“Temper is the one thing you can’t get rid of by losing it” – Jack Nicklaus
‘That bloody MXXXXX-XXXXXX! How ridiculous! Have you ever heard such a thing? Outrageous! What an idiot!! I can’t believe he’s done it again! She should know by now!‘ Ever been read the riot act by your boss or ranted and raved yourself due to repetitive mistakes caused by a co-worker?
What does it mean to “Manage Your Emotions Well”?
What are people talking about when they say ‘I need to learn to better manage my emotions’ or even better (or worse) ‘You need to learn to better manage your emotions’? Although they sometimes are referring to extreme sadness which clouds over their mood, guilt or fear which weighs them down or even sheer happiness which overwhelms counterparts with too much enthusiasm; more often than not, they are talking about controlling their anger and the expression of it.
In today’s fast-paced world of competitive workplaces and turbulent economic conditions, more and more leaders have trouble controlling their emotions.
The reasons for uproars can be multiple. On the defense? Impatient? Taking things personally? A perfectionist? Controlling? Lack self-confidence? Jumping to Conclusions? Overloaded or too invested at work? Emotionally-charged situations can errupt for various reasons and many a leader are faced with them daily.
If you have a propensity towards ill-tempered behavior, imagine what it could be like for others to work with you. To walk on eggshells and constantly wonder, ‘is she in a good mood today or not’? Does it create the sort of atmosphere in which people are motivated to do their best? We know that individuals perform best when they are in a relaxed state and able to be themselves.
Learn to rule your temper rather than letting it rule you!
There are a number of techniques which one can try to harness and rechannel negative energy. Here are just a few
1. Build Awareness of Triggers
Feeling the irritability rising? Heightened awareness is the first step. Become cognisant of your trigger points – what sets you off and how you feel before exploding. Is your heart racing? Do your palms become sweaty? Strange feeling in your stomach? Does your respiratory rate increase? Make a list of the types of situations that set you off and group them into 3 or 4 categories. Then ask yourself why are these situations problematic for you? In each grouping, decide what would be a more mature response. Rehearse the response in preparation for the next time a similar situation occurs.
2. Increase your impulse control
Short fuse? Take a few deep breaths and count to 10 to regain composure. Generally somewhere between the second and third thing you think of is the right option. Practice holding back your first response long enough to think of a second. Then wait to think of a third before you choose which behaviour to pursue. Stress breathing gets shallow. Slowing breathing down to 8 breaths / minute helps send oxygen to the brain and muscles, and subsequently move into a state of inner peace.
You can also use delaying tactics to buy yourself time: get a pen out of your briefcase, walk slowly to the white board or flip chart and begin writing down a few key ideas, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, get a drink, etc. One of my clients would even look at pictures of his cat when he was not in agreement with what was being said in the meeting. He said the pet amused and calmed him (this ‘solution’ is to be used with caution as it could be interpreted as disinterest and / or considered rude).
3. Seek to Understand
Sometimes we jump to conclusions. Calmly ask an open-ended question which will clarify matters. Some preparation and practice may be required to develop good questions as the skill is not innate.
4. The Remedy of Writing
Letting things build up? Writing down your thoughts daily can help reduce pressure before exploding. Free flow-of-thought journaling is a type of purging and reflection which helps uncover thoughts we sometimes didn’t know existed. There’s a good technique by Julia Cameron called ‘the morning pages’ which is described in her book, Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. No matter what time of day it is practiced, the technique works well for me.
5. Positive Self Reflection
Sometimes we are more angry with ourselves than anything else. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself all the good things about yourself for 3 minutes (set the timer!). By the law of attraction, being happy with ourselves allows us to be at peace with others. Deciding how you will begin your day can make all the difference. Some people keep a daily success tracking chart in excel. Try to list 3 per day. You have done a lot of things right – give yourself credit!
6. Integrate daily exercise and develop other aspects
Too much invested at work? Find another outlet for your energy. For some this means intense sport like cross-fit, running, biking or yoga at least 3 times a week. For others, it can mean walking to work rather than taking the subway – or at least parking their car further away from the intended destination. Get those recommended 10,000 steps in per day! You can also focus more on other aspects of your life like joining a local association, volunteer for a worthy cause, learn a new art form, spend more time with family, take vacation, or pick up a new hobby (painting, salsa, bridge – whatever resonates with you!).
7. STOP drinking coffee
Too much caffeine? Take inventory of the types of beverages you are consuming. Make a goal to drink less of those which have a tendency to affect you negatively.
8. Uncover your ‘Secret Selves’
Most of us have hidden parts of ourselves which can get triggered when things are not going our way, take over and negatively affect communications. Detriggering that irritable side through a proven process with a certified coach can help. On the flip side, you can also unfold a positive aspect of yourself which people rarely see and you would like to bring more into relationships. This remedy will most likely require partnering with a relationship systems coach. She will help you de-trigger that testy side so it takes over less and unfold the positive side which can help influence communications more positively.
Depending on the situation, one of the above remedies may be more appropriate than another. You may want to test a few and choose the one(s) which most closely resonate(s) with your preferred mode of operation. Please feel free to adapt them to your own unique situation and share the solutions which have worked best for you.
© Dana Lefeuvre, 2017
Bradberry & Greaves. Emotional Intelligence 2.0. TalentSmart, 2009.
Fridjhon & Fuller. Organization & Relationship Systems Coaching. CRR Global, 2014.
Lombardo & Eichenger. For Your Improvement, Korn Ferry, 2009.