How to control people's emotions
How do you manage other people's emotions? — Peoplemax
In my line of work, I get to hear a lot about people’s problems and related emotions. Be these at work or at home, with family, friends or that demanding boss. Many of us are dealing with challenges that if we let them, can make us ‘cranky’. And what we focus on we tend to get. The ‘crankier’ we feel, the more likely we are to notice the negative things happening around us, which in turn makes us even more irritable. You might imagine that all the anger, frustration, anxiety and shame felt by my clients would surely impact my mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Without effective skills to manage emotions, I have no doubt this would occur - leading to emotional overload, vicarious trauma and eventual burnout. So what can we do to help manage the impact other people’s emotions can have on us?
The first step is having awareness of both our own emotions and the emotions of others. (Emotional Intelligence is the name for this coined by Daniel Goleman*). The second is developing and practising skills to effectively manage the impact that other people's moods and difficult emotions can have on us. In reality, anyone can do this. So if you find yourself being negatively impacted by other people's emotions, here are five specific skills I have learned that help me effectively and respectfully handle other people's difficult emotions. The good news is that with practice, you will create new neural pathways in your brain that will enable you to tap into these skills whenever you need to. This in turn will help you keep your cool in all relationships, especially the important ones – your significant other, your boss, kids, parents, friends and work colleagues.
1. Replace judgement with curiosity
I'm not sure about you, but when I grew up, strong emotions weren't tolerated. If someone was in a bad mood, they were told to get over it ‘quick smart’, particularly if you were a child in the family. Strong emotions such as anger, frustration and sadness were often seen as negative emotions and needed to be fixed. Emotions such as happiness and joy were labelled positive and acceptable; however, negative emotions were judged unacceptable and a sign of immaturity or loss of control. Not surprisingly as a young adult, I found it challenging to deal with other people’s strong emotions and I would often judge them for their inability to get their ‘stuff’ together.
It took a post-graduate degree in counselling for me to realise that this judgemental mindset was neither helpful nor set in stone. I recall a lecturer saying that to serve those in emotional turmoil, we need to replace judgement with curiosity. With this lens of curiosity, it's much easier to acknowledge and validate their emotions, showing understanding and empathy, which is what most people experiencing strong, painful emotions really need.
I learnt that it was essential to be aware of our own self-talk when someone we care about is very emotional. How do we think about emotions? Are they good or bad? Are they triggering something in us that we learnt growing up?
Maybe your go-to position is:
Can't they see that these emotions are no good for them?
Can't they see that they are having an impact on the people around them?
How can they be so selfish and self-indulgent?
I wish they would just get on with it like I do when I am feeling like this – just move on!
Instead, substitute more curiosity-driven questions:
What is happening in their world at the moment that is making them feel this way?
What kinds of circumstance might have happened to make them feel this way?
What is the benefit to them of feeling this way? Are they getting something out of it?
Shifting from a lens of judgement to curiosity changes our mindset enabling us to support others in an emotionally-intense situation. When someone close to you is in a bad mood, try to understand how and why they are feeling the way they are rather than judging them for being emotional.
2. Stop problem-solving and start listening
When someone you care about is upset and emotional, what is your first go-to strategy? Without a doubt, the most common mistake people make in how they communicate with each other is that they get stuck in "Advice giving or fix-it mode." Especially couples!
When someone close to us is ‘cranky’, anxious, frustrated or seems to be down in the dumps, we often think we need to fix them. But as I have learnt the hard way, offering advice to someone who is in the midst of a bad mood is typically unhelpful at best and often counterproductive.
Can you think of a time when you were in a bad mood and started describing how you were feeling to your significant other, a family member or a friend? Before you were three sentences in, they were already coming up with ideas as to how you could fix ‘your’ problem. Offering advice about what you should or shouldn't do and telling you that being upset about it is a waste of time and energy. How frustrated did you feel? No doubt the person that you were talking to could probably see your pain and struggling, and therefore their natural reaction was to try and alleviate your pain and make you feel better. Not to mention, make themselves feel better.
But here's the thing, most people struggling with emotions don't want someone to fix their pain or to find a solution to their problem, they just want to feel heard and understood. This is one of the most counterintuitive but universally true laws of human psychology in my opinion. And once you start believing this and acting on it, everybody around you starts feeling better.
So how can we shift our mindset from problem-solver to helping people feel understood? Reflective listening is the key. What this means is that when someone tells you something, all you need to do is reflect back to them what they have just said, either using their exact words or paraphrasing it in your own words. It's like being their mirror. This tells the person two things; firstly that you are listening and secondly that you understand how they are feeling. If what you say back to them is not accurate, it also allows them to explain it again.
