Flexibility has long been regarded as a cultural embedded skill or quality. We tend to view more relaxed cultures and individuals as more flexible, while thorough societies and its members tend to be regarded as more rigid and less willing to engage in a flexible mentality.
Flexibility, as part of the emotional intelligence skills, is a component that is worth dwelling into, as it opens possibilities and new perspectives to situations that could have probably been overlooked.
From the emotional intelligence texts, we learn that flexibility is a component of the stress management domain together with stress tolerance and optimism. It is defined as adapting emotions, thought and behaviors to unfamiliar, unpredictable and dynamic circumstances or ideas.
It is a skill that help us adjust to change we cannot predict or control. If used consciously, it allows us to accommodate to the needs of others while maintaining self-regard. And opens new possibilities and ways of thinking. Likewise, if flexibility is taken to any extreme, too flexible or too inflexible, could hinder our healthy emotional development.
Assessing Flexibility: The Flexibility Continuum
So how flexible or rigid do we react to a situation? Here is where the flexibility continuum becomes relevant. As shown in the image, the continuum depicts the two extremes of flexibility. In one end, if we react and behave too flexible, we end up pleasing other people and disregarding our own needs. Consequently, internal frustration amounts and our level of emotional well-being experiences a cutback. Excess flexibility must be properly managed by our internal conscious constructs, if not, we end up being too malleable and adaptable therefore jeopardizing our self-regard.
The other extreme, acting in a very inflexible manner also bears a downside. While acting inflexible means that we live in a familiar and comfortable rut, this behavior makes it frustrating for others to interact with us, especially in times of change. By being too inflexible we risk becoming rigid and static hence missing opportunities and new perspectives of navigating through a situation. Flexibility is a balance act which tests sustaining our self-regard while being open to possibilities on alternative ways of dealing with daily life circumstances
A Simple Exercise
A simple exercise can start training our “flexibility muscle”. The exercise consists on stating a situation in an overtly flexible manner and then state the same situation in a very inflexible manner. Try it with this example:
When I go to work, I have to follow my routine to get my work done. Otherwise, I’m derailed and the day is pointless.
Statement I like to follow my routine at work. But some of what is on my plate just isn’t getting done. I need some new tools or strategies. What have I got to lose looking in a new direction?
Following the exercise will create a new level of awareness by consciously exploring the situation by moving from right to left on the flexibility continuum. That is, moving from a possibility stated by others in one end of the spectrum, therefore giving up self-regard, all the way to the far right, going into total shutdown and portraying no intention to look for an alternative. The exercise gives us the chance to view our own stand on the situation, one that we feel comfortable with.
Flexibility is a balancing act that requires awareness and practice. For any given situation, we can become conscious of the state of our “flexible muscle”, are we behaving too flexible or too inflexible? In this state of mental awareness, we can change the perspective shedding light on the situation, while consciously investigating the possibilities that may arise from a more flexible stand in accordance with our life views. Take the opportunity to incorporate a flexible mindset into YOUR life
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