Tame that Temper!

Updated: May 11, 2018

Whether your client calls you in rage, or your sales director has just walked out on you – we all have moments where we just want to scream, or punch a hole in the wall.



Steve Ballmer, ex-CEO of Microsoft, is more famous for his sour relations with Bill Gates, plummeting employee satisfaction statistics, and flinging a chair across the office, than for his business results. The chair incident was a tantrum he threw after hearing that one of his top guys was about to leave Microsoft for Google. Ballmer picked up his chair and threw it across his office. On top of that, Ballmer used the

F-word a handful of times, vowing to kill Google and bury the CEO. It’s no wonder that employee engagement went downhill during his tenure at Microsoft.


As a Small Business owner, your business is probably as dear to you as a baby. The likelihood of you losing your temper is higher than that of managers in listed corporations, because the business is practically you.


However, losing your temper can cost you dearly. Angry outbursts with staff will be repaid with lower engagement, reduced productivity, and it scares away clients and partners alike.


Luckily, there are a number of ways to tame your temper.


DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU CAN TRICK YOUR EMOTIONS?

When anger surfaces, stop, breathe and reflect.


Emotions are created in what is popularly called the primitive brain, which is also responsible for the “fight or flight” reaction that has been essential for human survival. It doesn’t think much. It reacts intuitively.


Simply by reflecting on your emotions, you can manage them. As soon as you feel anger, contempt, frustration or any other detrimental feeling coming up, rationalise them. Matthew Lieberman, a psychology professor at UCLA, called the technique “Affect Labelling”. The principle is simple. When you define, or put a label on your emotion, you’re moving it to the rational part of your brain. As this part is not responsible for intuitive emotional reactions, the emotional feelings are instantly reduced.


WHAT TYPICALLY HAPPENS IS THIS:

You take a step back and you analyse the specific emotions you feel at that particular moment. This allows you to distance yourself from those emotions. Your first thought might be an emotional F@*%!”.


You can analyse this feeling a bit more by labelling it as, “I’m upset”. From there, analyse why you’re upset. Perhaps “I’m frustrated because my customer yelled at me over the phone when he didn’t get the correct delivery”. And “I guess I’m also embarrassed because I actually also blew it”. Then, “I’m disappointed with myself because I should have double-checked the orders. It’s my most important customer. I feel that I’ve failed them, which is a miserable feeling”.


Ok, there we go. You analysed, and you dug deeper to see what your actual emotions were beyond “I’m angry”. By doing so, you observed what was going on in your primitive brain from the more rational part of your brain.


The emotional part of the brain often ignores our own role in what went wrong. If we let our rational brain be honest with ourselves, we are likely to get a much more nuanced explanation of why we feel the way we do. Then you analysed, defined, and gave your emotions a detailed “label”, which subdued them.


AFFECT LABELLING TIPS – CALL THEM BY THEIR NAME C – Catch yourself in the act: realise you’ve got negative emotions to be managed A – Analyse what these emotions are L – Look deeper and ask why you have that emotion – be honest with yourself! L – Label possible underlying emotions; give it a name

The first step – catching yourself in the act – is not easy. Emotions in the primitive brain come up in milliseconds and are translated into outbursts in an equally short period.


Don’t give up after the first attempt; with practise, you’ll be able to tame that temper.

MetaMind Pte Ltd, c/o WorkCentral, 190 Clemenceau Ave, #06–08, Singapore 239924

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