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Your Emotional Thermostat: How to Control (or Recover) From Emotional Surges© by Dr. Pat Baxter

13 Mar 2018 3:42 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

Your Emotional Thermostat: How to Control (or Recover) From Emotional Surges© by Dr. Pat Baxter

Chief Consultant, SmarterEmotions: Balancing Head & Heart©

 Emotional Intelligence Coach, Professional Speaker, Corporate ‘Veteran’

Did you know people like you, me, your best friend, the dentist’s receptionist, the person who drove way too close behind you today, can experience between 45,000 and 70,000 emotions in a 24- hour time span all of which could be acted upon?

I’ve come to see emotions as gifts, not nuisances. Emotions help us to understand ourselves, connect with others and help interpret our daily experiences. Women are especially attuned to emotions, their own, as well as those of others. Sometimes, emotions are the only data we get to navigate through the world.

One thing that can stunt our work with emotions is a limited emotional vocabulary. The words we use may not accurately express what we are truly feeling. For example, if you say you are ‘angry’, think how wide that emotional range can be - you may be anything from being mildly annoyed (sigh) to uncontrollable rage (AARGH!). ‘Angry’ can show up in many ways.

Monitoring our emotional thermostat

Though you may meditate (or medicate) on a regular basis, you may still find yourself engulfed by a surge of emotions, especially in the workplace. A recent survey identified the most common emotion experienced in the workplace is FRUSTRATION. Tell the truth: Did you just flash back to a recent experience of frustration? That’s okay – you’re only human.

How do you know your emotional thermostat is climbing?  Well, the mind-body connection is alive and well when it comes to that. If you are in tune with you, you’ll pick up on body sensations – describe them as you feel them: ‘My neck is so tense it feels like concrete’ or ‘My heart is pounding out of my chest!’ Also, observe the body language of those around you – you’ll see how your emotions may be affecting others.

Prevent or Self-Manage?

What can we do to manage emotions in the heat of the moment, so they help us and our relationships? Here are a few tips:

  • ·         Frame It and Tame It - Is It Really That Bad? Our reactions, often caused by our ancient ‘fight or flight’ response, can be intense. So, to roll back on a reaction, ask: ‘Given everything else going on…’ or ‘Given what I have experienced in my life so far, is it that bad? Would it violate my core values or someone’s safety if I didn’t immediately respond?’ These questions may lessen the potential of a ‘can’t-take-it-back’ moment.
  • ·         Mom was right - Engage brain before mouth:  My mother said,’ You never know what’s boiling in someone else’s pot.’ So true. Unless you read minds, you’re not likely to know for sure why someone says or does what they do. I think Mom was teaching me not to assume I know the path another has walked. When an exchange heats up, I work to shift the energy, to break the tension by being curious about where the other person has walked, allowing space for a meaningful and relevant dialogue to emerge.
  • ·         Focus on what’s going right and own it It’s very human to focus on what’s going or gone wrong rather than what’s gone right. Recognizing and applauding what actions we, and others, have taken to make things better in an emotionally charged situation can change the outcome.

What if we do ‘lose it’? How can we recover? In my book, ‘Cool Change: Turning Emotions into Leadership Strengths’ I share several case studies of leaders who ‘lost it’ and recovered. These tips may save the day:

  • §  Be genuine – if you lost control with someone, apologize sincerely; ask for forgiveness and remember to show yourself some compassion as well.
  • §  Walking away: If you feel you are headed for a blow-up, physically excuse yourself. Come back when you’ve calmed down. (Say that you have a stomachache from sushi you got on sale – no one will stop you from leaving.)
  • §  Schedule another time and place to talk – let the 24-48 hours go by to allow the hormones your brain spit out as conflict was building to process out. When you resume, find a different place to talk to signal a fresh start.

One last thing: SMILE! As babies, we mirrored the smile of the adult who looked happy to see us. It’s a reflex that works whenever and whatever emotion shows up. 


Have emotions ever kept you from making a GOOD decision? Ready to use emotional intelligence to LEAD with awareness and empathy?

Contact Dr. Baxter if you’d like to set up a free ‘Strategy Session’ to learn how to create balance through emotional intelligence.

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