How to Own Your Emotions using Self-Regulation
Do you ever find yourself struggling to express an idea in a tough conversation at work? You know the value of what you’re trying to share but you just can’t seem to get the other person to see it.
This week, as part of our Emotional Intelligence Series, we explore two strategies to use in tough conversations that will improve your self-regulation. Self-regulation empowers you to take control of your emotions and generate value from stressful situations.
Definition: The ability to control certain impulses and moods.
Importantly, strong self-regulation requires you to first understand your emotions through self-awareness. If you would like to supplement the skills provided in this article, we invite you to follow this link to practice strategies for improving your self-awareness.
Here, we present you with two strategies for improving your self-regulation. Keep in mind, as you practice other areas of Emotional Intelligence, chiefly self-awareness, you will notice yourself approaching these strategies with a greater sense of ease and comfort.
Strategy #1: Mastering The Pause
Pausing is important because it creates a habit of thinking before you act. Even if just for a second, that moment can make a world of emotional difference by calming you down and curbing your reactions to stress.
Granted, this idea is simple in theory, but remains difficult to practice; especially when emotions are running high. When we’re upset, it’s not easy to remind ourselves to take a moment to reflect on our emotions, to breathe, and to respond to others with less frustration.
Earlier, the article How to Train Your Empathy for Deeper Connections discussed the power of Pausing & Breathing during normal conversation but didn’t delve into how to respond when feeling frustrated or upset.
This following exercise takes us one step deeper into practicing The Pause when feeling pressured, defensive, or angry.
Putting it Into Practice
During the next conversation you’re in where you feel upset or aggravated, follow these steps to respond calmly and compassionately towards the other person.
- Don’t React – The first step may certainly be the most difficult for us, but it’s crucial. Once you stop yourself from immediately reacting to your emotions, it allows room for the remaining steps.
- Take a Deep Breath – Studies show a host of benefits associated with the simple act of breathing. Most importantly, it calms our mind and body, which creates space for logical thought and compassionate response.
- Think for 5 Seconds – After the breath, take a conscious moment to think about what the other person may be needing. Sure, the pause may feel uncomfortable. But it lets the other person know that you’re honestly pondering their concerns.
- Respond with Compassion – Rather than countering with, “This is how you hurt me…” try to think:
“How can I help this person address their needs?”
At first, it may feel awkward because we’re accustomed to immediately reacting when we feel a rush of emotions.
Remember, your emotions don’t control you.
Emotions are simply tools that we use to process and understand information. Thus, when we allow ourselves that time to process, we can mindfully respond in a manner that provides mutual value through self-regulation.
After all, providing value to others is a natural human desire which positively benefits everyone involved.
Strategy #2: Put Yourself in their Shoes
Another way to practice self-regulation is by getting out of our own head and thinking about the other person’s motivations.
Ask yourself, “Why is the other person acting as they are?”
In most conversations, the other person will likely be calm. Even if they are acting towards you with anger, know that you are likely not the cause of their anger, you are just receiving its effects.
Understand that everybody is going through something and, unfortunately, this can lead them to take frustration out on others.
Putting it Into Practice
The next time someone expresses frustration to you, remember: you are not the sole cause of their anger. Moreover, they probably just want to feel better. Therefore, you can actually help the other person through their anger by first using The Pause to take control of your own emotions.
Then use this phrase, or something like it:
“I recognize that you are upset, and I would like to help you feel better. How can I help?”
In all likelihood, the conversation will go down an unfamiliar path, which is okay. Simply recognizing their frustration and expressing a desire to help will de-escalate the situation, which paves the way for proactive solutions and more meaningful connection.
If you enjoyed this article on Self-Regulation…
Self-regulation is a core component of emotional intelligence, which represents an incredibly broad category and requires time and effort to hone.
In this series, we break down the 5 competencies of Emotional Intelligence (EI), along with two strategies for developing each competency, and specific exercises/applications you can practice daily to increase your EI.
The previous article explained how practicing empathy can create value through improved, meaningful relationships.
Also, keep an eye out for our next Emotional Intelligence Series article on Strategies for Improving Your Social Skills.