Developing Self-Control

What is Emotional Self-Control? Your ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check when provoked, when faced with opposition or hostility from others, or when working under pressure.  It also includes your ability to maintain stamina under continuing stress.

There are four levels of Emotional Self-Control: At the first level, you may just need to “hold your tongue” while you develop to the second level where you develop patience and then the third level where you can respond calmly.  Ultimately, you want people to see you as composed and positive. It is not “holding everything in.”  It is when you understand what makes you lose control emotionally and to work around, through or with those emotions before they make you run away or yell.

You have Self-Control if you stay calm when attacked or aggressively confronted by someone. You don’t react with corresponding anger or defensiveness. You tend to avoid getting involved in inappropriate situations because you can resist the temptation.

You may want to improve your Self-Control if you defend yourself by attacking others or you regularly regret your behavior, saying that you “can’t control yourself.”

The most effective way to develop Emotional Self-Control is to make a list of the things that cause you to have an impulsive emotional reaction.  These are called your “triggers.”  For instance, answer the question  ‘I get really angry when…”.  Yes you need to actually create a written list!

Once you have your list of “triggers, write down a strategy for how you can prevent losing your self-control in the future.  For example, if you feel your muscles tightening with anger, stop yourself and breathe deeply, take a short walk, and then return.  Better yet, manage around your triggers.  Can you avoid situations that make you, for example, angry?  Can you do something in advance to minimize your anger or fix the situation altogether?

Track your progress, BOTH when you’ve done well and when  you haven’t.  What kind of situations remain problematic?  Keep practicing, especially in the situations that are most difficult for you. Ask a peer or friend to give you feedback.

Lacking Emotional Self-Control can derail a career, whether you are a first time manager or a senior executive.  You need to understand the root causes of losing control in order to keep yourself “in check.”


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