Controlling Your Own Emotions And Responses

How can we be better at controlling our emotions?  How can we actually choose how to respond to difficult situations, rather than merely reacting in some automatic and possibly destructive fashion?

Most reactions have to do with a sense of loss-of-control, and most of us just react.  We will start to control our own emotions and responses as we move from reaction to response, from the automatic and unthought into the chosen, deliberate and thoughtful.
My first guest was Aila Accad, RN, known as the “Stress-Busters Coach” — she is an award-winning speaker and best-selling author who holds both Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in nursing.  She specializes in quick ways to release stress and reclaim energy.

After teaching stress-management for over 25 years, Aila had her own stress crisis, which led to an instant stress breakthrough. She just published her findings in the new Amazon best-seller, “34 Instant Stress-Busters, Quick tips to de-stress fast with no extra time or money.”   She is president & founder of LifeQuest International, LLC.

How did she get moved to focus on stress? As a senior in nursing school she heard that 85% of illness comes from stress.  Aila has come to believe that all stress comes from a single, root cause.

That “one cause for stress” is the sense of a lack of control.
Aila, as I mentioned, had a stress crisis of her own.  She had everyone else’s to-dos on her list and none of her own — she had the to-dos of her boss, employees, kids, husband, and especially parents. She was not working on her own needs.  She found that the antithesis of stress is to relax, to stop trying to control things you cannot control, and to be curious about the unknown and uncontrollable future.
Whenever she hears the word “SHOULD” she asks, “Who made that up? Where did that come from?”  She suggests we move away from judgment and self recrimination, and go to a place of curiosity.
Thinking “outside the box” is old thinking — there is no box.  To handle a rapidly changing world, we need that sense of relaxation and curiosity.
When we talk about stress management, we’re accepting stress and just shuffling it around.  Much of it is surface talk and surface work — the underlying sources of stress remain.
“Stress-busting” is where you notice you are feeling a lack of control, and you immediately do things to regain control, by shifting your attention to things you can control:
  1. Take control of your breathing
  2. Smile
Then you can turn to any page in her book and do immediately whatever is on that page — each is a technique for immediately reducing stress.  Here are two of them:
  • Turn off the news.
  • Learn and use the Emotional Freedom Technique  – a tapping technique for calming.

My second guest was Beverly Flaxington, an accomplished business consultant.  Bev held many senior level positions in the corporate realm and has been a consultant running her own business since 1995. She is a professor at Suffolk University teaching “Small Business Management” and “Organizational Behavior”. Beverly is a Certified Hypnotist, Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

Beverly’s newest book, Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior, was released in May 2009 and is available on It has been called “a truly valuable read” by the Midwest Book Review.

Beverly has a varied background and has long worked with folks from all walks of life.  She found herself seeing a lot of the same challenges, and she noticed that there are some universal truths.  Understanding these can help you get along much better with other people.
  1. It’s All About Me – not that we are self-obsessed, however we all do have a view on the world, which comes from our unique background and upbringing and history.  We listen with our filters on, and we tend to react because our filters tell us that certain things are good and other things are bad.  What we hear is not what you say – we hear what our filter tells us we hear.  We hear what we think the other person must mean.  Joe did X, and I know that if I did X then it would be because I meant Y, therefore Joe must mean Y.

    How do I separate facts and data from emotional responses?  Our reality is based on our memories of what we felt.  Think about a fight you had last year.  You most likely remember almost none of the dialog, and a little bit about what the other person’s message was, and you strongly remember how you felt about it, and your conclusions flow from those feelings.

    Check yourself regularly here.  We go from fact, to interpretation, to emotional reaction.  And we treat our emotional reactions and conclusions as if they were facts.

    The way out of this is, to adopt an “interested observer” role and to enhance our awareness.  We have to notice our triggers.  Step outside the theater.  Step out of our regular roles.  Take a position of curiosity.

  2. Our Behavioral Styles Come Between Us.You could be very results oriented and goal-focused and fast.  I could be very slow, thoughtful, and methodical.  Then put us on the same team.  Our approach to problems is very different.  You might intimidate me.  There are four areas where we can clash – Problems, People, Pace, Procedure.

    What’s our approach to problems? What’s our approach to other people? What’s our preferred approach to pacing?  How do we go about our work, what procedures do we use and respect?

    If you interpret my slow pace to “not caring” then you’ll treat me as someone who doesn’t care, even though I do.  I might interpret your speed as carelessness – and now I think you don’t care about the result being solid.  When we realize that we have styles that differ, we can cut each other slack and not rush to judgment.

  3. Your Values Speak More Loudly Than You Do.By grasping what the other person’s values are, you can understand how they are motivated, what drove their behaviors.  If you realize you don’t yet know their values, then you can again stop your rush to judgment, and you can take the time to discover their values.  Once you know the other person’s values, you can start to interpret their actions more accurately.

  4. Don’t assume that I know what you mean.  Just because you know what you mean, doesn’t indicate that I know what you mean.

  5. I’m OK, you are most definitely Not OK.I may be powerfully tempted to make you look bad so that I can feel better about myself.  This is a common drive.  And we can get past that and move toward win-win. 
Final thought: how can I put this to immediate use?  I can pick just one interaction today – one that is bugging me – and work on “stepping outside the theater” and getting a new, fresh perspective on the interaction.
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