Employee Lessons 101: Five top tips to NOT getting your buttons pressed

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

If you are Nigerian, or you are connected to the Nigerian internetsphere, or you even eat Nigerian Jollof rice (*wink), you'll have to concede that the recently concluded Big Brother Naija (BBN) 2018 reality television show is probably one of the most talked about events, on a pan-African scale, in recent history.

Second (perhaps) to only the Presidential Elections in arousing national interest, BBN 2018 recorded a total of 170 million votes Africa-wide, with 30 million votes amassed in the last week alone.

(Are you thinking what I am thinking... per the 2019 Presidential elections??)

Even we 'nerds' who only binge on Shark Tank and would ordinarily not be interested in BBN-esque reality shows, had our interest piqued in what turned out to be an emotional three-month roller coaster, culminating in frenzied voting for the favourite housemate to win the N45million prize.

The most of the publicity generated had to do with Cee-C, who was popular for her verbal ‘onslaughts’, and truly lived up to the theme of "Double Wahala". (i.e. Double Trouble)

Perhaps, second only to the present POTUS Donald Trump (Junior), she has garnered equal number in extremely derisive critics and loving followers, with the one group terming her as the bitter villain of the show, and the other commending what they viewed as her strength of personality, in the face of covert aggravation.

Without delving into the substance of whether or not there was sufficient justification for her last two-hour tirade in which she lavishly decorated a fellow housemate with expletives, she admitted (in not so many words) upon coming out of the house that she could have handled the situation better in airing some of her grievances.

While BBN is a made-for-tv reality show, the truth however is this year's show depicted on a minor scale the reality of our struggles as humans, in allowing our emotions take over our actions, leading to overreacting to certain situations (even where one feels justified) thereby throwing away the baby, the bathwater and the bucket altogether.

(Wow. That was a mouthful)

This can particularly backfire in professional settings, such as in the work environment, where your overreaction to deemed provocation could impact negatively on your appraisal, or altogether cost you your job.

(If you have acted out in the "heat of annoyance" before, and learnt your lesson the hard way... gather here, let's take a selfie)

There is also the additional (albeit not necessarily true) stigma of being labelled as "combative", "aggressive", or a person with "anger-issues", which is often not used in the most complimentary ways.

So here are my top 5 tips to mastering your emotions, not getting your "scream" buttons activated, and effectively dealing with perceived provocation (without overreacting and letting your emotions flip the tables on you):

1. Practice the Pause: I learnt this from a quote I found some years back. This requires that you suspend all action. In the heat of the moment, do absolutely nothing.

This is because your hormones are raging, and while they may lead you to interprete your actions as perfectly normal, those hormones are one hell of a Judas in that moment.

I remember during what I still consider as my 'rookie' lawyer years, having a misunderstanding with a supervisor, and 'explaining' to them in a series of text messages my view on the issue. I couldn't understand why they were miffed at my 'explanations'.

It was with horror the next day, that I re-read the "explanations" I had sent the day before, and realised that the messages were as rude as rude comes.

Of course, I apologised profusely. Let's just say my penance entailed two years of watching my peers and juniors climb up the ladder, while I perched on that same position. (No retreat. No surrender. No acceleration)

The Pause may be from as short as five minutes to as long as 48 hours before reacting to the initial action. It may also require you taking a short stroll from the immediate situation.

Whatever it takes to calm you the heck down, and put your emotions under check before responding (considering professional turn-around timelines) is how long you need to pause for.


2. Write it down: Even though you are advised to practice the pause, your emotions still require an outlet. So that you don't bottle up all that frustration, and erupt like the Island of Hawaii one day.

So get a book, and a pen. Write it all down. The initial aggression (or series of aggression), how it affects you negatively, and what can be done to remedy the situation.

This achieves three things:

i. It helps to calm you down: When you begin writing, you may see your hand shaking. But as you write on, the motion of writing steadies your hands, and consequently helps to calm down your emotions.

ii. It gives you an avenue to vent: You could actually write down your grievance as you feel you would have wanted to pour it out, without incurring the undesirable effect of a full-blown brawl.

iii. It helps you to put things in perspective: As you read through what you have written, you can see the points which are not justified, while also helping to articulate your thoughts and reasonably marshall your valid points. 

And if after you are done, you are calm enough to realise it all doesn't matter, you can easily rip the paper to pieces and put it in the trashcan.

Do not send what you have written to anyone. I repeat: Do. Not. Send. It.

Write it out with a traditional paper and pen, for yourself.

Vent it all out. On paper.

3. Take off your shoes: Don’t take this too literally.

As you write down your grievances, try to see the misunderstanding through the eyes of the other party. Write down the points they have raised, and the issues that have been joined.

Play the "Devil's Advocate" in seeing how they may be justified. You do not have to agree with it; just try to find how one could rationally defend their adopted positions.

Reason. Rationalise. Repeat.

Even if you have counter-arguments to possibly rational explanations for their adopted positions, at the very least, you can see their own world-view of the situation, which will help you in better articulating your own points, and buffering your position.

Take off your shoes for a moment or two. Take off your hat. Wear theirs.

