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How to Control Your Emotions

Managing emotions at work can be difficult because we put so much of ourselves into our work. We all have emotions but we don’t have to get emotional at work.

The most professional managers are calm, cool and collected. I tell my clients to act like a duck … when a duck glides along the water, their motion looks effortless. But think about what their feet are doing … they are pumping and churning the water at a very fast rate. We just don’t see the feet. So AFLAC aside, we should be more like ducks 

We should always look like we are in control. Here are some tips to help you keep very calm and very collected, even in the most stressful of times.

• Breathe: breathing lowers stress and relaxes your entire body – take 10 deep breaths … or inhale for six seconds (from your mouth), hold it for six seconds, breath out (from your nose) for six seconds and repeat. It will bring down your heart rate immediately.
• Smile: Smiling at work gives a sense of confidence and a sense that you are in control even though you may be feeling frustrated. Smiling relaxes your face, relaxes how you feel, relaxes your overall appearance and makes you more approachable. Smiling also will put your team or coworkers at ease.
• When emotions are coming on strong, leave the office & walk around the block: this allows you to release stress by walking, gets your endorphins kicking in and may help you to control your emotions. If music is helpful – program your iPod with music that relaxes you or makes you feel good simply by listening to it. Could be classical music to relax, or could be an upbeat piece that makes you feel happy. Music is powerful – people use it to motivate them to exercise, you can do the same to motivate you to relax and put things in perspective.
• Write your feelings down: if getting emotional has been a challenge for you, become a student of your emotions and write down when you get upset and think back as to what you can do next time to stay more calm. We should always be self-aware and know our triggers.
• Speak to someone (a friend/coach) who can discuss what is happening and offer perspective: I had a client last week who came back from her session with me to find that her 2nd in command was out to lunch with her boss – she felt very left out and angry that the department didn’t have a leader there. She called me with a very high level of frustration. I asked if it was a policy that when she was out, he couldn’t go out at that time. There was not. So that issue was moot. I also stated that it was not in her control that her manager took her direct report to lunch. Yes, she felt left out, but life goes on. We can often feel disappointed. But it’s how we deal with disappointment that matters most. She was immediately calmer because I helped her diffuse the situation. In fact, she and her 2nd in command had the most productive session EVER.
• 6 Hats thinking: when something new is introduced (like a potential merger or a reorg), start the conversation with “wow – sounds interesting, tell me more” and smile if you can – practice this – even though you may feel it’s silly. It can be a powerful way to diffuse your emotions – which may look like you are thinking about this in a negative way. Listen and think about the possibilities – first in a positive way, then in a cautious way, then list the issues that could be warning signs … remember that leaders focus on possibilities and then, leaders do their due-diligence. One is not exclusive of the other.
• Know Your Manager: This is a big point. If your manager is someone who has a way of surprising you once in a while, and not in a good way, know that this is their way. Their surprising comments may not be easy to digest, but hopefully their heart is in the right place. Everyone has good and bad components to their behavior.
• If you dislike a person or what a person does: remember to always be respectful. Gossip is a very negative action and like crabs in a bucket, only serves to bring people down around you … so always be respectful – and always make sure your team is respectful to all other members, especially when someone else is struggling, or seems to be evading what needs to be done.
• Its fine to be assertive without crying: remember body language is very important. Look the person in the eye, calmly state what you didn’t appreciate what they said (appreciate is a powerful word) and then pause and let the other person speak. Some professionals say that body language is 85% of what you communicate so don’t feel as if you always have to be verbal, or use filler words.