I recently had the opportunity to hear Laura Arellano, Senior Leadership Trainer for CHG Healthcare, give a keynote presentation on emotional intelligence in leadership. As part of her presentation, she confirmed that emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned and applied to leadership, particular to leading volunteers. My takeaway from her presentation, however, had nothing to do with leadership and everything to do with body language.
I’ve always had trouble controlling my physical reaction to being startled. The best example is when I am riding in the passenger seat and something that is happening on the highway startles me. I literally jump. This in turn startles the driver (usually my husband) who has been known to react to my reaction by chastising me for reacting.
But that’s not my only body language faux pas. That same week I was accused twice of being nervous when I felt no nervousness at all – at least, not consciously. From my vantage point, I was merely standing and patiently waiting. Apparently when I stand and patiently wait, I appear very anxious.
Fortunately, I’m doing OK at controlling the verbal outbursts that often flood my mind after being chastised for my body language. Why are you yelling at me for something I can’t control? Be calm??? You might as well tell me to be six feet tall. Here’s where Laura’s message comes in. She gave what she called a Profound Statement: The job of the Subconscious Mind is to do what the Conscious Mind tells it to. She then went on to say the brain follows the body. The two statements almost sound counter-intuitive, but when you think about it, they can be complementary. Calm the mind – calm the body AND calm the body – calm the mind.
It’s not that I can’t control my body language. It’s that I haven’t tried. Those of you who know me personally know that the word calm and my name are never used in the same sentence. It’s time to try to fix that. And the fix will need to come from both calming the mind and calming the body.
So I’ve been practicing. I’m trying to move a little more slowly. I sit in the car with my feet on the ground and my hands folded in my lap, and I’ve noticed that just that posture has helped me control overreacting to what’s happening around me. I’ve tried to sit quietly and take deep breaths to calm myself. Is it working? Time will tell. Hopefully I will not only take Laura’s lessons to heart, but to mind and body as well.