cognitive readiness emotional intelligence Jan 10, 2024

“This is ridiculous!” Yelled the man at the end of the meeting table.

His outburst silenced the room. His colleague suggested we take a fifteen minute break. As we walked out, my colleague smirked.

About two hours earlier, on the drive to the client’s office, my colleague was preparing us for what was to come. His smirk was the confirmation of this preparation.

The frustration had been building for some time. The client wanted a specific detail from us, but this detail was private to our company. They were dug in deep demanding this detail, and they fought every resolution we offered.

About an hour earlier, when the meeting began, the tension was already high. Greetings and handshakes were contemptuous, small talk was pushed aside, and the man in charge, the man at the end of the table who wanted everyone to know he was in charge, got right to the point.

I was a kid in a candy shoppe. The emotions, body language, and facial expressions could fill reams of research binders and hours of TED Talks. I sat silently following the debate while absorbing the behavior. Until finally… the outburst.

We won, they lost, and he would regretfully find that out after our fifteen minute break.


He let his emotions get the best of him, he no longer had self-regulation.

What is self-regulation?

Self-regulation is your ability to understand and manage your behavior and actions towards feelings and situations happening within and around you. It includes being able to regulate reactions to strong emotions like frustration, excitement, anger or embarrassment and to baseline yourself after something stimulating or distressing.

What impresses most people - staying cool, calm, and collected when under pressure - is directly connected to strong self-regulation.

Is this self-control? Psychologist Stuart Shanker (2016) replies: “Self-control is about inhibiting strong impulses; self-regulation [is about] reducing the frequency and intensity of strong impulses by managing stress-load and recovery. In fact, self-regulation is what makes self-control possible, or, in many cases, unnecessary.” [56]

Notice without perceived emotion and self-awareness, you’ll struggle with self-regulation. Practice regulating yourself in all situations and ask for feedback from loved ones and friends on how well you did. When first starting out, some people like to exaggerate their regulation practice to get the hang of it, but over time, self-regulation can become just as cool and clam as you’ll become. Self regulation is a pivotal, life-altering skill.

Diminished self-regulation

Research has focused on the idea that people have a limited amount of self-regulation strength and regularly experience something called “ego depletion”. You may be familiar with this when you’re tired or hungry, you may have experienced ego depletion and struggled to control your behavior.

Researchers suggest that ego depletion undermines self-regulation because urges to act are felt more intensely and our ability to restrain ourselves is lower. Inhibitions and behavioral restraints are weaker, meaning you have less motivation or willpower to refrain from the temptations, desires, or urges which in turn are felt much more strongly. [56]

Recent neuroscience research supports this idea of self-regulatory depletion. A study from 2013 by Wagner and colleagues used functional neuroimaging to show that people who had depleted their self-regulatory energy experienced less connectivity between the regions of the brain involved in self-control and rewards. In other words, their brains were less accommodating in helping them resist temptation after sustained self-regulatory activity. [56]


The man at the end of the table had run out of self-regulation, and his outburst was the perfect transition to the final resolution. Had he not yelled, who knows how long that meeting could have continued. His side lost their footing.

After sitting silently for the first half of this meeting, I finally chimed in with a proposed resolution. It was the same resolution I had suggest weeks ago, before all the frustration started to build, but I doubt the clients remembered any of that.

I used the piping hot tensions to demonstrate a win-win scenario, but in reality we were just humoring their request and doing what we wanted to do. All thanks to the man at the end of the table. This concluded the meeting, and the car filled with a huge sigh of relief.

Although our team had prepared for the tension, affirmed our stance, and aligned our talking points, no one predicted the outburst. What a gift. Not just to the company being able to retain its secure information, but also to those working on improving their self-regulation.

The gift is a reminder of how important self-regulation is, of how fragile it can be, and of how important practice and focus is to strengthen it.

Looking to boost or shore up your self-regulation? Since self-regulation falls under emotional intelligence, that’s a good place to start. You may also dive into attentional focus to better understand mindfulness and metacognition.

References: [55][56]

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