One of the biggest career limiters for employees in organizations is having low impulse control. When combined with high emotional expression it can be an explosive combination. In other words, “Open mouth, insert foot”. That’s when we grimace and wish we could take back what we just said or did. Anyone been there? I know I have.
It is said that we teach others what we want to grow in ourselves and that is in part what has led me down the career coaching journey and in particular the exploration of emotional intelligence and its importance to our success and well-being.
Intense emotions, especially negative ones like anger and frustration are very powerful and perceived as overbearing if they are not channeled and managed in a constructive manner. They can sabotage rational thinking and do great damage to personal and professional relationships.
People with low impulse control and who emote expressively are often viewed as loose canons, unfiltered, and ultimately untrustworthy because their unpredictable behaviour causes anxiety and stress in others. Our defensive response is typically fight or flight such as shutting down, walking away or pushing back, potentially causing further escalation and conflict.
Most people, especially in the workplace highly value consistent, emotionally stable, even-keeled co-workers. Leaders and managers bear an added responsibility as there is a power differential by virtue of their title and authority and therefore held to a higher standard.
Here are some strategies to consider that will help you control your emotions so they don’t control you!
Recognize your triggers- It’s all about self-awareness. If you know what sets you off, you can explore ways to circumvent those actions that trigger you. For example, if you are consistently irritated and angry when colleagues/managers make last minute work requests of you, prepare a calm response you can pull out of your back pocket when they come asking again. This may require that you repeat it numerous times so they know you mean business.
Be assertive without being aggressive-I always tell my clients that we train people how to treat us. For example, if we stay quiet when we should speak up, others may interpret silence as consent. Speaking up assertively about what you want, need and what is important to you ensures you are heard and avoids misinterpretations and misunderstandings. You can do this with grace and dignity and still maintain self-control.
Experience and name your emotions– People frequently think that in order to manage emotions well, we have to dampen or “dumb down” our feelings. I suggest the opposite. The only way to truly get a grip on your emotions is to understand why you feel the way you do and where they may be coming from. Expanding your emotional vocabulary and naming the feelings honestly rather that rationalizing them away is a first critical step on your journey of self-discovery.
Apologize- If you lashed out at someone in a heated moment of frustration, take accountability and apologize, sincerely of course. It’s never too late to make amends. It does take courage and self-confidence to own up to mistakes and people will appreciate you for it and hold you in higher regard. Of course we don’t want to have to apologize so frequently that it begins to lose its meaning.
So the next time you are feeling emotionally hi-jacked start putting into practice these simple but highly effective strategies to regain control of your emotions and begin to notice how positively others respond to you.