Best way to practice emotion management? Get a puppy!

GrassIt’s been 18 years since I had a puppy. I mean a real puppy. You know, with the wonderful puppy breath and the razor sharp tiny teeth and claws? Well last week I became mother to a nine-week old Golden Retriever. Yes, that’s his cute mug in the picture. This afternoon he tested my emotional management skill by tearing into my star gazer lilies. I left him outside alone for one minute while I checked an email. When I came out, he had torn through the fence barricade and was lying in a bed of shredded plants – having the time of his life. (Cue the Dirty Dancing theme song.)

I was so proud of myself last week for telling him ‘no’ when he got close to the lilies and pleased he has shown little interest in them since. I let my guard down and took it for granted that he’d learned not to bother them. I suppose I was overconfident. And then BOOM! He demolished them, every last one. I was furious! Having volunteered at Canine Assistants for five years training dogs, I know not to react harshly. And you’d think that because I coach people how to manage their emotions at work that I’d be immune to emotional stimulants. But a loud, harsh “NO!” and a light swat on the bottom came out of nowhere. Oddly, he wasn’t offended at all. Instead he leaped at me and barked as if it were a game, taunting me with his overly excited puppy energy. And of course that made it worse. It was like he was talking back to me. I wanted to teach him who was boss in that moment. Instead, I scooped him up and brought him inside and then left the room to calm down.

What I experienced was an emotional hijack. My anger and frustration got the best of me. I certainly didn’t harm him, but for a brief moment I considered drop kicking him. Luckily I did catch myself and used the ‘walk away’ technique to allow my brain to calm down. I reminded myself that he is a puppy and that translates to curiosity and immediate gratification. Later I returned to the room where I’d left him and all was forgotten. I’ll plant more lilies next year – after he finishes the ‘chewing everything’ stage.

Wouldn’t it be nice if things worked like that at the office?  You screw up and all is forgiven and forgotten?

How many times have you been angered or frustrated by someone’s actions and reacted poorly? Or thought you’d explained something so perfectly only to have it implemented as if you’d said the complete opposite? Or perhaps felt as if someone was disrespecting you by ignoring your frustration? Maybe you were overconfident and it came back to bite you. These situations are ripe for emotional reactions we later regret. Unfortunately, most people aren’t like dogs who forgive your anger thirty seconds later. That’s why it’s so important to practice some form of emotional management.

The ‘walk away’ technique works when you can diplomatically exit the conversation and return later. Even just pausing to take a breath can keep you from blurting out the wrong words. Empathizing is also very effective. I used it when I put myself in my puppy’s paws to see life as he sees it.

There are many other techniques I share with my clients. Feel free to email me if you’d like some more. The key is finding one that works for you.

Thanks for reading. I hope you make it an EQ day!

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