When I walked into his office, Will’s head was down, his brow looked furrowed, his chest was noticeably rising and falling, indicative of deep breathing, and he was writing furious.
I waited until he finished and asked, “What are you working on?”
“I’m writing out my rage!” He smiled, pushed his pad aside and explained, “I used to have a bad temper – potentially, a significant derailer. My mentor suggested this idea and I’ve used it ever since. Whenever I’m angry, frustrated, disappointed, or feel like telling someone off, I write it out. It get it out of my system so I can approach the situation in a more level-headed way.” Great idea!
Putting words to your emotions helps create clarity. The simple act of describing an intense situation outside of your head can reveal a bigger picture. It allows you the space to see your singular perspective and how it plays against the priorities of your job, department, company and even your career. One colleague of mine says she envisions herself having a conversation with the person who triggered the rage, and then she imagines their likely response. Rarely, she says, can she imagine getting the desired response of, “You’re absolutely right. Thank you for setting me straight. I’ll just quit and let you run the show your way.”
Writing it down also help you resist the temptation to find a sympathetic ear – someone who will confirm that you’re feelings are on point and your foe is completely wrong. Those interactions often fuel a destructive flame by masking true solutions, making you dig your heels in and resist compromise, and spreading negativity to others who were perfectly happy and productive until you walked in.
So the next time you’re feeling frustrated, angry, disappointed or like you want to tell an employee or colleague where to go, try Will’s technique. Grab your pen and pad and write it out, giving yourself time and space to make the right decision about how best to respond.