Checking Your Emotional Temp

When you’re in an emotionally charged environment at work, at home, or in the community, identifying and labeling your emotions is recognized as the first step in managing them effectively.  If you identify and label your emotions—both positive and negative—out loud or perhaps simply in your conscious thoughts, you open pathways for more effective emotional regulation.  This will help you stay effectively engaged, maintain a clearer focus, and avoid stress.  Research shows that when people regulate their emotions, they can feel calmer, have more positive interactions with those in the situation, and be more satisfied.

So, how can you check your emotional temp?

This starts with a concept we have discussed in the past in emails and webinars – “minding the gap.”  Minding the gap involves interrupting the automatic reaction to stressful, offensive, or angering stimuli. This interruption creates a space – the gap – in which to identify and label what is being felt internally, and to release and adjust emotions.  This opens the way to choose a response instead of going with an automatic emotional reaction.

It might look like this – an event is unfolding at work (or home or driving) that is emotionally triggering to you.  You begin to feel tension, anger, offense, fear, panic, or other emotions welling up in you.  For many, the emotional responses will automatically follow.  The consequences can be unfortunate, unhelpful, and sometimes hurtful.

Instead, one can stop negative thinking and mindfully create a gap that allows for reflection and choice.  This might include slowing one’s breathing while making it deeper and more intentional. At this point identifying the emotions that are building is helpful.  Some people attach colors to the emotions – red for fear, orange for anger, yellow for uncertainty, grey for bitterness, etc.   Together, these processes can help to refocus and stop the rush toward reacting. 

Now that you know your emotional temp, you can work to bring it down to a lower level.  Again, breathing, refocusing away from the problems and on the task and its outcomes can help.  Mindfulness regarding one’s environment can extend the gap. 

Now, choosing the most helpful response can happen.  When the crisis has passed, this same inward focus can be helpful in letting go of any residual negativity toward the situation and the people involved. 

The result of learning these steps is that you can be less reactive when things are going sideways or when people are behaving poorly around you.  You give yourself time to know where you are in your responding, manage negativity downward, and respond in the most appropriate and helpful way.

And as the research tells us, you can come away from the situation feeling calmer, having experienced more positive interactions with those in the situation, and can in general be more satisfied.  Your impact for good will be made more impactful, and the modeling of better responses will influence the atmosphere on the team.  In short, everyone else wins with you!

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