Our emotions influence practically every decision we make.
On the one hand, that's a very good thing. Instead of leading a robotic existence, our feelings and emotions motivate and inspire us. The problem is when we become victims of those emotions. At times, all of us let temporary feelings and moods rule the way we make decisions, even when it leads to actions we later regret.
Since most of the emotions you experience occur almost instinctively, you can't control how you feel in any given moment. But you can control how you react to those feelings--by focusing on your thoughts.
In my new book, EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, I compare your ability to direct your thoughts to a set of controls on a media player. Just like these controls can help you get the most out of a movie or song, these methods will help you manage your emotional reactions.
Here they are, seven specific strategies to help manage emotions:
When you hit pause, you take time to stop and think before you speak or act. Doing so can prevent you from saying or doing something you'll later regret--like sending an angry email or posting something regrettable on social media.
How to use it: If you feel your emotions are getting out of control, take a pause. If possible, go for a short walk. Once you've had the chance to calm down, come back and decide how you want to move forward.
2. Volume Control
Have you ever noticed that when speaking with someone, the other person usually responds in the exact same style or tone as you? If you're calm and rational, they'll respond in kind. Yell or scream, and they'll do the same.
Here is where your volume control comes in: If you need to have an emotionally charged conversation, speak in a way that's calm and collected.
How to use it: If a discussion begins to escalate, focus your efforts on "dialing it back" by softening your tone or lowering your voice. You'll be surprised at how your partner follows your lead.
If an interaction with another person turns emotional, and leaving the situation is not an option, you might need to put yourself on "Mute." In other words, stop speaking.
Hitting Mute is helpful because, often, sharing your point of view when your partner is emotional won't help the situation. The best thing you can do is let the other person express their feelings.
How to use it: Take a deep breath and remind yourself that both your mood and that of your communication partner are temporary. Remember that much of what they say at this point may be extreme or exaggerated; resist the urge to respond in kind.
In many cases, once the person has let everything out, they'll calm down. As you remain on mute, be sure to...
Recording is concentrated listening, with the intent to learn more about another person's perspective. You're not trying to figure out how to reply; instead, you're listening to understand.
Through attentive listening, you often see things you didn't see before, and can even discover basic misunderstandings you didn't know existed.
How to use it: As you tune into the other person, don't judge or offer advice. Instead, focus on learning more about how the other person sees you, how they see themselves, and how they see the situation.
Emotionally charged discussions are often rooted in deep-seated issues. If left alone, these problems will continue springing up.
That's why you can't just try to forget about the situation. Instead, use rewind to revisit the topic at a later time, once everyone's had the chance to cool down.
How to use it: Carefully think about where, when, and how to reintroduce the subject.
For example, opening with an apology, an expression of thanks, or by acknowledging where you and your communication partner agree may lead the other person to lower their guard and become more open to whatever you have to say.
Fast-forwarding to the end may ruin a film, but it's extremely helpful when dealing with your emotions. After you pause, step back and fast-forward to think about the consequences of your actions--both short- and long-term.
How to use it: Forget about how you feel in the moment. Ask yourself: How will this decision affect you in a month? A year? Five years?
Doing so can help you think clearly, see the big picture, and make better decisions.
"Negative" emotions like anger, frustration, fear, and sadness can prove harmful if left unchecked. But those same emotions can be useful--if you learn to harness them effectively.
Much like putting a film or song into slow-motion can help you see details you've never noticed, slowing down to analyze your negative emotions can help you figure out the underlying reasons behind your feelings and lead you to potential solutions.
How to use it: The next time you're dealing with negative feelings or a bad mood, slow down and ask yourself why you feel the way you do. Can you take action to change a situation or circumstance and make things better? Or, can you ask someone for help?
Answering these questions can help put you in control of your feelings instead of leaving them in control of you.
We are emotional creatures. That's not a bad thing, as long as we know how to deal with our feelings and moods in a positive way.
The key is not to take emotions out of the equation, but rather to find balance. It's about learning to harmonize rational thought with deep emotions, balancing "brain" with "heart."
That way, you'll be sure to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.