4. Engage. And smile: It is a great irony that the same emotions which bless us with the warm, fuzzy feelings of being in love can equally relegate our best thought process to the recesses of our consciousness.

Which is why in the heat of annoyance, we are inherently averse to listening to the other person. Our emotions interpretes what our ears hear, and sends "scream" signals to our anger buttons.

Having observed steps 1 - 3 above, and observed enough time for the other party to also calm down, you may subsequently seek to initiate calm discussions (preferably had sitting down), where both or all sides may exchange views on the point(s) of aggression, with a view to resolving the issues raised.

The aim should be to listen. Take down notes, if need be. Also, the thoughts articulated under 2 above will help to communicate your position on the (issues).

Even as the discussion is underway, make a conscious effort to smile. This helps communicate to the other party that the meeting is not a combative one, and sends "happy" signals to your brain, helping you to further stay calm.

If in the course of discussions, tempers begin to rise, practice the tips afresh from 1 above, and take a stroll if necessarily, without coming off as walking out on the other party rudely.

The aim should not be to 'win'. It should be to resolve the grievances.

Come ready to make compromises, if necessary.

5. Pick your battles: The foregoing tips are for unavoidable instances where you must react to situations in which you perceive you have been aggravated.

Beyond all these, you can ultimately choose which actions are worthy of reactions.

It is a holistic process, taking into cognizance the cost of such reaction; whether the short-term gratification of "speaking my mind!" far outweighs the long-term effect of diverting your energy into far productive causes, the possibly negative image which the reaction will cause you, and whether your reaction will actually result in a preferred solution.

Conduct a Cost-Benefit analysis.

If upon consideration of all the foregoing, it is obvious that the particular situation is one in which reacting would result in no tangible benefits to you, it may be more prudent in the circumstances and beneficial for you to choose the path of rising above the aggression, and investing that energy in more productive ventures.

Let. It. Go.

This is no veiled call to be a 'coward' in not tackling issues. But even the bravest warriors do not send their battalion into every communal skirmish or local wrestling competition. If not, there would be no arsenal left for the day of real war.

Pick your battles. Choose wisely.



Post-script: Even though this post is made in the context of the work environment, it is easily applicable in other situations of human relations.

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Photo-Credits (In order of Appearance)
1. Photo by kinkate from Pexels
2. www.instagram.com/ceec_official
3. Photo by nappy from Pexels

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  1. Keeps getting hotter and hotter. This is wonderful dear. Brilliant!!!! Learnt a whole lot.

  2. Thank you!!! Happy you loved it.

  3. This is good! But how possible is it for me to cool off and then go back to talk things out and you ask me to repeat the process ni!

    "If in the course of discussions, tempers begin to rise, practice the tips afresh from 1 above, and take a stroll if necessarily, without coming off as walking out on the other party rudely."

    Noooooo! I-wii-wuokat-hon-yu... Is u god? Is u my father or mother ni! Ahhhh kilonshele! Lolzzzz

    Nice one ma'am. Learnt some new tips though. -Like take off my shoes and throw at the person gaan!- hehehe

    PS: Am not like that oo when I said i-wii-wuokat-hon-yu

    1. 😂😂😂 oh lawd!

  4. Looool!!! You're a case! I can't with you!! 😂😂😂

    1. Am a case and you are our family lawyer! U see fah u re so handling my case ooo😂😂

    2. 😂😂😂😂😂😂

  5. You couldn't have written this any better hanay!

    I practice these, I must say, as hard as it can be (to not just literally off my shoes and throwing at the "heediat" hehehe),these steps help me a lot.

    In my case it's usually rage with clients. When they write you those very annoying emails connoting that "customer is always right" notion. So what I'll always do is, in my blood boiling mode, I will compose a response...clearly identifying why their view of the matter is total trash (in professional languages ofcourse)...chai! U don hear professional insult before?...
    But No! I don't send that email. I cool off and get my colleague (s) to read and then I (we) recompose with facts, and probably more facts than they can ever imagine self.

    But no jokes, e hard sha!!!
    But worth it! ;)

  6. Good one sis! It's hard like you say. But we'll keep pushing. It also helps if someone else reads the message for you before sending off.

  7. It feels like this was just written for me. Thanks for this wonderful piece. I will practise all...

  8. You're welcome. 😊😊

  9. Me that try to smile when I'm boiling and the next thing I hear is," So,it's funny to you.I'm being serious here and you are smiling to spite me" So I jejely stop smiling and start counting my teeth with my tongue.I really like the shoe own sha..Stoning the person won't be a bad idea or putting the person Inside a bottle and throwing the bottle away(thats usually my first option).Thanks Mama,will try to practice all you have written.

  10. Wonderful piece!!!!!! Just what i needed to hear at the moment. Thanks

  11. So many times I have wanted to vent my unhappiness about what someone did or said to me via text. After I must have written the whole epistle and expressed my frustration towards them in the most vile and wrathful way I could I'd just delete the message and breathe and tell myself it's not worth it. Self-control and weighing the after effect of what we say or do to people is very important.