Averting Dark Urges and Explosions at Work – Step One

 In Communication Skills

Amy Hart

Averting Dark Urges and Explosions at Work – Step One

You are in a long excruciating meeting when your coworker starts that same irritating rant for the fifth time in 10 minutes. You feel a killer urge to SILENCE him. He’s one of those people that bugs almost everybody, repeatedly. You could easily form a “Dislike This Guy” Reverse Fan Club. But you are a professional who is emotionally intelligent, so you avert the killer urge. You look calm enough. But what’s really happening?

Group of businesspeople with dynamite looking at camera in office

We know from learning about Emotional Intelligence that we’re ​​​supposed  to manage our own emotions first, then manage our relationships. The ​goal is to become mindful of the emotions that can get triggered ​in the amygdala part of the brain – and ​manage those emotions before they “high-jack” the rational part of the brain.   ​The non-technical term for an emotional high-jacking is “losing it.”​  We’ve  been there before. We bury our less attractive urges until we finally blow up, overreact, or do something stupid or hurtful that we regret.

Burying emotions is not the same as feeling and managing your emotions, and can be particularly difficult when a coworker triggers you as well as others. Why? Folks may gather around and commiserate about how awful he or she is. It’s easier to blame the coworker, who may appear oblivious. However, these “venting” sessions can build increasing frustration and hostility. This can lead to extreme stress and an explosive or tense work environment, without any constructive change in sight. What to do?

​Step One: Start with yourself FIRST. Ask yourself what is getting triggered by his behavior? Our power lies in becoming more aware of our own thoughts and emotions first.


​It may take some soul searching. What assumptions are you making? What story are you telling yourself this behavior means? Maybe you assume he’s selfish and couldn’t care less about wasting your time. The truth could be he’s insecure and trying to meet a need for attention that has nothing to do with you. Who knows?

What we do know is that until you gain awareness of your own emotions and  thoughts in order to calm yourself, you won’t be very effective in constructively changing the situation. Increasing self-awareness may be like a walk in the dark if it’s been a while since you’ve paused to explore what’s going on inside yourself.

The good news? With practice comes greater illumination, self-awareness, calm, and greater effectiveness.

Stay tuned until next month for Step Two.