Webinar presenters John Thompson and Mike Brown answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Emotional Intelligence: The Key to Keeping Animal Care and Control Personnel Safe. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: My only trigger when someone goes online and find that information about my kids and then uses that information during enforcement. I mitigated it by making social media private and using my maiden name, however, due to my husband’s job, there is still information out there that gives people information about my family. How do I maintain emotional safety when someone brings up my family?
John Thompson: The first thing you did was self-awareness You recognized they’re talking about your family was a trick. The second thing that you did that was good was you developed a coping mechanism. Your coping mechanism was to disconnect yourself from social media or ease that information but what I will recommend is really ask yourself why does that bother you. A person that doesn’t know you that makes a comment about your child, why does that affect you? I think you really have to get to the root of why that bothers you and I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you wrote something about my mother, something derogatory. So instead of getting triggered, I will flip it on you and say, “Hey you know what, I was adopted. What else can you tell me about it?” So what you want to do instead of feeding into the triggers that person is trying to promote whether they do, is to put them into a position that they really don’t know how to react. Just rope quickly. Ask yourself why it bothers you, and then look further into your coping mechanisms.
Mike Brown: The only thing that I would add is, unfortunately, too many police officers, animal control officers today and many others, they put their life on Facebook and it’s so easy for anyone to find out anything. That’s the society that we’re living in. You have to take care of yourself number one and protect yourself in that area. Two is it that you’re right. If someone threatens your family that pretty much gains off, but you have to be able to understand, are they really threatening? I can tell you when I was in the street how many times and Mike can vouch for this. “I know where you live, I’m going to come to your house and I’m going to sue you.” You know, it’s just over and over. When you are a public figure working in a public arena, you’re going to have to deal with this kind of things but you have to take every step that you can take to protect your family. If there’s a real threat there, you’re going to need to make sure that you make a complaint, follow the law, do what you have to do within reason. For you losing it or getting upset, I’m telling you now it’s only going to result to the fact that they still know the information and now you’re going to get yourself in trouble which is not going to help anything. You’re not going to help your family at all if you lose it and get in trouble.
Audience Question: Have you correlated the results from the EQ test against years on the job and a is there a relationship between the two?
John Thompson: We put the few tests like others. If you really want to test yourself in some more scientific test out there that’s going to have to pay for, but no, we found none of that. We sold that in here to give you a little bit of information but again if you really want to go test yourself with emotional intelligence, that does have some of the facts. It’s plenty of those online.
Mike Brown: There’s some correlation that has been done but it’s not specifically for animal control officers and that’s why we said early on despite what your emotional intelligence is, it can be improved upon on any age, so you can have the twenty-year veteran with low emotional intelligence or you can have a twenty-year veteran with high. So it really s individual thing but the key is understanding the importance of it and try to improve.
John Thompson: There’s a lot of research out there that sounds basically we are programmed from the time of birth to seven years old. Many of those things that happen, things that we saw, things that happen to us, we heard, or ingrained in us is they are there and sometimes they stay down and so we are given with a situation where they pop up. So again, identifying what you are, like Mike said it could be twenty years later before you’re having a problem.
Audience Question: If we do go into amygdala hijack, what is the best way to un-hijack yourself?
Mike Brown: The first thing that you need to do is to recognize it. Now that know you understand it, you know what it is, you know what you are feeling, and you’re thinking mind is actually going to tell you, you’re hijacked. So for me, I feel it in my gut and when I get that feeling my thinking mind automatically kicks in and say don’t get hijacked. So once you recognized it, listen to the thinking mind and de-escalate yourself. And remember the thing is it just happens in seconds so once you feel it start thinking back. Maybe you want to just really picture that bus operator in your mind before you hang up today. Picture that bus operator twenty-two years on the job. Less than one minute, he’s destroyed everything he’s worked for, he’s destroyed his family. He ends up in jail and family has no support. Get that in your head and every time you’d feel yourself in that position, start thinking that fate; I don’t want that to happen. But again, just don’t compromise your safety. I don’t ever want to compromise your safety by trying to step back. You got to be careful and take care of yourself.
John Thompson: One thing that I would practice if I’m walking into a potentially hostile situation, I’ll say to myself, “Thinking mind, thinking mind,” and it just reminds me to be aware, understand of the thinking mind.
Audience Question: When you have someone that is really upset, how do you get them to calm down?
John Thompson: Think about social awareness. Understand emotions, needs and concerns were upsetting. So if you focus on social awareness, their emotions, needs, and concerned that’s how you bring them down. Personalize, call them by their names, start going into the bright side of things. Talk about issues that are positive to them. Remember, upset is an emotion. All you are trying to do is take the negative emotion to a positive emotion.
Mike Brown: Remember it’s not personal too. When you look at them and you understand, they’re springing at you and yelling at you, it really isn’t personal to you. It’s just they are upset, so try to understand that and that’s a whole another class.
Audience Question: Is it possible to have more or less emotional intelligence in different situations? For example, I might be calm at work and more emotional at home? Is that a good or bad thing?
Mike Brown: It’s good that you recognize it and it’s possible. Like John said, we’d play with each other and he’ll try to trigger me but he can’t because I tried to keep our friendship on a professional level. If you notice, it’s easy to get triggered by people you love and it’s a strong emotion, so it is possible that it works. Everything is business, it’s hard to trigger you but when you get home and it’s the wife, a husband or kid, because of that strong emotional tie that the things that they do affect you more, so the answer is yes.
John Thompson: Sometimes too. One thing I just want to throw in there, Aaron. Sometimes when you’re in a really bad emotional state it might be best to take a day off. If you know that you’re going to be in situations that is going to be very challenging and you are already in a bad emotional state, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Audience Question: From an organizational perspective, are there ways to create a culture of emotional intelligence?
John Thompson: We’ve been trying to find out how long/ Fifteen years. I just was talking at HSUS conference in New Orleans and I ask in the room if everybody has heard of it and most of the time you may be one or two and that’s it. We just have to keep pushing it out there and the things that you’re doing. Creating a culture takes a long time and when we don’t get the message out to people to make them understand then that’s it. It’s just not going to happen anytime soon but we’re continuing to work on it, and yes, I think we can do it but it’s going to take some time.
Mike Brown: Because of the emotional intelligence of an individual, remember you take the task and that self-awareness, what you can do is you can take the negative aspect of your working environment and you go work on that person as an individual so let’s say that person is mean and grumpy to everyone else, you can use your four core abilities on that person and you just start breaking down barriers one person at a time. As John said, yeah. It’s just going to take long.
John Thompson: Our email is up there. Everybody is collecting our email and it’s always available for help.