6 Ways to Short Circuit a Temper Tantrum

Here is an article written by Jessica Stillman for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.

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Yesterday we posted on micromanaging bosses, a top office pet peeve, and advised those bothered by their boss’s excessive interest in every detail of their work to keep calm and avoid getting emotional. This may be sound advice for this and many other aggravating office situations, but it needs a little elaboration — exactly how do you keep your annoyance from flaring up and getting the best of your intention to act rationally?

When you feel yourself edging closer to losing your cool at the office, Gretchen Rubin, blogger and author of The Happiness Project, suggests you take a moment of self-reflection. But rather than just provide a platitude, she adds six specific questions you can ask yourself to short circuit a temper tantrum. They’re well worth keeping in mind:

1. Am I at fault? I hate to be criticized or to be in the wrong. Often, I’m angriest when someone is chiding me about something that I am, indeed, guilty of. When I’m about to hit back, I remind myself to accept criticism politely, if grudgingly.

2. Will this solve anything? I often snap when I feel like I’m confronting the same annoyance over and over. Fact is, people often have irritating habits that aren’t going to change. I try to remember that snapping isn’t going to make any difference, but will only make me feel bad.

3. Am I improving the situation? This is particularly important with my younger daughter. If I lose my temper with her, the problem just escalates to a whole new horrible level. She dissolves into tears and wails, “You talked to me in a mean voice!” It’s far more effective to stay calm. Also, nicer.

4. Should I be helping you? Often, I lose my temper because I’m actually feeling guilty about my own unhelpfulness. My guilt makes me crabby, but it’s really a sign that I should be taking action.

5. Am I uncomfortable? Discomfort shortens my fuse. I’ve become much more careful to dress warmly (even when people make fun of my long underwear and double sweaters), to snack more often, to turn off the light when I’m sleepy, and to take pain medication as soon as I get a headache.

6. Can I make a joke of this? Using humor is extraordinarily effective.

Rubin’s blog often has great posts on how to be a happier, calmer person (for example, her advice on turning around a terrible day was recently featured on ELR).  It’s a good resource for those in need of a little more peace and joy in the day, and who doesn’t fit into that category?

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Jessica Stillman

Jessica Stillman is an alumna of the BNET editorial intern program, which taught her everything she knows about blogging. She now lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.

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