By: JACQUELYN SMITH
There are a million things that contribute to your success: your attitude, your people skills, and your ability to lead, listen, and take responsibility, to name a few.
But an important one many don’t know about is the ability to manage emotions and remain calm under pressure, says Travis Bradberry, president at TalentSmart and coauthor of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” in a LinkedIn post.
In a more recent follow-up post, Bradberry says that managing your emotions is as much about what you don’t do as it is about what you do.
He sifted through data from his company, TalentSmart — which tested more than a million people and found that the “upper echelons of top performance are filled with people who are high in emotional intelligence” — to uncover the kinds of things that successful do and don’t do to keep themselves calm, content, and in control.
He found nine behaviors they consciously avoid. Here are a few of our favorites:
- They don’t live in the past.
“Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past,” he says. “Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow [past failures] to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed.”
When you live in the past, that is what happens — and it’s nearly impossible to move forward.
- They don’t dwell on problems or hold grudges.
Bradberry says your emotional state is determined by where you focus your attention. “When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance.”
People with high emotional intelligence focus on solutions, he says. And they rarely hold a grudge.
When you relive an event or conversation that angered you, “you [send] your body into fight-or-flight mode,” Bradberry says. “When a threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival, but when a threat is ancient history, holding onto that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time.”
Emotionally intelligent people know that stress and negativity are detrimental to their success — so they avoid holding grudges at all costs, he says.
- They don’t prioritize perfection.
Successful people don’t aim for perfection because they know it doesn’t exist. “Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible,” Bradberry says. “When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and you end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.”
- They don’t surround themselves with negative people.
Negative people — or those who complain all the time — are toxic.
“They wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions,” he says. “They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves.”
It’s human nature to feel obligated to listen to complainers because we don’t want to be seen as insensitive or impolite, Bradberry says. “But there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.”
He says you can avoid getting drawn in by setting limits and distancing yourself from those people. “Think of it this way: If a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the secondhand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers.”
- They don’t say “yes” to everyone, all the time.
Research has found that the more difficulty you have saying “no,” the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and depression, he says.
“Saying no is indeed a major challenge for most people. [It] is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield.”
When it’s necessary to say “no” to a request, successful people don’t beat around the bush. They are typically direct and avoid phrases like, “I don’t think I can,” Bradberry says.
“Saying ‘no’ to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.”