

Imagine how different these interactions would have been if I chose to:

  • remain calm when something bothered me

  • take time to understand or consider my colleagues’ perspectives

  • engage in a shared conversation and negotiate options

  • most importantly, consider the impact my emotions were having on the entire head office culture.

How could I not see my behavior? 

In those moments, my frustration became more important than the people.  When my emotions would get the best of me, I turned a discussion into a personal offense. Dr. Joseph Shrand taught me something in his book, Outsmarting Anger: conflict comes from feeling threatened in one of three areas (or all three at once).  Was I feeling threatened in my residence (is my department being respected)?  Was I feeling threatened in my resources (is my department receiving the adequate resources it needs to succeed)? Was I feeling threatened in my relationships (am I being ostracized and rejected by the wolf pack)? 

When I experienced one, or all, of these fears, I would activate self-protection. And in self-protection, I would get emotionally charged. [Spoiler alert: this will not produce the outcome you desire.]

Why did I react this way?

My personal life was muddying my work life. I didn’t know how to keep my personal problems from affecting my professional interactions. The lines were blurred. If I had activated the five components of emotional intelligence, many conflicts could have been prevented.  Solely relying on self-awareness as an EQ resource was clearly not enough, especially because I was suppressing my emotional truth.


If only I knew then what I know now. I let the anger I felt in my personal life project onto my colleagues.

My conscience prodded me, something must change. All the while I thought it was how they were interacting with me that needed to change. No, it was I who needed to change. It wasn’t until therapy and reading Outsmarting Anger that I came to realize that the emotional outbursts at Fluevog never had to happen. 

Reflecting Back

My time at John Fluevog Shoes holds some of my fondest memories. I have countless stories I could share that are exciting and life-giving. 

Were there more positive memories than negative ones? Yes. 

Was there more camaraderie than conflict? Yes. 

Were long-lasting friendships formed? Yes.  

Were we a high performing sales team? Absolutely, yes.

Regardless of how successful my time was at Fluevog, my emotional outbursts did leave a mark. It doesn't matter what my reasons are for emotionally exploding, each time was a bad idea.

There’s nothing I can do about what was. I can only transform what is right now, in this moment. I cannot change my past, but I can share what I’ve learned with the hope that it helps influence your present. It is my desire to help you rethink how you engage with others, help you become more self-aware, and help you self-regulate more effectively. Together we can inspire positive change.

In my upcoming book, Don’t Lose Your Sh*t At Work, co-authored with Dr. Joe, we will be exploring how to manage emotions at work.  Some of you hold it in and never show or express your disappointment.  Some of you address your frustration directly.  Some of you explode.  Some of you implode.  Some of you vent to a confidante. Some of you quit your jobs when you’ve had enough.

Managing emotions goes beyond staying calm; it involves effectively communicating your thoughts and feelings. There’s more to EQ than just behaving; it is knowing that you are handling the situation with poise and without compromising your voice.

What lessons have I learned since then?

I went back to therapy and spent a lot of time studying and gaining understanding in how to manage my irrational emotions, those unannounced moments where I would go from 0 to 100.  For me to truly learn how to grow in EQ, I began to spend time understanding how my brain plays a very important role in my emotional intelligence.  I was committed to practicing new habits that helped me calm my body, calm my mind, and find my voice; without being irrational.  Through the years, continually working on my emotional growth, I would then share my learnings and stories with other professionals, in hopes that my journey would also help others who could relate with me. As I continued to coach professionals on the importance of managing your emotions well, a book was born. Some of this article was originally part of a chapter in the book. 

What about you?

To see how I measure in Emotional Intelligence, I really enjoyed taking this quiz:

My results  from the EQ DNA Quiz

It came as no surprise that Self-Regulation is the area in which I can most improve.

This is the ability to control your impulses, the ability to think before you speak/react, and the ability to express yourself appropriately.” - EQ DNA This is a journey I welcome wholeheartedly. It is empowering to know you are always evolving.

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