How To Master Your Emotional Intelligence Chapter 5 – Identifying Your Emotional Triggers
Once you have identified your emotional triggers, you may think, “Well, that’s easy. All I have to do is avoid these situations.” But it’s not that simple. You cannot avoid every difficult situation life throws at you. And it’s almost certain that unpleasant emotions will come up occasionally. In other words, you’d better scrap your escape plan and prepare to deal with any triggers that might pop up in your daily life.
Here are some tips that can help you do that. Stand by your feelings. First, you should remember that it is completely OK to feel what you are feeling at that moment. Sad, angry, scared, mad – triggers can bring up many emotions, and that’s normal. But before you can begin to process these feelings, you must accept them. Denying or ignoring your feelings will only make them worse over time. It can help to remind yourself of the differences between the past and the present, but do so with compassion for yourself, not condemnation.
Suppose a colleague picks up your book and asks, “What are you reading?” If this makes you remember classmates who used to tease you and hide your books, you might feel anxious and angry and want to snatch the book away. Instead, realize that while the circumstances in the past were painful and led to those feelings, those circumstances will not happen again now. This reminder can help you regain control and actively choose a different response, such as a brief summary of the book or a question about what the person is reading.
Give yourself some space. Physical distance can help you avoid emotional overwhelm. If you can, excuse yourself to take a short break. This can help you avoid an instinctive reaction that you might regret later. If you are alone, try some breathing or grounding exercises to help you calm down and relax. The goal here is not to completely avoid the circumstances that triggered your emotions. You are simply giving yourself a chance to calm down so you can handle the situation more productively. Once you feel more relaxed, you can approach the situation with a clearer head.
Be nonjudgmental. Generally, most people in your life are not intentionally trying to make you feel bad. Some of their actions or words that upset you might even be a byproduct of their emotional triggers or other factors you are not aware of. Your partner who walked in and did not notice you had completely changed the living room? Maybe he received bad news or had a rough day and needed some time to relax before talking about it. Everyone has their own emotions bubbling under the surface at any given time, and you may not know what’s going on unless you are told. It’s also easier to misinterpret behavior or intentions when you do not know someone well. That makes it all the more important to consider the other person’s perspective.
Communicate. If another person’s actions trigger your emotions, opening up can help you avoid a similar situation in the future. If necessary, take a minute to calm down, and then try to address the situation using “I” messages and other healthy communication skills: Instead of slamming your desk drawer and yelling, “Where did you put my tape? ” calmly say, “I get frustrated when you take my things without asking and do not give them back. In some cases, it may be helpful to ask the other person to practice better communication.
If silence, passive-aggressive behavior, or unkind or sarcastic remarks are emotional triggers for you, try a polite “What’s on your mind?” or “I am sorry, I am not sure what you mean by that.”
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