It’s not everyone else!

As Jack Canfield said, it is not just the event that determines the outcome, you always have to factor in your response.

Some weeks all of my responses are based on emotion, I am irritated by the smallest things. I am spending too much time acting on my emotional response to situations. Sometimes that is perfectly appropriate. If something is truly upsetting of course I should get upset, but may be I shouldn’t get angry when the dog barks to go outside. So how do I get out of this emotional quagmire that just gets me into trouble and reduces my productivity.

Now the first thing to say is, is that you will not be able to get rid of that emotional response, but you will be able to manage it. I am still a miserable git that flies off the handle for stupid reasons and yes I still cry when watching something emotional on the TV. I am a work in progress, is how I would put it.

It is really easy to use the emotional centre of our brains, because as Steve Peters says in his wonderful and much quoted book ‘Chimp Paradox’ the chimp or limbic system is much stronger and faster than the rest of the brain. So why go to the effort of searching for a more reasonable response, when we have a perfectly functional knee jerk one. Well there are several good reasons for not doing that, most importantly is not being a dick to all of those around you. Perhaps the mistake or inconvenience that has just happened was not just their fault but was a combination of events, which you were just as much a part of as they were. Or even it really is not that important.

So we have established that it is important to think more before we respond. We have to exercise the rest of our brain more, so it is ready and willing to take over from our emotional centre once it realises it is not needed. How to do this is obvious and simple but does require practice and effort. Hence why I am a work in progress. What I am wanting to do is change my habits, those unhelpful habits that encourage me to only use one small part of my brain when responding to the world around me.

Practicing thinking critically is what exercises your brain and fills your memory banks with useful, helpful memories that can be used effectively to formulate a measured reasonable response to events. Stop taking everything at face value. The vast majority of us a brilliant at critical thinking, and utilise this skill during our working day (but not always). We will search for as much information as possible before even attempting to come to a conclusion. We will search for alternative viewpoints. We will look for potential assumptions we might be making. We will consider the implications of our response. We will explore and assess possible risks, and assess the reasonableness of our response. I can hear all your emotional responses as you read this, saying how the flip are we expected to do all that when some knobhead has cut in front of me at the roundabout. The simple answer is you wont. However once you have expressed your emotion by calling them a prick or a knobhead, you will then start to calm down and will not chase him/her down drag them out of the car and kick their head in, as you have already considered, the risks and implications of that particular action. But you will let the irritation and even anger effect you for the rest of the morning even day. This is where practicing a critical thinking approach will help.

Start practicing this with something less irritating and less critical. Start asking those questions when listening to the news or reading a story online or in the paper. Before you make an opinion on what is in front of you ask the following questions:

  • Always start by thinking about what emotion this is making me feel. Does it make me, happy, angry, sad, hopeful, helpless, or just indifferent?
  • Do I have enough information? Does this article or item give me all the information I need.
  • Is there an alternative viewpoint? What might I think if I was from another part of the world? What would be my friends, family members, colleagues, or customers response to this?
  • What assumptions am I making about this? What am I taking as read? Why is it done that way? Do we have to use it that way?
  • What are the risks and implications attached to the opinion I am making? What will be the result of my opinion, will it cement my emotions?
  • Is my response or opinion reasonable and measured?

Keep doing this everyday, and it will form a habit. It will help you calm your emotional response and think in a more reasonable way. Because it is not always everyone else problem, you always play a part.

If you want to work on your emotional response message me.

We can work together face to face, online or via the phone, whichever suits you.


Published by Matt Smith Personal and Professional Coach

Performance and Life Coach

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