Carol Bowser: Never Engage when you're hungry, angry, lonely, or tired

Never Engage When You’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Or Tired

Written by Carol Bowser

When you’re feeling any one of the following: hungry, angry, lonely, tired – HALT!

So there I was…a bit frustrated. More than a little hungry. Apparently the 2 lattes were not enough to sustain me into mid-afternoon. It was around 3:00 pm. Right about time for my daily mid-afternoon energy dip. Then I got an email from the kid’s school…

Yep. Not good. Not terrible. But, not good. I had what I will call here “a moment.” Two moments actually. One moment when I was escalating. Another moment when I realized that I needed to “drink my own Kool-Aid”. I needed to H.A.L.T.

I tell my clients that when you’re experiencing hunger, anger, loneliness, or fatigue, you need to recognize that your body is giving you signals. Signals to take a step back and take a couple of deep breaths . Because if you push through these warning signals, the engagement will likely go poorly. Well, at least poorly for the person who is your target. Yes, target.

You will likely unload on the person. The person will feel targeted. The working relationship will take a hit.

You might be wondering, “is there any science behind selecting these four seemingly random words?” Well, so was I. But, beyond science, there are practical reasons to halt when you are experiencing HALT.

One of the most important reasons is that when we are experiencing these emotions, we are not at our best. There are emotional, psychological, and physical effects when we are dealing with these feelings. These effects make us more likely to be defensive, maybe more offensive. You’ve probably heard the term “hangry” or hungry and angry simultaneously. That’s what I’m talking about! You lose rational thought while experiencing any (or all four) of HALT.

Okay, let’s talk about being Hungry first. Our brains function on carbohydrates. (This is not a reason to carb-binge). Lack of carbohydrates is why you might feel a brain fog when on a carbohydrate restricted diet. If we are hungry, our brain doesn’t function as well as we need it to. Think of your brain as a car engine and food is its gasoline. When the gas runs low, you can’t go very far, right? Even though your optimal function isn’t required in every conversation, you still need to be fully up and prepped most of the time, especially when doing critical thinking. So, the next time you are feeling hungry, stop. Take a break and grab some brain food.

Now, what about Angry? When we are angry, irritated, frustrated, or when we feel like shouting: “Good God! What is going on here?” We usually lose all thought of being empathetic and compassionate. Our self-preservation instinct kicks in, and we close off all doors and shut the possibility of collaboration and problem-solving. When we’re angry, the most common response is to “strike back” with words or deeds. What’s unfortunate is that sometimes it’s too late to realize that in the height of us “getting even,” we’re already upsetting other people and putting barriers in front of us.

Lonely – this is quite interesting. I had the chance to work with a client for several years that had a trucking company with a high turnover. However, according to the gathered data, those drivers who have been around for at least 9-12 months were likely to stay. Further, those drivers who partnered with someone were more likely to stay. Why might that be? Loneliness has a distinct effect on our mental health. According to Maslow, an inherent need for any human is to feel that they belong. When we’re alone, we feel like no one else can relate to us – that we don’t belong. It makes us feel isolated when, in reality, we’re not. We do, however, have a tendency to swim in our own narrative.

The beauty of partnering up with someone is that you open up and share your thoughts. Have someone be (a work appropriate) sounding board. Over time there is the chance to build camaraderie and common ground. Empathy can grow. Feelings of isolation can lessen.

Last but certainly not least, Tired. Need we say more? When we’re tired, we want to close things as soon as possible and go home. Again, self-preservation kicks in. We prioritize our needs over others, erect that proverbial barrier, and we’re no longer receptive to the suggestions of others.

Hungry, angry, lonely, tired – HALT. Again, when we experience HALT, our brain is not at peak performance. On the contrary, we’re likely to be more irritable and defensive, if not downright offensive to others.

This is where your emotional intelligence skills come in. When you are about to do any engagement, take a quick pause, close your eyes, put your feet on the floor, and put your palms up. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “How am I feeling? What is my body telling me? What is my spirit telling me? What is my brain telling me?”

You are increasing your situational awareness. Or in current lingo “your emotional intelligence.” Once you have identified what your body is telling you, whether you are hungry, your belt is too tight, your feet are too cold, or you are just feeling so much tension in your neck, acknowledge it. Taking note of how you feel emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually will influence your demeanor. FYI-people are always reading you. How you show up. What sort of mood you are in. So help yourself out and do a self-edit. Listen to what your body is telling you.

So once you know. Fix what you can. Simple and easy. Ask for a quick break Grab something to eat. Pause to identify what triggered you.

Lonely? Well, maybe you take an opportunity to reach out and connect with someone. Share an accomplishment. Ask how they are doing. Tired? Take an opportunity for a twenty-minute power nap or a walk around the block to increase that energy level without relying on sugar, caffeine, or any other substances.

Remember HALT—Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Take a moment to assess all those situations you can probably remedy with self-care. Share HALT with others. Just see how it goes.

Finally, if you are a leader, make sure that you are leading by example and honoring requests. Who knows you might find that when folks are fed, rested, calm, and connected conflict decreases.