Here are some examples to get you thinking of what reflective listening could look like in your relationships:
Your significant other: “You never really listen to me! You're always just trying to solve my problems and get back to watching TV.”
The usual response: "The last thing I want to hear is all your issues when I get back from work. All I want to do is relax and watch TV. Can’t you talk to me later?"
Reflective listening: "What I hear you say is that you don't feel heard by me and that all I'm focusing on is trying to solve your problems.”
Your friend: "My boss was so rude to me today and made me feel stupid in front of my team when he reprimanded me about a report I hadn't completed properly. ”
The usual response: "But why didn't you finish the report, of course, he's going to be upset with you."
Reflective listening: "It sounds like you were really embarrassed by your boss and what he said to you in front of your team."
Now, I know you might be sitting there saying "Really!" but it works and is a tool frequently used by counsellors and coaches. The reason is, it's not about what you are saying, it's about how they feel and the fact that they are feeling heard. The value of being their mirror is that it helps them feel you are with them, you're connected and understand where they are coming from, not to mention that you have their back. By being the mirror to another person's experience, you're giving them a genuine connection versus trying to fix them.
3. Putting on your own shoes
Empathy is our ability to put ourselves in the other person's shoes and ‘feel’ the way they must be feeling. Having empathy is a critical skill for relationship building. Another way that you could do this is through reverse empathy - by putting yourself in your own shoes and trying to remember a time where you perhaps felt the strong emotion the other person is feeling. Maybe it was anger or frustration or a deep sense of sadness. Try and recall a time where you struggled with these emotions, how they felt and what mood you were in.
For example, if they're really frustrated and angry, think back to when you were so frustrated or angry, you couldn't even think straight:
· What happened to get you so angry?
· What thoughts and emotions were going through your mind?
· What did the people around you do or not do?
· And importantly, what do you remember wanting, needing, or wishing for when you felt that way?
Often, reverse empathy can help you appreciate someone else's emotions and struggle because it's based on your own experiences in the moment, rather than what you think they must be feeling. And the more you can connect with your emotional responses, the better the chance of being genuinely helpful and supportive to the other person, not to mention being less reactive and emotional yourself.
4. Respond versus react
Have you ever found that other people's bad moods have stirred up emotions in you? Your significant other is miserable, and you find yourself getting frustrated. Perhaps your boss is anxious and micromanaging, which tends to make you feel anxious too. Maybe a parent is irritable, and you respond with annoyance and a sarcastic dig.
Allowing our emotions to overtake how we're feeling about a situation, means that we have limited emotional and mental bandwidth to deal with the mood of the other person. This is the reason why we often react to other people's bad moods in a way that ultimately isn't helpful to them, to us or our relationship.
The best way to manage this is by simply acknowledging and validating our own emotions and telling ourselves that it's okay to feel this way and that how we are feeling is reasonable. As an example, suppose your significant other has been in a bad mood the whole evening because of something that happened at work. They are impatient, frustrated, and generally painful to be around. There are also no signs of them shifting their mood, and they are totally self-absorbed in their own misery. While you've managed to be supportive for the first couple of hours and showed interest in their story, you can feel yourself starting to get annoyed with them.
Rather than 1) allowing your annoyance to get the better of you and saying something unhelpful, or 2) judging them and their inability to get over it or 3) becoming judgemental of yourself for feeling annoyed, you could validate your own annoyance. This could take the form of a few seconds of pause, during which you acknowledge how you're feeling, remind yourself that it's okay and natural to feel this way and then ask yourself ‘what is the most helpful way’ you could move forward. These few seconds of pause allow you to calm the emotional centre of your brain and get your rational brain back in the driver’s seat.
5. Control what is in your circle of influence
If someone you care about is in a bad mood, there is nothing you can do to make them feel better. Now, this may sound counterintuitive because many of us think that if someone's miserable, we can make them feel happy by doing something, or saying something. In reality, however, the only thing we can control is how we show up. We cannot control how another person feels or doesn't feel. That is entirely their choice.
A common error I see many people make when trying to deal with other people's bad moods is to think it is their responsibility to make that person feel better. The reality is we can only be responsible for the things that we can control and influence. Emotions by their nature are not directly under our control, and therefore we are not responsible for our emotions. We are however responsible for our behaviour and how we think as a result of these emotions.
When we feel responsible for things outside of our control, we set ourselves up for unnecessary frustration, disappointment and resentment. However, when we are clear on what we can control, i.e. our behaviour and thinking, then we are less likely to get frustrated. In summary, because you can't directly control how someone feels you're not responsible for it. When you stop taking on the responsibility of making someone feel better, you can start focusing your time and energy on what you can do to connect with them in a heartfelt way and become genuinely supportive.
