Impulse control relates to one’s ability to resist impulsive or thoughtless behaviour before acting. By delaying reacting, one can choose a more appropriate response, rather than a primary reaction. It’s also the ability to weigh up options and consider the validity of the actions and the current situation.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl
Higher Range vs Lower Range Of Impulse Control
High impulse control is associated with the ability to be restrained when impulses or temptations arise. Someone with high impulse control is often better able to analyse a situation and their feelings, before acting in some way. Thus, being able to consider the implications of their response, rather than potentially regretting expressing it thoughtlessly.
These are more likely to:
• Have a more composed demeanour and appear more patient.
• Have good control of their emotion expressions and better able to resist impulsive behaviour.
• Have a higher stress tolerance and manage feelings of frustration maturely.
• Be better at negotiation as they can be more level-headed and don’t let feelings get in the way.
• Able to delay gratification for a more appropriate time in the future. (You may be familiar with the Marshmallow test?)
Lower impulse control is associated with individuals who are highly reactive to their own emotions and situations around them.
They are likely to:
• Potentially overreact to situations, especially when highly aroused.
• Struggle to manage feelings of anger and frustration maturely and may take these feelings out on others.
• Be more explosive and unpredictable, which leads to uncomfortable relationships with others.
• Behave abusively or be inconsiderate of others in certain circumstances.
Impact In The Workplace
Have you ever been in a meeting or talking to someone and as soon as their phone notifies them of a call or message, they are super quick to answer? It indirectly suggests that, that communication is more important than the one with you. It can come across as very rude.
Managing one’s impulses can be very beneficial for both personal and career success. It is very important to consider and be aware of how one’s emotions and actions can affect and influence the actions and behaviours of those around you.
Someone with higher impulse control is often very good in problem solving roles like mediation, negotiation, project planning, sales etc. They are very careful to consider benefits or any other implications of their decisions.
High impulse control could be seen as necessary for a calm and productive workplace environment. Colleagues with high impulse control are more likely to be better communicators and they are more likely to be sensitive to others.
They are more likely to:
• Remain calm under pressure at work.
• Respond to difficult colleagues and challenging situations without becoming outwardly hostile or aggressive.
• Come up with ideas and resolutions to challenges instead of reacting thoughtlessly.
• Carefully consider colleagues opinions and ideas and willing to work harder for a better or more appropriate outcome.
• Often appear more present and make others feel calmer in their presence.
Low impulse control on the other hand, comes with a number of challenges. Making it harder for individuals to be productive and for teams to work well together.
People who have lower impulse control are more likely to:
• Outwardly display frustration and aggression when under pressure at work.
• Struggle to consider the consequences of their decisions. This can lead to unnecessary and costly mistakes.
• Not to listen to their colleague’s ideas as they just follow their own tune.
• Difficulty in separating their emotions from their behaviour.
• Make other colleagues feel stressed around them because of their unpredictable behaviour.
• May act out on certain urges. These may include unwanted sexual advances, bullying, poor jokes and fun made of others, etc.
Impact In Leadership
Imagine a manager who just sends out a blanket email for everyone to stop eating at their desk, because they feel like people are wasting time and not as productive as they could be. However, some staff members eat at their desk because they like to catch up on emails over lunch. Or others that eat something now and then because they have low blood sugar etc. The managers aim of getting people more productive, actually backfires and some staff members complain. Perhaps the manager should have spoken to underperforming members individually to understand what challenges they may be facing. Rather than impulsively bringing in a rule that does more harm than good.
Leaders who are high in impulse control are likely to give a sense of stability and emotional safety to the workplace. They can manage difficult situations maturely and without aggression. Communicating more effectively and unemotionally, in a non-intimidating way. This type of environment tends to be better suited to encourage and empower staff to produce better results.
When leaders display impulse control, they also consider the impact of their decisions on others and are less likely to make rash decisions. This kind of approach is more likely to result in successful outcomes. Making better decisions that are well thought out before action.
It is not just about scoring high that makes one better than another.
In business we most often want to make the best decisions, based on proper evaluation of the potential outcomes for those decisions. However, in some circumstances, there is a need to act quickly and to make decisions with the information one has on hand.
Someone who scores high in impulse control and low on independence, may not be able to make quick decisions by themself. Thus, letting opportunity go by, or not be able to make decisions to stop potential problems quick enough.
On the other hand, someone who scores low on impulse control, low on reality testing and low on problem solving, may make very poor decisions when under the same stress. Neither of these 2 people may necessarily make the best leader.
Leaders being in the lower range of impulse control can make them more unpredictable. Potentially creating a tense working environment. This type of leader may struggle to make appropriate decisions for their organisation or team. They may struggle to listen and accept the opinions of others. Or may find it difficult to consider the consequences of their choices.
“You will become as small as your controlling desire, as great as your dominant aspiration.” – James Allen
Improving Impulse Control
It’s clear that impulse control is important to help ensure that well thought out decisions are made. Low impulse control could potentially be very costly to an organization.
If you feel that this is an area that you or someone you know may want to work on, then help is at hand.
On completion of the emotional intelligence assessment, you will have a clearer idea of where you may sit on each of the subscales of EI. We can then work together to increase the specific areas that you feel will have the most immediate and positive impact in your life.
The emotional intelligence assessment is done online and followed up with a face-to-face coaching session, which can be done via Zoom or in person.
Working on one’s EI can lead to significant positive results in all areas of life. Not only making one over all happier, but more effective and approachable. It all starts with a simple yet immensely powerful online assessment.
To find out more about how your organization can benefit, contact us today for a no-obligation conversation.