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How To Control Your Emotions Effectively

How To Control Your Emotions Effectively

Jill and Sarah are best friends. They do everything together, but they are also very different.

Jill is constantly strung out; the smallest mishap will send her into a state of frustration, stress and shouting. She is affected by everything around her: the traffic, long queues, the mean colleague. Her mood and happiness are directly influenced on a daily basis by what is happening around her. Sarah on the other hand, doesn’t let small things get to her. She decides how she wants to feel and she is much happier on a continuous basis than Jill.

What is the difference?

Choice.

Managing your emotions is very much a question of choice. Do you want to, or not? So much has been written about emotions and how to deal with them effectively, yet many people can’t control this area of life. Why? Managing emotions effectively is actually like developing a skill or a habit. It is a way of doing something better, and as humans, we struggle with change the most.

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Changing the way you usually do something is not easy and it is even more difficult when it comes to emotions. When we are feeling ‘emotional,’ the last thing we want to do is calm down and try to deal with the situation pro-actively; we most often want to rant about what is upsetting us.

If we understand a little more about how our emotions work, we are in a much better position to use this information to our advantage. Learning how to control your emotions can be one of the best skills you will ever develop in your life. Your emotions lead to the actions you take and therefore, create the life you are experiencing now, every part of it.

Our emotional part of the brain, the limbic system, is one of the oldest parts when compared, for example, to our prefrontal cortex, which is our ‘thinking’ part. Because our emotional part is so old, and therefore an extremely strong part of the brain, it is understandable that it feels like our emotions run us and hijack our thinking at times. The average person’s emotional part of the brain is over six billion times more active than the prefrontal cortex.

The point is, your emotions will naturally hijack your thinking—this is a given—but there are still ways to deal with this.

To keep things simple, let’s look at what you can do to flip this situation around. Ignoring emotions, suppressing them or not dealing with them will come back to bite you! Stress and anxiety come from suppressed emotions, so if you think that dealing with your emotions by ignoring them is going to work, you are sorely wrong.

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Here are 4 simple steps to start controlling your emotions effectively.

1. The First Step Is Awareness

If you are not aware of the times when you are overly emotional or overreacting, how can you try to manage it? It is impossible. Start to monitor your emotions and give names to them. Sometimes we find it difficult to identify what we are feeling. Giving it a name helps us gain clarity, which is essential in moving forward.

2. Discover the ‘Why’ of Your Emotions

Once you have identified how you are feeling, you want to discover why you are feeling it. What is causing this feeling inside you? Of course, there could be a million reasons, and to find out you have to ask yourself, like you would a friend, “What is wrong? What is causing me to feel this way?” Your mind will always look for an answer.

Most of the time, simply the way you are thinking about the situation is causing you to feel the way you do. Another huge reason why we feel negative emotions is because our values are not present in that moment or being respected.

Remember: discover the ‘why.’

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3. Then Ask Yourself, “What Is the Solution?”

Once you have discovered why, what can you do to take back control? Sometimes, you might need to change the way you are thinking about the situation.

You see, your thoughts lead directly to your feelings; so if you are feeling bad, you most likely have a negative thought that is making you feel that way. If you start thinking of other possible ways of looking at the situation, you will begin to feel better immediately. What you focus on expands!

Sometimes, by simply understanding why you feel a certain way at a certain time, your emotions will start to diminish because understanding always leads to calming.

4. Choose How You Want to React

This is the hardest part. The way that we react and manage our emotions is a habit. Haven’t you noticed those people who get stressed out about nothing, literally freaking out at nothing? You almost feel sorry for them. They have created a habit of associating a situation they don’t like with ‘freaking out.’ Their emotions have hijacked them.

Learning to listen to your emotions, to identify, understand and then choose them, isn’t something that you decide to practice twice a week at lunchtime. No, it is with continuous effort and discipline that you can start to build this essential skill.

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Final Thoughts

Do you control your emotions, or do they really control and direct you?

It isn’t easy and that’s why so many people don’t make an effort and give up. But once you are able to control your emotions, life changes for you in more ways than you ever dreamed possible. Not only will you feel way more empowered and in control in life, but you will be happier and much healthier as you won’t be stressed or weighed down so often.

More About Controlling Emotions

Featured photo credit: Christian Fregnan via unsplash.com

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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