The Tipping Point of Emotions

Emotions can tip us into becoming reactive. A while ago a client was describing how his anger was building up towards his child’s music teacher. Every few months the teacher would say that his daughter required a different guitar to the one she had. The father was progressively becoming more worked up at these comments.

He is very gentle by nature so this was very surprising. However, my client has been dealing with a life threatening illness. As a result he has become less tolerant of certain situations. In addition, he has other children who have needs that also need to be accommodated so he felt the requests were unreasonable. His perspective on life had changed through his illness. Here was a teacher making a fuss about a guitar (sweating the small stuff) when he was battling with a serious illness!

How often do you find yourself in situations where slowly but surely feelings of frustration, anger or resentment are building up until one day you just fly off the handle?

It is important for us to tune in to ourselves on a daily basis. We could do an “emotional” check in to determine the state of our emotional and mental well-being. When we live with chronic stress (which many people do) then it makes us more susceptible to over-reacting at some time. Chronic stress keeps our body in a permanent mode of alertness where we are highly sensitive to any triggers from outside. So, if we are unaware of our emotional state, the chances are very good that we will react emotionally at some time.

The challenge for each of us firstly, is self awareness: to be in touch with what is happening in our inner world i.e. how we are feeling, what is bothering us, why we are feeling upset. If you are feeling irritated, despondent, negative, angry, etc. it is a sign that something is out of balance. We may need time to work out what is really bothering us or going on inside of us.

Once we are able to work out what is going on and what the real cause of our inner state is, then we need to determine if it requires any action on our part. Do we need to find ways to talk about the emotions that are building up inside of us instead of reaching the explosive or rage phase?  Are we taking responsibility for our own behaviour by finding ways to resolve issues? Are we giving in continuously and trying to please others until it reaches a point where we can no longer handle it and react?

It is important for us to know that when we are ill, not feeling well or facing something really challenging in our lives, we may reach that tipping point more quickly. Some pointers for these times:

  • Take time out for yourself while you are working through issues
  • Communicate your situation or needs to others e.g. that you need space or do not have the capacity for dealing with added pressures
  • Excuse yourself from situations where you feel you may react emotively (take a 5 minute break, a rest room break, etc.)
  • Avoid negative people or those who drain you
  • Focus on activities that will help you find a level of calmness within again
  • Cut down on activities and rest as much as you can

Several successful executives commented that they have worked very consciously at managing their emotions as they have progressed up the ladder. In fact, they indicated that it became imperative for them to learn this skill as it becomes so much more political as they advanced. They take time to work out what it is that others say or do that evokes an emotional reaction in them. Then they consciously think about whether they are going to respond, play for time or just let the situation ride. It is a skill that they have had to learn over time.

If you find that you have yet to master your emotional reactions and that this is impacting on your effectiveness or motivation, you would benefit from business coaching. Or perhaps you would value a sounding board to understand what you are experiencing. It is normal to go through periods when we may be more reactive. The trick is to learn to manage our responses so that our relationships remain healthy and in tact.

Posted in Emotional Intelligence, Self mastery.