Conflict, Drama and Emotional Energy: Understanding your emotional triggers

Conflict, drama and negative emotional energy begin at our values.   When our values are disrespected it pushes our emotional buttons. We have all been there. It can feel like an overwhelming, out of control experience, where your emotions are controlling you rather than you controlling your emotions. This often leads to things being said that you didn’t mean or later regret.  It doesn’t have to be this way. People don’t know how much control they actually have when they feel their back up against the wall. When we are aware of and understand our values, we can begin to manage our response when we feel one of our values is disrespected

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Just as we need to take the time to identify our personal values and wants, we must also take the time to learn to manage our responses when emotions are tapped. The problem is that few of us have ever been taught to do this. When we take on a leadership role (personally or professionally) and have no skills or understanding regarding what to do when our emotional buttons are constantly getting pushed, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Most of us have been taught how not to react (don’t yell, don’t hit, don’t be aggressive) or how to react appropriately (bite your tongue, smile, nod, hold back); however, how often do we take the time to get curious and examine why our emotions are triggered in the first place?

Yes, what’s true about our values, wants, and boundaries is also true about our emotions: they are always present, whether we’re conscious of them or not. When triggered, emotions can create feelings that tend to manage us rather than us managing them, which can be overwhelming. When those feelings are negative, allowing them to manage us can have devastating consequences. The good news is that clearly identifying your personal values is going to help you manage your emotional reactions in all areas of your life.

Once you are clear and comfortable with your own unique values, you can connect them to those surges of emotional energy and better understand what triggered this emotion. With negative emotional energy, you can maintain your cool and feel in control, able to stay in the conversation without feeling like an uncontrollable force that rears its head as anger, shame, or blame. We know because we have learned to do this ourselves and have helped countless others find this place of calm, where you can stay rational, feel in control of your emotions, and seek to understand the perspectives of others. (Next week, we’ll show you how to find this place of calm, using specific calming strategies.)

You Have a Choice

Over the years, we have discovered that some people are not interested in learning to manage their emotions. They really like erupting, holding forth, and becoming accusatory towards others. They feel sometimes they just need to express themselves this way. On some level, it makes them feel good, full of energy. When asked how this supports their relationships, we have been told they often just don’t care. The explosion is worth it.

Whatever your approach is, it is important to know that you always have a choice. You can decide when to erupt and when disrupting the relationship is not worth the rush. You can become the person focused on destroying everything in your path, or you can get curious, stay calm, and connect in conversation—the choice is yours. If erupting and disrupting consistently resonates with you, then we encourage you to get curious with yourself. What is motivating you to use this approach? What are you gaining, and what are you losing?

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TAKE ACTION: Understanding Your Emotional Triggers

Looking back at the values and wants you identified, what happens when one or both get’s disrespected? What emotional reactions occur for you?

If you find a particular comment or incident pushes your emotional buttons, but you can’t connect it back to any defined core value or boundary, then explore further what the underlying value might be. Once you identify it, add it to your list and support it with a boundary. Further exploration may be needed to get each of your values named and defined in a way that truly works for you.

When we are able to understand that our values are connected to our emotions, it becomes easier to manage our emotions when our emotional buttons get pushed. Understanding our values allows us to put up boundaries to support ourselves in such situations, so we don’t lose control and say or do things we later regret.

We go into more detail in The Power Of Curiosity: How To Have Real Conversations That Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding (Morgan James, 2015).  You can download the Intro and Chapter 1 here.

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