Four Ways to Get Unwanted Emotions Under Control

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

Have you ever said something out of anger that you later regretted? Of course! We all have. Emotions are powerful. They determine how we interact with others and ultimately the relationships we hold. Unfortunately, as human beings, we are reaction machines. And as the saying goes, “When angry, you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Here’s how to avoid reacting poorly and better control your emotions when it matters most:

1. Alter your story. How you interpret a situation—meaning the story you tell yourself about a certain set of facts—is what creates your emotions. No one can cause you to feel a certain way. Everyone totally owns their individual emotions. If you want to change your outcomes or results, you must change the stories you tell yourself (the interpretations you make). And just last week I spoke to a SHRM group in Texas about how to better control emotions when it matters most. Here is a snippet of that live + virtual program, focusing on the concept of how to alter your story.

Clearly the stories we tell ourselves impact our emotions, and ultimately our outcomes. Additional strategies to better control unwanted emotions include:

2. Prepare. Think through how the conversation may go. How have you reacted in the past? Have you had a difficult conversation with this person before, and if so, how did s/he respond? Consider and write down what you think the person might say that could potentially send you over the edge. Go through each point and proactively assess why, from their vantage point, s/he would say such a thing. Go into the conversation prepared and you will maintain greater composure and likely handle the situation far better.

3. Listen more than you talk. It feels great to be heard, but if you are not listening to the other’s response, the discussion is pointless. Many people—as unintentional as it may be—focus on what they are going to say next; how they will respond. Instead, try very hard to remain focused on what the other person is trying to communicate. They may not say it as eloquently as some can, but empathizing with them in that moment and acknowledging their feelings along the way is a much better decision than not letting them get a word in edgewise.

4. Label your emotions. Do your best to acknowledge what emotion you are experiencing. Are you frustrated? Do you feel disappointed? Are you nervous? Sometimes the feeling of anger masks emotions that feel vulnerable—like shame or embarrassment. By paying attention to what you are feeling and then labeling it/them, you are consciously identifying at least one emotion that has ahold of you in that moment, which may help you realize how emotions affect your decisions.

Gain control over your emotions and watch your relationships soar! To learn more strategies on how to more effectively do this within your team, across your organization or just personally, reach out to me at