A final word
Humans are DNA wired to connect. We crave belonging, finding our tribe and forging strong relationships. Emotions are part of what makes us human. Being able to understand and regulate our own emotions and having the skills to support others who are experiencing strong emotions is key to healthy relationships. The more we practise these skills, the better we become at managing the highs and lows of human connection. It is like building a muscle. The healthier our relationships and the stronger our sense of belonging and connection, the better our mental, physical and emotional health. So the next time someone close to you shows up in a grumpy mood, question with curiosity, mirror their emotions, put on your own emotional shoes and focus on what you can control!
Goleman, Daniel (1996). Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ
Goleman, Daniel (1999) Working with Emotional Intelligence
Goleman, Daniel (2007) Social Intelligence
McEwen , K (2018). Resilience at work: A framework for Coaching and Interventions. White paper www.workingwithresilience.com.au
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How to Control Your Emotions: 11 Strategies to Try
The ability to experience and express emotions is more important than you might realize.
As the felt response to a given situation, emotions play a key part in your reactions. When you’re in tune with them, you have access to important knowledge that helps with:
- relationship success
- day-to-day interactions
While emotions can have a helpful role in your daily life, they can take a toll on your emotional health and interpersonal relationships when they start to feel out of control.
Vicki Botnick, a therapist in Tarzana, California, explains that any emotion — even elation, joy, or others you’d typically view as positive — can intensify to a point where it becomes difficult to control.
With a little practice, though, you can take back the reigns. Two studies from 2010 suggest that having good emotional regulation skills is linked to well-being. Plus, the second one found a potential link between these skills and financial success, so putting in some work on that front may literally pay off.
Here are some pointers to get you started.
Intense emotions aren’t all bad.
“Emotions make our lives exciting, unique, and vibrant,” Botnick says. “Strong feelings can signify that we embrace life fully, that we’re not repressing our natural reactions.”
It’s perfectly normal to experience some emotional overwhelm on occasion— when something wonderful happens, when something terrible happens, when you feel like you’ve missed out.
So, how do you know when there’s a problem?
Emotions that regularly get out of hand might lead to:
- relationship or friendship conflict
- difficulty relating to others
- trouble at work or school
- an urge to use substances to help manage your emotions
- physical or emotional outbursts
Find some time to take stock of just how your uncontrolled emotions are affecting your day-to-day life. This will make it easier to identify problem areas (and track your success).
You can’t control your emotions with a dial (if only it were that easy!). But imagine, for a moment, that you could manage emotions this way.
You wouldn’t want to leave them running at maximum all the time. You also wouldn’t want to switch them off entirely, either.
When you suppress or repress emotions, you’re preventing yourself from experiencing and expressing feelings. This can happen consciously (suppression) or unconsciously (repression).
Either can contribute to mental and physical health symptoms, including:
- sleep issues
- muscle tension and pain
- difficulty managing stress
- substance misuse
When learning to exercise control over emotions, make sure you aren’t just sweeping them under the rug. Healthy emotional expression involves finding some balance between overwhelming emotions and no emotions at all.
Taking a moment to check in with yourself about your mood can help you begin gaining back control.
Say you’ve been seeing someone for a few months. You tried planning a date last week, but they said they didn’t have time. Yesterday, you texted again, saying, “I’d like to see you soon. Can you meet this week?”
They finally reply, more than a day later: “Can’t. Busy.”
You’re suddenly extremely upset. Without stopping to think, you hurl your phone across the room, knock over your wastebasket, and kick your desk, stubbing your toe.
Interrupt yourself by asking:
- What am I feeling right now? (disappointed, confused, furious)
- What happened to make me feel this way? (They brushed me off with no explanation.)
- Does the situation have a different explanation that might make sense? (Maybe they’re stressed, sick, or dealing with something else they don’t feel comfortable explaining. They might plan to explain more when they can.)
- What do I want to do about these feelings? (Scream, vent my frustration by throwing things, text back something rude.)
- Is there a better way of coping with them? (Ask if everything’s OK. Ask when they’re free next. Go for a walk or run.)
By considering possible alternatives, you’re reframing your thoughts, which can help you modify your first extreme reaction.
It can take some time before this response becomes a habit. With practice, going through these steps in your head will become easier (and more effective).
If you’re trying to get better at managing emotions, you might try downplaying your feelings to yourself.
