“A problem well stated is half solved,” said Charles Kettering, who was head of research at General Motors from 1920 to 1947. When it comes to our own emotions, I feel there is a parallel in that understanding our emotions is where the most opportunities lie in managing it.
What I have found helpful is to focus on becoming aware. Aware of the spark of emotion that arises when something happens in our personal and professional lives. Aware of how that spark changes and evolves as we add in other thoughts and feelings. Aware of when that emotion goes away and is replaced by something else.
Awareness allows us to influence how we deal with our emotions, as we become adept at calling ourselves out on our positive and negative emotions. How exactly do we become aware of our emotions though?
For me, I invest time in replaying situations where I may have reacted emotionally in a situation. I literally lie on a bed, close my eyes, and relive the situation scene by scene in my mind. I try to isolate how I was feeling in each of those scenes. Here is an example of my self-talk.
“When that person raised their voice at me, I felt a rush of anger and an instinct to yell back.
Wen-Szu, where did that anger come from? Was it the loud voice? Was it the body language of the person waving their arms?
No, the loud voice didn’t bother me. Hmm, why did I get angry? Oh, it was because I was still speaking. The anger came from the person cutting me off. That made me feel disrespected.
So, the anger came from feeling disrespected.”
Imagine running through all past discussions where one had an emotional reaction? Slowly, one starts to build a library and an understanding of one’s emotional triggers. As I identify the triggers, I think through defense mechanisms around it. How should have I responded when I felt disrespected? As I work through the options, I prepare mentally on how to pilot the new technique next time.
Though I have had my near-misses with similar “Will Smith smacking Chris Rock” moments, for the most part, the patience and lessons learned from the simple technique above has worked. And it all started with basic awareness of my own emotions.
What techniques have you had in managing your emotions?
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