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How to Control Your Temper in High Stress Times

  • How to Control Your Temper in High Stress TimesThe Find: Tough economic times often lead to loads of stress at work; here's how to handle negative emotions in the moment to avoid less than constructive responses like lashing out at colleagues.
  • The Source: A conversation between leading executive coach Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Maraia, a relationship development coach, on the Harvard Business Review Discussion Leaders.
The Takeaway: Pressure at work can fray your nerves to the point that you're constantly in danger of losing your temper. Sure exercise helps, but you're unlikely to get a good reaction if you drop and start doing push-ups in a meeting. Many people respond by "venting" to friends or exploding at unsuspecting colleagues, both of which are less than constructive. So what's the alternative? Maraia says there is a way to release your frustration and anger and that it starts with simply acknowledging that while you can't choose how you feel (or how annoying your job is) you can choose how you respond to your emotions. What's the first step towards never losing your temper again?
The next time you are overcome with a negative emotion, ask yourself this question: "What am I feeling at this moment?" Get in touch with the feeling or emotion first.
Sounds simple enough, but by acknowledging the emotion you open up the space to decide what to do about it. Will you justify it with a muttering inner dialogue for hours on end or will you release it? Maraia, not surprisingly, suggests the latter:
Make a silent declaration to yourself that you don't want it anymore! For instance, when someone dangerously cuts you off on the freeway, your thought might be: "I do not want this anger" (or "rage," if it's that bad). Replace the feeling with a constructive thought. In this way you make a conscious choice to have a positive state of mind. Your thought might be: "I do not want this anger. I choose to be at peace instead."
As straight forward as the method is, Maraia admits following his approach sounds easier than it actually is, allowing "it will probably feel awkward at first." The benefits, however, are obvious. Yell at your team less and raise their morale at the same time that you clean up the mental clutter that prevents you from focusing on the important stuff.

The Question: Is it really so simple to manage your negative emotions?

(Image of angry girl by Porcelaingirl, CC 2.0)

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