How to improve your emotional swiftness

by Christian Kurmann

In my work as a leadership thinker I often notice that CEOs and executives and and in particularly leaders, are expected be either stoic or cheerful; projecting their confidence and ignore any negativity bubbling up inside them.



But isn’t that against basic biology and social anthropology. Because it is social - & cultural anthropology which shows us that human beings have an inner stream of thoughts and feelings that include criticism, doubt, and fear – still by the end of the day we want to cooperative rather than being completive, because we are seeking an environment of bonding and belonging.

I see leaders stumble not because they have undesirable thoughts and feelings — that’s unavoidable — but because they get captivated by them, little bit like the mouse trap. This happens because we buy into our thoughts, treating protecting them like rational facts and then avoid situations and recall them, - or we increase our capacity and strive and put high expectation, believing we can challenge the existence of our thoughts and try to narrow them to rationality and perhaps charge ourselves into similar situations, even when those go against our core values and goals, which is often unethical leadership.

In either case, we are paying too much attention to irrelevant issues and other internal chatter, that are allowing us to fool important cognitive resources , which could be put to better use. I regularly experience executives with recurring emotional challenges such as: anxiety about priorities, jealousy of others’ success, fear of rejection, distress over perceived slights — who have devised techniques to “get it sorted”. But when we ask how long the challenges have persisted, the answer might be 5, 10 years, or more years, or even since childhood.

Clearly, those techniques don’t helps us — in fact, ample research shows that attempting to minimise or ignore thoughts, feelings and emotions serves only to amplify them. In a famous study led by Jeffery Pfeffer, a Stanford professor, participants who were told to avoid thinking, had trouble doing so; later, they thought much more than the other group who insisted in control each situation.

Effective leaders don’t buy into or try to suppress their inner experiences. Instead they approach them in a mindful, virtue-driven, and productive way — developing what we call emotional swiftness. In our complex, fast-changing knowledge economy, this ability to manage one’s thoughts and feelings is essential to business success. Numerous studies, show that emotional swiftness can help people alleviate stress, reduce errors, become more innovative, and improve job performance. Working together with executives from around the world in various industries is to build critical skill to be become more swiftly, when participants learn to recognise their patterns; label their thoughts, feelings and emotions; they must earn how to accept them; and act on their virtues rather their values to soften their moral behavior in understanding by what they are driven

Often the first step in developing emotional swiftness is to notice when we’ve been captured by our thoughts, emotions and feelings. That’s hard to do, but there are certain significant signs. One is that our thinking becomes rigid and repetitive. This is when we for example begin to see that our self-recriminations plays like a broken record, repeating the same messages over and over again. Another could be that the story our mind is telling us seems old, like a rerun of some past experience. This is when we have to realise that we are stuck before we can actually initiate change.


Identifying our thoughts, feelings and emotions

When we are stuck, the attention we give our thoughts, feelings and emotions circle our mind; there’s no room to examine them. One strategy that may help us to consider our situation more objectively is the simple act of identifying, comparing and putting high expectation about us and others and put them aside. This not come overnight, but perhaps could be a process how we feel more stable inwardly, keeping ourselves in balance, psychological, mentally and psychically. Because, we are psychologically able to take this overview of private experiences, - mounting scientific evidence shows that simple, straightforward mindfulness practice and cultivating stillness not only improves behavior and well-being, but also promotes beneficial biological changes in the brain and at the cellular level.


Accept them

The opposite of control is acceptance — not acting on every thought or resigning yourself to negativity but responding to your ideas and emotions with an open attitude, paying attention to them and letting yourself experience them. This is encourages us to trust us ourselves and others more and we find the courage letting go of situation that are no longer serve us with the purpose.


Act on our virtues

When we unleash ourselves from our difficult thoughts, feelings and emotions, we expand our choices. We can decide to act in a way that aligns with our virtues. I encourage leaders to focus on the concept of their possible ability. This would mean, is our response going to serve us and our organisation. Is it possible that we find courage and trust to become more empathetic? Are we taking a step toward being the leader we most want to be and living the life we most want to live?



Choosing a challenging situation in our work life —for example, “receiving negative feedback from senior management” or “is my contribution as valuable as my.” We need to ask ourselves. “To what extent do I avoid this particular thought, trying to make it go away forever?”. “To what extent do we buy into it, letting it overwhelming us?”. Is it a feeling of shame, sadness, disappointment fear, anxiety or maybe something else? We need to ask ourselves: “To what extent do we avoid or try to ignore these feelings?”. “To what extent do we buy into it?”



If we primarily avoid our thoughts, emotions and feelings, let us try to acknowledge them instead. Our thoughts as they arise and check our feelings and emotional state several times a day so that we can identify the useful information our mind is sending us. A moment in stillness could be the new daily habit, encouraging us to buy into our thoughts, emotions and feelings – fining our inner landscape. If we alternate our patterns, we can learn about our attention to which thoughts and feelings we avoid and which we buy into so that we can respond with one of the strategies we describe.

Christian Kurmann