Each weekday I share a lesson I have learned in life. Here is today’s lesson.
I do not like to have my work interrupted. I do not like to be told I “need” to do something (as in, “You need to listen when I talk…”). I love my pets but I am quickly frustrated by their bad behavior (like barfing up a hairball on my bed or having a potty accident on the carpet). Anyone transferring their emotions to me is infuriating (i.e. blaming me for how you feel). I have been known to “drop” my phone (against the wall at about 40 miles per hour) for being irritated that it will not perform some simple task correctly (probably due to an app not being updated or general user error).
The point is, most people know me as generally cool, calm, and collected most of the time, but I have buttons. And when they are pressed, I see red. I can go from being a nice guy to a jerk in no time. Luckily, I have enough tricks up my sleeve to keep me from doing any real damage to myself or life and these days, even most electronic products. I am also quite resilient and tend to get over things (including myself) fast. I can be authentically smiling and calm again within minutes.
The secret, I think, to getting over frustration is three-fold. Here is what works for me.
1. Context and Self-Respect. By putting a situation in perspective and reminding myself who I am, I can almost always regain self-control. For example, when my puppy has an accident, it resets our potty training and makes me feel guilty, angry, and generally like a “bad parent” (I totally understand the irony of the emotional transference complaint I listed at the top). My anger jumps from zero to about thirteen in less than a heartbeat. Sometimes I am able to catch it by quickly reminding myself the dog is a dog. It has hundred times less brain power and emotional content and is only doing what a dog does (context–can’t be mad at a dog for being a dog). I have to remind myself I can not let a puppy take control of my life since he is relying on me to be in control (self-respect–my job is to lead “the pack” and what kind of leader demoralizes his followers by yelling or throwing a tantrum?).
2. Chase the goal, not the emotions. As new puppy parents, sometimes Nicole and I disagree on how to approach a situation we haven’t encountered before. For example, the dog care books say you have to take your puppy out and socialize to acclimate it to other dogs and people quickly. Our puppy is behind schedule on his vaccinations, though, due to being sick, and the general advice is to keep him away from other dogs and dog areas. What do we do? Regardless of the answer, you can imagine the conversation can quickly become emotionally charged. To defuse my misaligned passion, I remind myself our goal is the same: we want what is best for the puppy. I may not agree on the approach but just knowing the destination is the same will often help us find a good landing spot, even if the landing is bumpy.
3. Remember who you are dealing with. Whether it is your boss, a friend, a sibling, or even a brand, I find an easy way to wrangle my would-be emotional outbursts is to remind myself of the importance of this (person, product, place) in my life. When I am snippy with Nicole (and I know it), I remind myself she is the love of my life. There is no reason to be short-tempered with her because she is the best thing about waking up each day. Why tarnish that because I am feeling snotty? Same with other people, places, and things. My emotions are on me. The situation might be our problem but my emotional approach is my problem and mine alone. That means there are often two problems to solve at the same time, so better take the one I have immediate control over out of the mix as quickly as I can.
Of course, I’m not perfect. Sometimes my mouth out runs my brain or sometimes I have just “had enough” and take a firm stand on something stupid (“I will NOT put the cap back on the toothpaste because I LIKE the mess it leaves!”). More often than not, I am glad to say, remembering those 3 tips help me minimize those moments and maximize my relationships in the world.
Hope they help you too!