Have you ever found yourself in a highly emotional state, and you’re aware - but you’re just not quite able to control your reactions?
You know you should react a certain way, but as you watch yourself yelling at your child, or snapping at a coworker, or being sarcastic to a direct report - you just can’t seem to stop yourself! And then you judge yourself, because you know better!
Keep in mind that just by being aware you have dissipated it a bit. Bringing light to a situation allows you the opportunity to choose. What we do with it next is super important!
What we tend to do is resist. Carl Jung said “what we resist persists.”
Accept it. Accept that you are human and you will have these reactions from time to time. It doesn’t have to define you. You can choose differently, and believing that you can choose differently is key! If you’re like me, you don’t want to allow someone else to control you. So it helps me to think that when I react to someone emotionally (in a way I would prefer not to react), I’m allowing that person to control me. When we do this, we usually end up blaming them, and becoming mad or resentful. Take ownership. You control yourself. You really do get to choose! Take a moment to visualize what it would look like if you reacted differently next time. How might it affect the other person. What would it feel like? Rather than yelling at your 5 year old, talk calmly in a way you want him to talk. The more consistent you are, the more he will mirror your behavior. Visualizing helps train your brain. It’s almost as good as practicing the action itself! Feeling the emotion along with the visualization is like taking steroids to change your behavior (without any adverse effects!). We remember emotions more strongly than actions. So it definitely makes the action feel more natural the next time you need to use it. Instead of being upset with yourself that you behaved this way, use it as an opportunity to train yourself to act the way you want to next time. Visualize how you want to behave and imagine the emotion you and others will feel. If you have the opportunity - do a “rewind”! You might say to your 5 year old, or your boss, or your coworker, “Hold on. I need to rewind and try that again… “ And model the way you should have spoken. Learning to choose our emotions and our reactions will serve us well in any area of our lives!
Get a more in-depth understanding of this topic — stream the podcast that inspired this blog post on my Leading with GRIT podcast: How to Control Your Reactions