Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

“Hold my beer and watch this.” (And other phrases that inevitably lead to trouble.)

dumbbell.jpgOccasionally someone says something you just know isn’t going to result in anything good: “You may not like to hear this, but…..” “I’m probably going to be sorry I said this, but……….” “Promise me you won’t repeat this to anyone…” “He won’t get mad. He’ll think this is funny.” “No one will find out!” “Just one time.” Or, “Hold my beer and watch this.”

If you have said similar things, you likely have also said, after the inevitable bad result creates stress, anxiety and trouble for you, “Why do I do this to myself over and over again?”

 Well, you may not like to hear this, but…it’s because you lack self-discipline. And I should know, because I lack it, too. But, I’m better than I used to be, and I’ll be even more self-disciplined when I grow up.

 Here are some tips for self-control and self-discipline of your talk and actions:

1. Thomas Jefferson said, “When angry, count ten before you speak. If very angry, an hundred.” That also applies when you’re in a great mood and everyone around you is talking and laughing. Conversations are most risky when everyone is telling a funny story, an anecdote or a “Can you top this?” experience. Be quiet for a moment, even if you have to find a reason to stop talking, and let your mind calm down.  The concept works as well for those times when you are tempted to do something that you know is risky, personally or professionally. Calm yourself and give your mind time to think rather than only react.

2. While you’re calming yourself, either from anger, excessive good humour, the desire to impress people or to do something with a potential for problems, think of the worst slant someone could put on it. How could it be interpreted differently than you mean it? How will it sound when discussed with a sneer, a smirk, a shocked tone, a disapproving frown or a disappointed head shake? How will it look in the photograph? How will it read in the newspaper? How will it sound in the employment hearing?

3. Say the funny, sarcastic or oneupmanship thing to yourself, instead of out loud; imagine yourself doing the outrageous thing, instead of actually doing it. You will find it surprisingly gratifying to say the nasty comeback in your mind, while appearing to be gracious and in control. You will save yourself a lot of grief by only thinking about doing some of the things you are tempted to do, instead of giving in to tempation based on anger, ego, greed or any other emotion.  It may be true that, “as a man thinketh in his heart, so doeth he” but he won’t get fired, disciplined, divorced or slapped for what he only thinketh but doesn’t doeth.

4.  Stay out of situations you know may lead to doing or saying things you will regret.  I once read that almost every negative activity in our lives have fellow travelers. Those are the things that don’t seem like problems, but lead to them or are linked to them in some way.  For some people, going to lunch with co-workers is a fellow traveler for nasty gossip; immediately hitting reply on an irritating email is a fellow traveler for writing an angry response; starting an angry rant is a fellow traveler for mean or obscene language; telling “war stories” about experiences is a fellow traveler for exaggeration and lying; drinking to excess is a fellow traveler for doing outrageous stunts that lead to accidents, injuries and even illegal activities. (Hence the “Hold my beer and watch this” remark.) Identify the fellow-travelers that accompany the situations you’ve lived to regret. Then, avoid those to help avoid the negative actions and talk.

5. Replace the problem actions and words with something benign or better.  A friend of mine says she often excuses herself to go to the bathroom, make a phone call, return an urgent email she just remembered, or similar things, to give herself time to stop complaining and gossiping.  Another friend says she is honest about being angry, and just the fact that she says it, helps her calm down. She’ll say, “I’m so mad right now I could scream vile things, but I don’t want to do that. Give me a few seconds to calm myself.” She makes a slight joke of it, and says, “Ohmm” in an exaggerated way, and regains emotional control. But, if she lets herself start, she can be on a yelling tangent that makes her sound like a screaming banshee!  Get a drink of water; walk around the room or the block; step back slightly and let others talk while you think; pick up something and put it somewhere else to break your thought pattern. Whatever it takes.

6. Don’t say or do anything you feel you should apologize for or warn people about before you say or do it. That ought to be your first clue.

7. Don’t say or do anything solely to impress other people. We should have learned that truth from childhood, but the urge to show-off is strong in the human psyche. When it’s your ego urging you on, you can almost bet you’ll make a fool out of yourself at some point.

8. Think of the worst possible thing that could happen. Not just a bad thing, the worst thing. The absolute worst thing–even if you think it’s not likely. It will certainly give you pause for thought to picture yourself reading the story in the newspaper, explaining it at your dismissal hearing, or seeing someone cry about it.

9. Think of the last five foolish things you said or did and see if you can pinpoint where things went wrong and why. What triggers you to lose your temper, say the inappropriate thing, decide to do the risky action or make the wrong response? You may not be able to avoid those situations, but you can plan a better way of doing things next time. If every meeting with a certain group ends with you presenting yourself in a way you don’t wish to be seen, but you must attend the meeting, find a way to break the cycle: Sit in a different place, take detailed notes as a way to keep yourself occupied, pretend you are being interviewed for a job and want to impress your potential boss, or set timelines for appropriate behavior.

10. Be the person you want to be until you are. That goes past “Fake it until you make it” and implies being it. You don’t have to fake being a reasonable, logical, pleasant, positive, professional person–that person is inside you, or you wouldn’t be concerned in the first place. Discipline yourself to be that person by letting your better-self take control. Mentally picture your mature person teaching your more childish self. When you’ve gotten through a day, a shift, a meeting or a conversation and done it in a way that models maturity, you can jump up and down mentally and yell an exuberant, “Yahoooo!”

What do you do to help yourself avoid problem situations, actions and responses? Others might benefit from knowing what has worked for you. I’m sure I would!


February 9th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 4 comments