Navigating Rough Weather: Emotion Regulation Techniques for Change Agents

Navigating Rough Weather: Emotion Regulation Techniques for Change Agents

Kay. C. Dee

Recently, I wrote a post about a change agent colleague who was working on reframing negative feelings into more positive, action-oriented points of view.  This isn’t an easy process.  Although I’d call myself a fairly experienced change agent, I still sometimes wrestle with impatience and frustration when faced with resistance to a change I believe in and am working to implement.  Today I’d like to share some strategies for handling those (perfectly normal) negative emotional reactions, and balancing those emotions with logic – which then allows deliberate reframing of situations, as discussed in the previous post.

The first suggestion is to practice coping ahead of time.  For example, you may know that you will need to have a difficult conversation about your change effort with someone who is highly resistant to change.  Drawing from dialectical behavior therapy skills[1], you might:

  1. In writing or verbally, describe the situation in which the conversation will likely take place. Be as specific as possible, and name the emotions you are likely to feel during that conversation.
  2. Decide what coping or problem-solving skills to use during the conversation. Plan ahead, and describe your coping strategy[2] in detail.
  3. Imagine the situation as vividly as possible, placing yourself in the situation as an active participant.
  4. Rehearse the conversation. Imagine your actions, your thoughts, and the possible responses of your conversational partner.  Practice (out loud) what you will say and how you will say it.  What is the worst, most catastrophic way that your conversational partner might react?  How would you calmly respond to and cope with that scenario?
  5. Relax after you’ve rehearsed, and let any residual negativity evaporate away.

The second strategy will be useful if you find yourself having a hard time coping with or relaxing after the practice outlined above.  It will also be useful if you find yourself experiencing strong negative emotions in anticipation of a meeting, presentation, or conversation.  This strategy is directly quoted from Linehan’s DBT® Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets[3] – “Examining our thoughts and checking the facts can help us change our emotions”.  How to check the facts: Continue reading “Navigating Rough Weather: Emotion Regulation Techniques for Change Agents”