When you encounter an upsetting or difficult situation at work and someone says, “just let it go,” that can be much easier said than done. Our egos are habitually accustomed to holding onto things and some may argue that ruminating in the unpleasantness of a situation can almost feel good.
The truth is the best leaders have learned to tame their own egos for the good of the business. Colleagues who keep their ego in check and conduct their day-to-day business with keen awareness are more likely to have productive and collaborative working relationships. So, how is this complicated feat of taming your ego accomplished?
When you notice yourself feeling angry or defensive, stop for a moment. Do an inventory of your feelings. Ask yourself, why do I feel angry? or why does this upset me? Pause and think before reacting. By processing these feelings, you’ll give yourself a buffer of time to contemplate your next step instead of reacting impulsively.
Take a deep breath and think about the ground which takes everything thrown at it with grace and humility. It is through humility, patience and rational thought that we can conquer the ego’s desires. The ego is not rational, it is impulsive, and it wants you to think you are superior. Any interaction threatening that thought will cause negative feelings to stir.
However, when our self-interest takes a back seat, we are more in tune with ourselves and those around us. When our ambition comes from a place that is less self-serving and more other serving, we start to master our ego. Assess where you are internally and try a humble path. Humility is a magnificent tool to pacify any situation. Whether or not we like it, it works and helps calm not only our own ego but the ego of others.
Understanding Why Egos Get Triggered
We want to believe we are smart, eloquent, and all-around decent people. When we make a mistake, be it intentional or not, many of us resort to excuses, explanations, and playing dumb. At an early age, we’re taught to strive to do our best in everything. As we grow older, we learn the value of teachable moments brought on by mistakes. We also learn that mistakes are inevitable.
When we make a mistake and someone points this out, it sets off feelings of guilt and sometimes shame. When these feelings pass, we feel anger. We question ourselves and play the offending scenario over and over in our heads. We want to believe we are infallible, but as we’ve heard many times over, “to err is human.” The pursuit of perfection manifests insecurity and defensive behaviour and sometimes it even causes us to be deceitful.
We need to learn to accept that mistakes are okay and can be our greatest teachers. We do not have to lie or make excuses. The best thing we can do is to own our faults. When we say, I’m sorry, I made a mistake, we become humble and vulnerable.
Vulnerability gives us the opportunity to be perfectly flawed and human. It allows us to be open to things such as teachable moments, self-awareness, and awareness of others. Vulnerability is one of the special things that can calm down a triggered ego.
The Bigger Picture
The ego is so focused on the self, it tends to make you forget the bigger picture. Remember your commitment to your company’s vision and mission. When we’re focused on the bigger picture, our ego-driven feelings become irrelevant and trivial. In fact, our minds suddenly forget our egos exist. Think about team sports. All the members of the team want to do well, but it doesn’t matter who scores or who blocks. What matters is that the team works together to win the game. When leaders recall their vision and mission, the ego subsides naturally.
We carry negative feelings and frustrations around with us and these things weigh us down. The ego, when active, can also weigh us down. If we let go, we’re able to have a happier and more productive working life.
Another way to let go is to pause and ask yourself, Is it really that bad? Our emotions, when heightened, can trigger anxiety and an avalanche of feelings. We can easily lose sight of the original situation that caused our ego to light up in the first place. When you take a moment to examine yourself, your emotions, and the situation at hand, you will see the situation for what it is. Often, we realise that isn’t that bad. And if it is that bad, what is the absolute worst thing that can happen?
Write down your frustrations, worries and anger on a piece of paper and then shred it. Alternatively, shout them out loud in the shower or other places when you’re alone. Do whatever it takes to acknowledge the reasons your ego has been triggered and then try to let it go.
These tactics can’t be mastered overnight. It takes time, practice, and a keen awareness of outside triggers and also yourself. However, when we tame our egos, we can eliminate unnecessary frustration in our lives. We can take careful steps to avoid triggering others, paving the way for peaceful and meaningful relationships. After all, isn’t that what success is all about?
Article by Salman Raza, author of Life’s Non-Conformities: An Auditor’s Tale of Practical Application of Social, Emotional & Behavioral Strategies, out now, priced £18.99 available on salmanraza.net and Amazon.