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Shifting Perspective


I recently ran across this quote from one of my favorite leadership gurus, Adam Grant:

"A sign of emotional intelligence is moving from 'You made me feel' to 'This is how I reacted.' Our emotions aren't caused by other people's actions. They're shaped by our interpretations. Blaming others gives them power over our feelings. Taking responsibility empowers us."

Wow! There is so much packed into a few short sentences! Perhaps a few thoughts from my perspective might generate some additional thoughts for you.

Moving from "You made me feel" to "This is how I reacted"

All of my friends (and family) who are therapists are rejoicing right now because of the truth in this idea. We actually don't have control over anyone else's emotions or reactions, so it doesn't really make sense to say, "You made me feel" or "I made you feel." What really happens when I feel emotions from something another person says to me is my emotional reaction to it.

Our emotions are shaped by our interpretations

The emotional reaction I am having to what you said to me has everything to do with my understanding of what you said (or mis-understanding!), what it brings up or triggers in me, or even if I'm hangry (so hungry I am moving into angry territory). It can be shaped by what happened to me 30 minutes ago or 30 years ago. What's important is for me to work to separate out what you are saying from what my emotional reaction is to what you are saying. It's hard work (and I might need to use a powerful pause to help me), but it's important I don't project what's causing my emotional reaction onto you, which isn't really fair to you or me.


Blaming others gives them power....Taking responsibility empowers us.

When we blame others for our emotional reaction to something, what we are actually doing is giving up our own power and taking on the victim role. This is actually true for a lot more than just our emotional reactions! Part of the power of actually taking responsibility for what is ours, is not playing that blame/victim game, but placing proper ownership where it belongs, which can help us name what is really true. For example, if you've said (or done) something to me that creates a hurtful emotional reaction in me, taking responsibility for my emotional reaction also lets me honestly say and name what you said (or did) as a reality. It allows me to take responsibility for my part, and gives you the opportunity to take responsibility for your part.

After reading some of my reflections, what other ideas come to your mind from Adam's insightful words? Are there certain people or situations that tend to create stronger emotional reactions in you? How could you face those circumstances in a way that helped you take responsibility and better empower yourself? What kind of an impact could it have in your life if you shifted perspectives from, "You made me feel" to "This is how I reacted"? Here's to making this small, but powerful, Shift in Perspective this week! Be Well, Stephen Center was created to support individuals and teams so they can live from their Purposeful Center. We specialize in executive coaching and leadership development and we’d love to support you!

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