Just a few days ago, I published a blog post that highlighted Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman and the low Impulse Control that accompanied his interview at the end of the NFC Championship game. Well, Sherman did not have to wait long before another public figure leap-frogged over him to give us a stunning (and on-camera) example of low Impulse Control. After President Obama’s State of the Union Speech, Representative Michael Grimm (Republican from New York) was interviewed on camera by a local reporter. Rep. Grimm’s Impulse Control–or lack thereof–was sudden and caught on camera.
Within the EQ-i model of Emotional Intelligence, Impulse Control is the ability or tendency we each have to resist or delay an initial desire to do or say something. Effective Impulse Control comes across looking and sounding calm and steady. Impulse Control buys us time and gives us more behavioral options by not jarring the discussion or the relationship with words or actions that, once said or done, cannot be pulled back or re-framed. Low Impulse Control looks, on the other hand, like rash, impatient or abrupt behavior. And as we unfortunately saw and heard from Rep. Michael Grimm, low Impulse Control also can look or sound angry and even violent.
The price of low Impulse Control can be quite high. What price will Rep. Grimm pay? It is a bit early to say. Grimm apologists say the reporter was out of line with his question; that Grimm did not know the camera was still rolling; that emotions were high after a long day and a high-profile speech by the President. The issue, however, is not whether or why Grimm was upset, but rather that he acted on his aggressive, offensive, and even violent impulse. There was no filtration or delay from his original thought to that thought’s implementation, and the result was physically threatening someone.
As a consultant, trainer and active user of the EQ-i, my concern is less what happens to Michael Grimm, and more the hope of using his public lapse of Impulse Control as a cautionary tale. Part of developing effective Emotional Intelligence is learning to engage our Impulse Control–to activate our filters and hold back when the words or actions we’re considering will not make a positive contribution–and certainly to hold back when action or disclosure will actively hurt someone.