Will Rogers once said, “People who fly into a rage always have a bad landing.”
Even though I am a student and a teacher of Courageous Conversations, leadership communications, and the emotional intelligence necessary for success in those areas… I lost my temper recently with someone I care about very much. And, it was ugly. A bad landing for sure.
Anger, frustration, exasperation can sneak up on us without warning. Most of us have some automatic triggers for our anger as well as some predictable components that can create a perfect storm of mega proportions.
I was tired, overwhelmed with work, and hadn’t left my desk all day for any kind of balance which might be found in a walk, workout, or meditation. I had eaten but I’d also had a couple glasses of wine. In addition, I had been procrastinating about a discussion concerning things that were on my mind and heart and they had built up over time.
At just this right (or wrong) moment, my companion said one simple sentence to me that was the equivalent of throwing gasoline on a fire… and my anger and pent up frustrations erupted with a vengeance.
I’m not pretty in any way, physically, emotionally, or verbally when I lose my temper. As good as it may feel in the moment, it never feels good in the aftermath. I always say things I don’t really mean or demand things I don’t actually want to happen. I threaten things on which I know I won’t follow through. I use language that sometimes leaves me feeling ashamed. I cringe at the image and statements that I can never erase in the memory of my companion… no matter how many times I apologize.
I want to be clear. I’m not at all sorry for the core message of my explosion. It was actually very accurate for me. What I am sorry for is the vehicle with which I delivered it. I’ve given a lot of thought to what I can learn from it in order to grow into the person I aspire to be in my life and relationships. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
- Get quiet regularly. Whether it’s true meditation, prayer, or just walking quietly in the mornings, a little time to be quiet and introspective on a regular basis is the only way to be continuously mindful of what you are currently experiencing and feeling, and what needs to be handled. Awareness that we have something that needs attention and exploration is the first step in managing our emotions responsibly.
- Set your intentions. You have to want to do things better; to be a better, more gifted communicator; and to handle your emotions responsibly and maturely. Decide in your quiet, calm moments who you want to be in this world and the example you want to set for others.
- Practice A.R.C.H. This system I created here at LionSpeak is the best framework I’ve seen for helping to guide the Courageous Conversations that we all need to have with those with whom we work, live, and enjoy life so that things don’t build up within us over time. You can learn more about the A.R.C.H. framework here.
- Count to 10. We’ve heard it before and its true. Being disciplined enough to take a deep breath, recognize components that could contribute to an explosion (alcohol, exhaustion, hunger, burn out, stress, hurt, embarrassment, etc.) and counting to whatever number you need to count to in order to catch and calm your emotions enough to get in control. When you have control, you can pick the right time, circumstances, and environment in which to have the conversation you want to have as well as the outcome you want for both you and the other person.
The emotions that we feel are true for us and not always under our control. We feel how we feel. But what we do with those emotions and how we react to them, is within our control.
“Bad landings” and explosions can be devastating and sometimes cause irreparable damage to our careers, relationships, and communities. It’s worth every effort to elevate our emotional intelligence, learn the necessary skills, set a strong intention, and master our emotions so we can allow feelings of anger or even rage to flow through us to fuel a constructive conversation instead of an explosion that leaves a wake of unintended destruction in its path.
We can do better. Here’s to a week, and a life, full of smoother landings!