This Blog Starts out with an Apology

I’m sorry.

(See? I told you.)

Why am I apologizing you may ask? My “Best of Articles” list that went up on February 14th contained a very specific article entitled WFTDA to add emotional skills and common sense to minimum skills. Since then, I’ve seen it popping up all over social media and starting heated debates between people that are — or used to be — good friends.

Still don’t understand why this needed an apology? This is an onion article. As in “The Onion”. As in not entirely factual.

But it resonated with me because HECK YES I want people on my team that are emotionally intelligent and have a  modicum of common sense. HECK YES I want people on my team that don’t “{expect} constant validation and congratulation“. HECK YES I want people on my team that can “handle the ups and downs of a competitive sport“.

And it obviously resonated with a lot of other people too (if Social Media traffic counts for anything).

So the question becomes…how do we cultivate those skills in ourselves? And how do we help cultivate those skills in each other?

Photo Courtesy of Travis Tigner

Mental Prep is serious business. — Photo Courtesy of Travis Tigner

The first step is learning how to increase our own emotional intelligence.

What does that even mean?

Emotional Intelligence; v: the ability to understand, manage, and effectively express one’s own feelings, as well as engage and navigate successfully with those of others.

The idea is that being able to manage your own feelings in a productive way makes you less likely to be reactive to situations involving other people. If you take care of yourself, you are less likely to view something else (or someone else) in a negative or judgmental way.

Increasing your emotional intelligence takes work, but it can definitely be done.

1. Get Your Negative Feelings Under Control.

The way we view ourselves colors our interactions with others, right? So if you’re viewing yourself in a negative light or through a dark lens, you’re more likely to react poorly in a difficult situation.

Consider this situation I’ve seen a million times in derby:

“I’ve been explaining this skill to this skater over and over and over again and she’s just not listening. What the hell is wrong with her? It’s like she doesn’t even care. Or she thinks I don’t even know what I’m talking about.”

Maybe she thinks you don’t know what you’re talking about. But the more likely explanation is that she has something else on her mind tonight. The reasons why people do the things they do are more often about them than about us So take a second and reframe your feelings.

Are you worried that you don’t know what you’re talking about and projecting that on to her? Did you have a bad day today and are seeing negative reactions in all the people around you? Have you had a prior conflict with this person that you feel is unresolved?

The above are all things that you can take action on that don’t involve being pissed off at another skater for letting her mind wander to her hospitalized cat. (Or whatever is going on with her in real life.)

2. Manage Your Stress. Productively.

Stress sucks, but we all have it.

I mean, isn’t that the reason a lot of us play roller derby in the first place?

So you’ve got a step up in the “productively managing stress” department. But even the best of us get caught up in the heat of the moment.

The best option is to head your stress off at the pass by doing some deep breathing, splashing cool water on your face, or squeezing the shit out of a stress ball.

If you can’t catch your stress early, do what I do: When I feel myself reacting or becoming frazzled and about ready to jump down someone’s throat, I say, “I need a little time to think about this. I’ll get back to you in —.”

Now you know. If I’ve ever said that to you, you narrowly avoided something potentially life-threatening.

3. Be Assertive When Necessary. But Don’t Be a Dick.

It’s okay to defend your own feelings and your right to feel them. You have the right to set boundaries with others as to what’s appropriate and inappropriate in your relationship with them. AND. You have the right to express difficult emotions.

In most situations, however, you need to be assertive without being dickish. This helps you because you get your feelings listened to and it helps others because it doesn’t put them on the defensive. Sometimes derby is built on diplomacy and tact.

{There are obviously situations outside of your league where you need to be assertive AND a dick because the other person’s feeling don’t matter to you and you need to protect yourself.}

This is the old stand-by when we talk with other people about difficult situations and emotions: use “I” statements.

  • “I feel frustrated when I get talked over at league meetings.”
  • “I feel upset when it seems like my injury isn’t being taken seriously.”

Use of “YOU” statements…

  • “You make me feel frustrated when you talk over me at league meetings.”
  • “It upsets me when you don’t take my injury seriously.”

…will create defensiveness. Which will be the beginning of a downward spiral in communication.

4. Get Proactive, Not Reactive.

I already touched on this before. Take time away from a conversation or situation when you feel like your emotions are starting to get out of your control. Alternately, you can try to step into the other person’s shoes — even if only slightly.

It helps to think about what other demands that person might have on their energy and time.

  • “So-and-so has such a short temper. But I know she’s dealing with a lot of tough cases at work.”

5. Be The Comeback Kid.

In order to keep your emotions from running away with you (and everyone within shouting distance), you have to build up some ways to bounce back from adversity. I’ve written several other posts about building mental toughness (including this one) because it’s an incredibly important skill to cultivate for emotional intelligence.

Ultimately, you have to be able to look at a situation that seems difficult or beyond your abilities and reframe it. What can you learn from this? How will you improve next time?

6. Call Yourself Out.

The most important part of increasing your emotional intelligence is recognizing when you’re falling short of the steps above. When you fail to handle a situation in a productive manner, recognize it. Then revisit step 5. How will you do better next time?

If you’ve got the emotional intelligence piece down, there’s one other place to focus your energy: emotional resilience.

As much as I love lists, growing your emotional resilience is actually about just one thing:

Take Care of Yourself!

Your ability to handle stressful situations in a calm, controlled, and emotionally intelligent manner really does come down to how much sleep you’ve had, how many other decisions or stressors you’ve had in your day, and whether or not you’ve taken a break recently.

So if you’re starting to feel exhausted, overly hungry, or like your emotions are stronger than usual — go for a calming walk (or whatever helps you relax). These are all signs that your emotional intelligence is flagging and your emotional resilience is low.

And my last piece of advice. Which I use with moderate to great frequency. Constantly ask yourself: Do I need to freak out about this?

The answer might surprise you.

Want more?

If you’re interested in more exclusive content, access to my FREE resource library, and the slightly weird workings of my inner mind, you can sign up for the Iron Octopus Fitness email list HERE. Wherein I harass you weekly with all things intelligent cross training, mindset, and…other.


Ni, P., M.S.B.A. (2014, October 5). How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence ― 6 Essentials. Retrieved February 19, 2016, from
Aguilar, E. (2015, September 10). Ways to Cultivate Your Emotional Resilience This Year. Retrieved February 19, 2016, from

About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.

Leave a Reply