Emotional Intelligence Insights From Happy Gilmore

This article was originally published on the FCR blog on December 14, 2017. Click here to read the original.

One of my favorite movies is Happy Gilmore. Happy, played by Adam Sandler is known for his temper. He’s so quick to beat up a heckler (or get beaten up in the case of Bob Barker) and can always be counted on to throw a club after missing a putt.

Happy eventually realizes he can earn a lot of money playing golf but he needs to control his temper so he can buy his grandma’s house back from the bank. There’s a point in the movie where he misses a putt — and just when everyone expects him to throw his putter — he restrains himself. Here’s the call from the golf announcer:

Announcer: Happy Gilmore from nine feet.
(Misses the putt and shows aggravation)
Announcer: Here comes the putter throw.
(Happy doesn’t throw the putter)
Announcer: Wait. He’s restrained himself. Maybe this is a new Happy Gilmore.

As parents, my wife and I are enduring three-years-old for the third time. My kids are very different but there’s been one constant with all of them. While “terrible twos” gets so much airtime, I’ve found that two pales in comparison to three. It’s at age three where these little ones really need to be held accountable for those once cute, ornery behaviors.

We’re going through this phase lately where he gets upset and it’s only a matter of time before he either kicks something (or someone) or picks up an object and throws it. It’s still sort of funny because you can see it coming — and if I’m close enough to him I can sometimes grab his arm before he completes the throw.

I’m a grown adult and yet I can still relate to that need to vent my frustration in unhealthy ways. Perhaps it’s a hasty, harsh email response to a coworker or customer, or maybe it’s giving someone a dirty look for cutting me off on the freeway, or it could be a seemingly harmless sarcastic remark to a friend or family member.

I’ve matured a lot since age three and yet I still manage to respond unintelligently in emotional situations. It occurs to me that we’re all in different stages in our journey toward being emotionally intelligent. It’s one thing to not fly off the handle in these situations. It’s another thing entirely to recognize when strong emotions rise up in us and respond with the exact response we want. Easier said than done sometimes but we certainly can and must keep going in that direction.

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