It happens to the best of us, you’re tired, stressed, feeling a little overwhelmed and WHAM, something happens that tips you over in to the emotional abyss.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could reel it back, just enough to keep from going over the edge?
It might be that red mist of anger that’s flared up, your heart pounds, your face gets flushed and you want to snap back a retort that will scorch their hair off.
It might be frustration or disappointment, and suddenly your eyes are welling up and you’re finding it hard to speak.
Either way, you’re mortified; convinced you’ve been unprofessional and ducking out of sight for the next few hours.
Four tricks for managing emotions
Here are four physical tricks you can tap into that confuse your body, just enough to get those emotions under control before you lose it.
When you’re furious
If you’re in a meeting or on the phone and find yourself getting angry, open your hands with your palms up, under the table.
We have animal instincts of fight or flight. Our adrenalin races and we prepare to face our enemy. In today’s world, that kicks in when someone makes us mad. Opening your palms tells your body that you are safe. It signals that you don’t need clenched fists to protect yourself. That simple, physical act is often enough to slow your heart back down, take a few deep breaths and offer a reasoned response to the person who’s lit your fuse.
When it’s a difficult discussion
Walk and talk. Eye contact can be comforting, it implies an intimacy between people, but it can also be aggressive if prolonged. If you need to ask a difficult question and are afraid you won’t get a straight answer, invite the person for a short stroll and then broach the subject. Being shoulder to shoulder makes it easier to admit things that might be difficult to say face to face. Without it being awkward, you’ve created a safe place to talk about something that might have become emotional if you were sitting down.
Walking is also great if there are tears involved
If you are speaking to a colleague and they begin to cry, invite them to take a brisk walk – right then. If you’re the one that’s going to cry, suggest the walk yourself. Lots of things happen in the body when you are moving. You breath deeply, you release the tension in your muscles, all that automatic coordination kicks in and distracts your body from the intense feelings. It’s difficult to walk briskly and cry at the same time. This allows you to talk through the emotional subject and reach some conclusion, rather than slinking off with a box of tissues and leaving it hanging.
Or try this if you’re on the verge
Your eyes start to well up, your throat feels tight, it’s hard to swallow and difficult to speak – you’re on the verge of tears.
Stevie Spring offers this advice “pucker up and blow.” You can whistle if no one can hear you, or just purse your lips and blow out a long stream of air. It loosens the muscles in the throat and lowers the welling in your eyes. This is a great technique when you’re on the phone and that feeling hits you.
Do you have any other tricks you use to manage your emotions? Please, share them with us! We’d love to know what works for you – drop us a line in the box below with your advice on coping with emotions.
In these situations I think if I started walking, I’d never come back! But I’m fascinated by the ‘open palms’ technique. I’ll definitely try it out.
It offers the added benefit that–in those instances where you don’t get control over your anger–if you hit someone with an open hand, vs. a fist, I think there’s a lesser criminal charge. Not that I’d know.
Hi Kathy, thanks for commenting. I’ve checked out Working for Wonka, maybe a long walk or even a quick run from some of those offices is the best bet. I imagine working with entrepreneurs could raise all kinds of emotions. Hope you can keep things under a boil.
Hi Kathy, these seems really practical ans helpful tips. I think I do versions of them intuitively, but its good to be reminded and have some strategies at your fingertips in times of need. In my coaching work the walking is really helpful for both coach and client and can open up channels for futher discosure whilst allowing the client to feel vulnerable but not embarrassed.
Keep up the great work, Sandra
Thanks for the affirmation, Sandra. Funny how the harder we try to keep emotion out of the office, the more often it pops up. The idea that your feelings have no place in the office is unrealistic, they’re already there…