Control Your Temper, Improve Your Life

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I just missed the green light at the longest red light in town.

I’m being asked to “Please press 1 for English” at a phone number the customer service rep promised a person would answer.

My neighbor parked his car (again) so near my driveway I can barely back out without hitting it.

“Let’s hope this is the worst thing that ever happens to me.” Have you ever said that to yourself in a moment of frustration? These minor energy drains can add significantly to your daily dose of stress. Or…. these “ki” moments can provide perfect practice opportunities to control your temper and improve your life, because …

· they are relatively inconsequential; if you fail there’s not much negative fallout.

· you have complete control over your emotional state.

· if you choose to exercise control, you realize the benefits immediately.

· these moments occur frequently enough to measure progress in a day-to-day way.

Control Your Temper

Unhelpful customer service is an emotional trigger I’ve been working on for years. It’s one of the first stories I tell in Unlikely Teachers, and I’ve been gradually improving since I wrote that story.

When I actually get a person on the phone after pushing all those numbers, it’s tempting to take my frustration out on them. Of course, this does nothing except exacerbate the problem and cause most reps to tighten up and try to protect themselves. Not a lot of good comes from those interactions.

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Over the years, I’ve added practices that help me stay cool and calm. For example:

· I put the phone on speaker and get some work done while waiting.

· I center myself as soon as I hear a real voice.

· I repeat their name and give them mine.

· I remember my purpose for the call, which usually stops frustration from hijacking my forward momentum.

· I find my kindness.

In most cases the call goes well, even when the rep can’t solve my problem. I see they’re really trying. They treat me as a human being, and I give them the benefit of the doubt. And in the course of this practice, I realize that changing how I approach the call has changed everything, including my satisfaction with the outcome.

Red Light

As you come to a halt at that long red light, you can literally feel the tension in your body increasing if you pay attention — your arms, hands, legs, stomach and breath, all clench. Your mind is clenched, too.

Yet, this may be the easiest place to practice, because as soon as you attend to your clenching, you have total control to let it go. And especially if it’s just you in that car and no one else is watching or listening or commenting, you can play a little game with yourself. Can you do it? Can you change? This is what it’s all about.

When you control your temper, you control your life. And these fairly minor “ki” moments are how you practice. This is the way your quality of life improves. You may even live longer. I know you’ll live happier.

How Centered Am I Right Now?

Treasure these moments for the practice opps they present. So you blow one or two. No big deal. You’ll get the next one. My latest centering practice is to ask myself: Percentage-wise, on a scale of 1–100, how centered am I right now………… In the car, it might go from 20 percent to 80 or 90 percent in a few seconds. It’s fun to watch.

With my neighbor, the stakes are higher. So I do some pre-work:

· What do I really want to accomplish?

· What’s important to my neighbor? What unseen reasons could prompt this behavior? Why would a reasonable person make this choice?

· How will I communcate my message non-defensively?

· What do I want to bring to this conversation and what do I not want to bring?

As I’m pulling out of the driveway at 5:30 a.m., I raise the centering percentage. I can control that. And this is where it starts.

The big question is: What do you bring to your situation? Why would you want anger and frustration in the room? If you don’t want it, don’t bring it.

It really is up to you. I bet you have some similar stories. I’d love to hear them.

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