When you hyperventilate after receiving good news or collapse on the floor screaming and sobbing when you can’t find your keys, it might seem helpful to tell yourself, “Just calm down,” or “It’s not that big of a deal, so don’t freak out.”
But this invalidates your experience. It is a big deal to you.
Accepting emotions as they come helps you get more comfortable with them. Increasing your comfort around intense emotions allows you to fully feel them without reacting in extreme, unhelpful ways.
To practice accepting emotions, try thinking of them as messengers. They’re not “good” or “bad.” They’re neutral. Maybe they bring up unpleasant feelings sometimes, but they’re still giving you important information that you can use.
For example, try:
- “I’m upset because I keep losing my keys, which makes me late. I should put a dish on the shelf by the door so I remember to leave them in the same place.”
Accepting emotions may lead to greater life satisfaction and fewer mental health symptoms. What’s more, people thinking of their emotions as helpful may lead to higher levels of happiness.
Writing down (or typing up) your feelings and the responses they trigger can help you uncover any disruptive patterns.
Sometimes, it’s enough to mentally trace emotions back through your thoughts. Putting feelings onto paper can allow you to reflect on them more deeply.
It also helps you recognize when specific circumstances, like trouble at work or family conflict, contribute to harder-to-control emotions. Identifying specific triggers makes it possible to come up with ways to manage them more productively.
Journaling provides the most benefit when you do it daily. Keep your journal with you and jot down intense emotions or feelings as they happen. Try to note the triggers and your reaction. If your reaction didn’t help, use your journal to explore more helpful possibilities for the future.
There’s much to be said for the power of a deep breath, whether you’re ridiculously happy or so angry you can’t speak.
Slowing down and paying attention to your breath won’t make the emotions go away (and remember, that’s not the goal).
Still, deep breathing exercises can help you ground yourself and take a step back from the first intense flash of emotion and any extreme reaction you want to avoid.
The next time you feel emotions starting to take control:
- Breathe in slowly. Deep breaths come from the diaphragm, not the chest. It may help to visualize your breath rising from deep in your belly.
- Hold it. Hold your breath for a count of three, then let it out slowly.
- Consider a mantra. Some people find it helpful to repeat a mantra, like “I am calm” or “I am relaxed.”
There’s a time and place for everything, including intense emotions. Sobbing uncontrollably is a pretty common response to losing a loved one, for example. Screaming into your pillow, even punching it, might help you relieve some anger and tension after being dumped.
Other situations, however, call for some restraint. No matter how frustrated you are, screaming at your boss over an unfair disciplinary action won’t help.
Being mindful of your surroundings and the situation can help you learn when it’s OK to let feelings out and when you might want to sit with them for the moment.
Getting some distance from intense feelings can help you make sure you’re reacting to them in reasonable ways, according to Botnick.
This distance might be physical, like leaving an upsetting situation, for example. But you can also create some mental distance by distracting yourself.
While you don’t want to block or avoid feelings entirely, it’s not harmful to distract yourself until you’re in a better place to deal with them. Just make sure you do come back to them. Healthy distractions are only temporary.
- taking a walk
- watching a funny video
- talking to a loved one
- spending a few minutes with your pet
If you practice meditation already, it might be one of your go-to methods for coping with extreme feelings.
Meditation can help you increase your awareness of all feelings and experiences. When you meditate, you’re teaching yourself to sit with those feelings, to notice them without judging yourself or attempting to change them or make them go away.
As mentioned above, learning to accept all of your emotions can make emotional regulation easier. Meditation helps you increase those acceptance skills. It also offers other benefits, like helping you relax and get better sleep.
Our guide to different kinds of meditation can help you get started.
When you’re under a lot of stress, managing your emotions can become more difficult. Even people who generally can control their emotions well might find it harder in times of high tension and stress.
Reducing stress, or finding more helpful ways to manage it, can help your emotions become more manageable.
Mindfulness practices like meditation can help with stress, too. They won’t get rid of it, but they can make it easier to live with.
Other healthy ways to cope with stress include:
- getting enough sleep
- making time to talk (and laugh) with friends
- spending time in nature
- making time for relaxation and hobbies
If your emotions continue to feel overwhelming, it may be time to seek professional support.
Long-term or persistent emotional dysregulation and mood swings are linked to certain mental health conditions, including borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder. Trouble controlling emotions can also relate to trauma, family issues, or other underlying concerns, Botnick explains.
A therapist can offer compassionate, judgment-free support as you:
- explore factors contributing to dysregulated emotions
- address severe mood swings
- learn how down-regulate intense feelings or up-regulate limited emotional expression
- practice challenging and reframing feelings that cause distress
Mood swings and intense emotions can provoke negative or unwanted thoughts that eventually trigger feelings of hopelessness or despair.
