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How to Develop Greater Emotional Self-Control

Poor emotional self-control degrades the quality of your thinking, judgment and behavior. Rash decisions flowing from an emotional reaction impact your effectiveness in solving problems and reduce your influence with others.

how to develop greater self control

Emotional self-control is crucial to self-leadership and begins with one basic principle. Some things are within our control, and some things are not. Within our control are our thoughts, opinions, desires and our response to others. Outside our control are the opinions, thoughts and responses of others. In other words, we only control ourselves and our responses to circumstances, not the circumstances themselves.

How do we control our self? It begins with understanding and implementing the above principle by recognizing you alone choose how you are going to respond to difficult people and circumstances. Discipline yourself to never act or respond to a situation when you are emotional. Emotional responses can create an unsafe environment and negatively influence the ability of the team to arrive at rational solutions.

When you find yourself getting emotional, this should be the signal you may be on the verge of speaking or acting in an irrational way or doing something you may regret. 

Create Space Between Your Emotions and Response

While you may not be able to always control your emotions, you can control what happens next. Hit the pause button and create space to take time to think before you respond. This may mean practicing the twenty-four-hour rule. If you don’t have to respond on the spot, then don’t. Defer your response to the next morning. Things rarely look the same after sleeping on it overnight.

Ask Questions to Gain a Better Understanding

Another good technique is to learn to ask questions. Practice empathy and patience. Asking questions and seeking to understand can create needed space to get emotions under control. In doing this you can keep everything on an even keel in seeking to understand a problem before responding to it. 

Reserve Judgement Until You Have the Facts

Too often we react based on limited information and bad assumptions about the other person’s intent. Discipline yourself to gather the facts before responding. Hone your listening skills and practice humility. Learn to give others the benefit of the doubt until you’ve had a chance to listen to their side of the issue. 

Stop and Consider a Wide Range of Options

Even if you have all the facts, your first impulse may or may not be the right response. Stop and take a moment to explore alternative ways to respond. Practice objectivity. Ask yourself, “What course is going to produce the best outcome for all parties involved?”

Practice the Discipline of Delayed Gratification

Self-control is a discipline developed through practice and hard work. Think of it as a muscle that must be exercised to be strong. Look for opportunities to postpone rewards whenever possible to develop the habit of waiting. This can be as simple as delaying a minor purchase decision or declining a tempting desert after dinner. Every time you exercise the muscle you build strength.  

From a mental point of view, emotional self-control means keeping all things in perspective and avoiding excessive highs or lows. The objective of your team is to make the best and most effective decision based on the facts of the situation and not on emotional feelings. As the leader, your self-control plays an important part in this process.


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