“I did it again.”

Are you walking away from meetings with that feeling of regret, that once again you’ve lost your cool? It happens to many of us. We know it’s not attractive, graceful or effective, and when it occurs it leaves us, and those present, with a sense of uneasiness.

There are a zillion possible reasons for our temper. Sometimes, external forces are at play behind the scenes: poor health, mental fatigue, family issues, physical exhaustion or finance worries.

Excluding those though, we can often point the finger at our ‘inner force’ being the culprit. By that I mean the quality of our mindset or thinking – that inner voice that can be so sensitive to perceived competition, to not being in control, to not being ‘right’ or just plain enjoys being contrary.

Whatever the cause, if you’re willing to do some homework before the next meeting that has the potential to make you snarl, there are five mind hacks that will transform an ineffective growl into a productive purr.

  1. Take personal responsibility
    It’s a natural tendency to point the finger – “I wouldn’t get so upset, if he’d just stop being so…”. However, blaming someone else actually hands that person a level of control. The most powerful thing we can do is remind ourselves that ‘others’ are not responsible for the way we feel, what we say or what we do or don’t do. The way we think, the filter through which we view our world, is totally responsible for our experience of it. This means then, that one easy way to manage our defensiveness is to shift our thinking, which brings me to the next hack.
  2. Choose to respond not react
    In the heat of the moment, it’s normal to feel triggered into a state of anger, frustration, hurt, embarrassment or indignation, but it’s how we choose to manage these emotions on the spot that counts. Try ‘flicking the switch’ from the negative emotion you’re experiencing to one that is more positive and constructive. Experiment with becoming ‘curious’ or ‘understanding’ instead.
  3. Focus on equanimity
    The emotional moments where we move into defence-mode are hugely complex because there are so many variables involved ¬– the issue, situation, environment, feelings, what’s being said, who’s saying it, how it’s being said, as well as what we choose to throw into the mix. Sometimes the simplest and most effective approach in the moment is to remember one easy phrase: “Remain composed and aim for win-win.”
  4. Stay on the hunt for a solution
    When we leap into conflict we lose track of objectivity. If we can ground our focus to searching for a solution to the issue, we can nudge our attention away from defensive emotions and the claws retract.
  5. Become collaborative
    When you feel your temper rising, try placing your attention instead on moving more with the pack. Be willing to share your thoughts, not dictate them. Ask questions and explore what is important to the other party without the need to enforce your own agenda.

Working at making a quick mental shift from hot thinking to cool responsiveness will save the day. It takes persistence and practice but pays big dividends.