This cycle can eventually lead to unhelpful coping methods like self-harm or even thoughts of suicide. If you begin thinking about suicide or have urges to self-harm, talk to a trusted loved one who can help you get support right away.
If you need help now
If you’re considering suicide or have thoughts of harming yourself, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 800-662-HELP (4357).
The 24/7 hotline will connect you with mental health resources in your area. Trained specialists can also help you find your state’s resources for treatment if you don’t have health insurance.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.
5 effective tricks to control your emotions
Contents of the article
Recently, more and more people began to talk about emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a set of human skills with which he can recognize his own and others' emotions, control and manage them. The ability to restrain your emotions will come in handy in almost any area of life - from personal relationships with loved ones to working negotiations with colleagues, management, clients. Emotions can overtake at the most inopportune moment, preventing rational thinking from finding the right solution. Therefore, it is important to learn to control yourself in order to understand your true desires and motives. We have collected 5 simple tricks from the free online course "Emotional Intelligence" that will help you work through emotions in the moment and avoid unpleasant consequences. nine0003
Detachment from what is happening
Negative emotions in most cases arise at the moment when another person takes out their discontent, evil, bad mood or resentment on you. We automatically want to respond in kind, to protect ourselves from the flow of negativity. But such action can only exacerbate the situation. At this moment, it is better not to react to the emotional manifestations of a person, skip unpleasant words past you and not let emotions take over you. Get distracted by something, go somewhere else. Let the person cool down and try starting the conversation again. nine0003
Sometimes we are overcome by strong anger, at this moment it is difficult to quickly calm down and come to our senses. Try to look at the problem from a different angle. Think that this situation is another experience in life that just needs to be experienced. Emotional outbursts make us stronger and more resilient, so everything must be treated philosophically. At first, it will be difficult to control your emotions, so remind yourself that in this way you form an inner core in yourself. nine0003
Sometimes it is difficult to immediately completely calm down, telling yourself “stop, stop being nervous.” The main task of emotional intelligence is to be able to slow down, pause. At this point, you need to turn on your brain and think about what happened, why you are reacting this way. Then decide how best to act in this situation, and only then begin to act.
Surely you have already heard the advice about deep breathing during a surge of emotions. It really works. Breathing helps to relax, distract from the situation and come to your senses. Just breathing deeply for a few minutes is enough to feel inner relief
Sports are one of the best tools for developing willpower and self-control. You can often meet people who take out their negative emotions on a punching bag, do yoga, dance or aerobics. Sport helps to improve not only the physical condition, but also the psychological one. Even morning exercises will fill you with energy and good mood.
How to control your emotions in any situation
November 30, 2015 A life nine0003
Emotions are good, but you need to be able to cope with them at the most critical moments of life. This article will teach you how to deal with surging feelings correctly.
Emotions are what makes us human. But sometimes the manifestation of feelings is completely inappropriate, interferes with thinking sensibly and leads to mistakes. You cannot (and should not!) keep yourself from experiencing certain emotions. But it must be manifested and expressed at the right time and in the right place. Use your feelings constructively and don't let them ruin everything you've been working towards for so long. nine0003
Don't rock yourself
Adjust your emotions like the temperature on a thermostat. Not too hot, not too cold - just right to feel good. This applies to both good and bad emotions.
An excess of enthusiasm can be inappropriate, as well as excessively aggressive or depressive behavior.
People who know how to control their emotions, all the time trying to maintain balance, avoiding disharmony in the state of mind. nine0003
Stop to think
Do you feel "boiling"? This is a dangerous condition, and you need to put yourself in order as soon as possible. Instead of reacting to the situation immediately, think about what tools and solutions can be used. Cool down and reflect on what happened, regaining your focus and ability to analyze. Hasty decisions often bring a bitter feeling of regret. On the other hand, a short pause will help you focus on the most important and choose an effective and tactful way to solve the problem. nine0003
Avoid emotional overload
Emotional overload is a situation in which a feeling takes over completely. This condition is accompanied by physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, increased breathing, trembling knees, sweating, and nausea. Do you feel something similar? This is a clear sign that you are emotionally overwhelmed. Instead of going with the flow and giving up, brace yourself! Process the information in parts, gradually coming to your senses. You can evaluate the result with a sober look. nine0003 Kate Ter Haar/Flickr.com
Practice deep breathing
The body's response to emotional overload directly affects the heart and, in general, all the muscles of the body. You experience tension, after which you will definitely feel overwhelmed. To avoid such surges, practice deep breathing.