Losing one’s temper is something we have all experienced. Mine is most quickly incited, when I’m driving. I typically just mutter and complain to myself or any passengers. Unfortunately, unchecked road rage has been the cause of altercations resulting in assaults, collisions, and even death. That’s a high price to pay for a temper tantrum.
Leaders must learn to keep their emotions mostly in check. That can be difficult, especially if you supervise someone who struggles to control his or her temper. Are there strategies we can use to manage our temper or help others with theirs?
Here are a few ideas that I find helpful from the research of David Maxfield, a social scientist and author at VitalSmarts.
- Be Forewarned – In Maxfield’s research he found that when study subjects knew someone was trying to make them angry, they were less likely to become angry. When I know a situation (like driving) is a potential source for behaviors that trip my temper, I can learn to handle my emotions more effectively.
- Rise Above – While we can’t always physically separate ourselves from situations that make us mad, we can create psychological or emotional distance. If I become curious about why a person or circumstance triggers my temper, I am less likely to actually become angry.
- Identify My Hot Buttons – Bad driving habits are one of my hot buttons. By recognizing this, I can take steps to offer a more reasoned response when I’m cut off or someone sits too long at a traffic light that has turned green.
- Challenge My Story – Our emotions are shaped by stories we tell ourselves. When something happens, our brain tries to makes sense of the situation. If risk is involved, fear will often set off strong emotions, including our temper. The key is learning to challenge our story.
Do we have enough facts to support our response? Is there a different way to view the facts, a new story we could create?
I confess that getting mad often feels pretty good, even justified at times. Temper, and all other strong emotions, need fuel to keep them burning.
When we learn to anticipate, separate, identify, and challenge we can cool down before any damage is done.
Maybe my efforts at temper taming should include disconnecting my car horn too.
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