Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot

I heard the other day of an executive who throws a tantrum and pouts when he does not get his way.

Guess what? He continues not to get what he wants.

I was told about of a person who goes into battle with people who disagree with her.

Surprise! Most people give her a wide berth on touchy issues. She also does not have many close friends.

Both of these are cases of self sabotage that alienate others.  And both are ways to derail a career or sabotage a friendship.

The key to managing such unruly emotions involves both Reality Testing and Impulse Control.

Reality Testing

When we describe a people as “being tuned into a situation” they are more than likely to see the world or a challenge as it really is. They do not have fantasies about what is going on. Nor do they project their own inner conflicts into the mix.

We are not describing hyper-rational Mr Spock like people. But their emotions do not cloud their objectivity. For instance there is a minor perturbation in their world like the arrival of an unexpected letter from the IRS, bad traffic on the way to work, a child comes home with a less than stellar report card, or their project starts running late and over budget they

* Size up the situation for what it is

* See it as a one time incident and not something that will happen all the time”

* Do not allow the stress of the situation to color their perceptions

* View it as a problem to be solved rather than the beginning of a nervous “breakdown”

* Recognize that their mind can make the problem bigger than it actually is

Key Question: Do you have good practical strategies for running a reality check on crises in your life?

Next you need to learn/apply

Impulse Control

Successful people  know the names and root of their feelings and have the ability to self-regulate.  They can think before they act and rarely regret their responses. Consider the following examples.

  • A colleague disrespects you or someone you know. Your impulse is to get overly emotional and “cut them off at the knees” with a sharp verbal response. Your better choice. Cool down and decide whether to let the incident pass or make a boundary setting remark like “Let’s stick with the issue at hand and not make this personal”
  • You are deeply disappointed by a leadership decision that impacts you personally e.g. you were not promoted. Your impulse may be to whine to anyone who will listen. Your better choice. Ask you boss for feedback as to how you could be better prepared for such a position in the future.
  • Someone in your organization pushes your “hot button”. Remember that these reactions are conditioned by experiences in your childhood. One person I know had a father that talked all the time and refused to give his son any “air time”. As an adult this person is set off by authority figures that think they know everything. His response. He becomes belligerent and argues with the person. A better choice. Recognize this as a conditioned response. Declare yourself temporarily “insane”. Choose to detach from the situation/person. Then respond out of your “right mind”.

Key Question. Do you have a good set of emotional brakes and can you find a way to think before you act?

Reflection and Response

What actions have you taken or attitudes adopted that have kept you from derailing your relationships or career?

You may Also Want to Read –  “A Case  for Self-Regulation”

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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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