We experience emotions on a constant basis. They are in fact a vital part of our everyday lives. Whether you’re having a laugh with friends over breakfast on the weekend or feeling frustrated after a fight with your partner, what we do recognise is that the highs and lows we experience can significantly impact our well-being.
Your ability to regulate emotions, in turn, affects how you’re perceived by the people around you. If you’re laughing at others during a serious meeting, you’re likely to get resentful looks from people in the room. Or if you take the frustration you feel after a disagreement with your partner onto the road while driving to work you can engender unwanted attention, and perhaps even risk your life.
So how do we manage our emotions and build our self-management skills to ensure we are using our emotions in a constructive and positive way, rather than allowing them to get in the way of not only our own wellbeing, but also the wellbeing of others.
1) Identify and recognise the emotion
How can you identify and recognise emotions. There are simply a large number of people who do not look for emotions and do not notice even the most obvious cues that are displayed non-verbally or verbally.
We need to recognise that:
} Emotions exist.
} Emotions contain data or information about how we and others are functioning.
} Clues to emotions exist in the world.
} Some emotions are easy to spot; others are fleeting and much more subtle
} We need to be able to check our perceptions against the context, other clues, with other people, or with the person you are trying to get a better read on.
A great way to begin the process of asking the question, ‘how am I feeling”, is to use a Mood Meter. It is a 2 dimensional representation of various feeling states: energy level (from low to high) and emotion (unpleasant or negative to pleasant or positive) each on a 10 point scale.
You can start by asking yourself whether you are in a high or low state of energy and whether you feel your emotion is pleasant or unpleasant. Then plot yourself on the grid.
2) Build your emotional literacy.
Once you have recognised where your emotion is, you can more clearly understand the potential emotion you are experiencing. Start to get familiar with the range of potential emotions you experience. Remember “if you name it, you can tame it”.
3) Know your triggers
We all have different emotional triggers. What makes one person annoyed and frustrated will be “water off a duck’s back” to someone else. Do you know what typical emotional reactions you experience? Have the emotions almost become an automatic response to certain triggers? For example, have you had previous conflict with a work colleague and now when you see him/her walking toward you in the hall, you automatically feel anxiety? Often we have lost sight of the thoughts driving these emotions and now all we do is connect the trigger with the emotional response.
4) Identify the driving thought?
When you have “named” the emotion, built your emotional literacy and recognised the trigger you experience, you can get better at recognising the initial thought which resulted in the emotion you experience.
We can often engage in negative thinking, which in turn can drive us toward emotions of high energy and unpleasant feelings.
REFRAMING is a powerful, yet simple technique to move our thinking from “below the line to above the line”.
It involves taking a negative statement and reframing it in a positive question to prompt a change in thinking.
Consider the steps:
1. Identify the negative word in the statement. Eg, “This is too hard”
2. Think about the opposite (positive) word. Eg, “Easy”
3. Now frame this positive or opposite word into a question with how, who, what, when or where – “How could you make it easy?”
By identifying and understanding your emotions, building your emotional literacy, knowing your triggers and reframing the thoughts which drive your emotions, you are well on your way to building your emotional management.
Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing. You can find her at www.bakjacconsulting.com or firstname.lastname@example.org