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Managing Your Emotions at Work: Emotional Triggers

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

As a leadership communications and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) consultant, coach and trainer, the question I get asked most is, "how do I control my emotions at work when people make me feel angry, frustrated, and disappointed"?

In this case, using your self-awareness to develop the competencies that fall under the EQ domain, self-management will help you develop the skills to use your awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and direct your behavior positively.

Managing your emotions takes an awareness of your triggers, an intention to do better and the willingness to adopt new practices for progress.

Let’s say a direct report keeps asking questions about the things they should already know. Or that a colleague looks at you in the same disapproving way your mom used to, or that a meeting with colleagues that always results in your work getting openly criticized or your opinions getting dismissed, is coming up. These are called triggering events.

A trigger is any stimulus that you perceive to be stressful. It may be a specific person, a topic you believe is risky, a power difference or an unusual context. In other words, any of the situations above, and countless more, can be triggers.

Ideally, we would all like to just remove ourselves from a triggering situation. But that's not always an option. Here are few ways to start managing your triggers and emotional response better:

Be Aware: Commit to become more aware of what triggers you. For one week, keep track of an interaction or event that stirred up an emotion that didn't feel good. Then, use the guidance below to start making a shift.

Adopt this practice for progress: Say: ”I know that ____ triggers me. Next time, I’m going to _______ instead of ________.

Be Intentional: The next time you’re in a triggering situation, choose to breathe, pause, count to ten or remove yourself from the situation, if you can.

Adopt this practice for progress: Say: This (person/situation) is making me feel _____. I need to ________ (pause, breathe, count to ten, or leave the environment) before responding.

Be Willing to Practice: If you feel like you didn’t get it right, do better the next time. There's no right or wrong answer or pace at which you should have progress. Just take the best next step that makes sense for you.

Adopt this practice for progress: Say: ________ (person/situation) really triggered me when ___________. Next time, my response will be____________________. Set the tone for what happens next.

We all have to deal with negative emotions at work sometimes. Learning to manage your emotions constructively, whether you experience frustration, irritation, worry, anger, dislike or unhappiness is key to having a successful leadership journey.

Want to know your EQ? Take a short quiz to find out HERE

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