5 Steps To Handle Strong Emotions So You Don't Do Something You'll Regret
Updated: Feb 23, 2019
Every now and then, someone will say or do something that shocks, hurts, or angers you. The way you react will make all the difference. Here are 5 rules to follow so you can handle your emotions with confidently, graciously, and without doing something you'll regret.
1. Take A Deep Breath. When someone lashes out at you, it hurts. You'll have an instinctive need to lash back. If you lash out, you'll probably regret it, and you'll look foolish and undisciplined to the people around you. As soon as you feel the sting of pain and the urge to lash out, freeze. Don't follow through on your urge to destroy. Instead, relax your body and take a few slow, quiet, deep breaths. This will help to clear your mind so you can think more rationally and get out of your tunnel-vision.
2. Label Your Emotion. When you're stuck in the tidal wave of a strong emotion, it's hard to think clearly. The emotion centers in your brain are very old and very powerful and when you're trapped in those emotions, you will often do unreasonable things that make the problem worse, which you'll later come to regret. In order to get to a clearer, wiser frame of mind, you'll need to take a few deep breaths (above) and then ask yourself, "What emotion am I feeling right now?" Keep asking yourself until one or two emotions become really clear in your mind.
3. Find The Reason. Sometimes, our emotions get all tangled up with events in our past. This means that something happening in the present can trigger a flood of emotion about something that happened in the past, making us react inappropriately to the present in a way that feels justified for the event in the past. So, once you've taken a few deep breaths and found out what emotion you're feeling, you'll need to take a few moments and ask, "Why? Why am I feeling this way? What caused this emotion?" Stay calm and still as you ask yourself these questions until you find the heart of the matter.
4. Decide The Outcome. Often, when we're angry or hurt or scared, we'll act in order to WIN the conflict and make the other person LOSE. This is often detrimental to our long-term goals. Imagine the married couple who has a long-term goal of a happy marriage, but in the grip of anger, each one will attempt to WIN the argument and will say things that can't be taken back. The urge to win in the short term is very strong, but it destroys the long-term success. So, once you know what caused the emotion, decide what outcome you want to see from this situation. Think about your short-term goals, and your long-term goals. And then decide - "What would be the ideal ending to this situation?" Ask this a few times until you have a solution that you can live with in the short term, long term, and that you can actually pull off.
5. Take Action. Now you're in a clearer, wiser state of mind, and you know what outcome you want. This is the time to take action. Some steps you can take right away, and some steps will have to wait for later, but the steps should be taken. Your strong emotions can give you motivation to act, and by following these steps, you can make sure that you'll be proud of the actions you take.
Following these steps builds emotional awareness, helps you control your temper, and makes you the good guy in any confrontation.
Even more powerful than following these steps are being able to RECOGNIZE the emotions in others before they even realize they are feeling them, and ACT to fix the problem before they say a word. This happens by reading the facial expressions of the people around you, and knowing how to verbally and nonverbally handle conflict. My clients go from being conflict-avoidant, to being conflict queens who are comfortable, calm, and deliberate as they easily navigate difficult conversations and get what they want. Want that for yourself? Let's talk.
Too shy for a 1:1 conversation? Check out this video from my TV show with Conflict Closer, Lynne Maureen Hurdle: