Impulse Control At Work When You Just Can't Wait

You’re just at a meeting and to speed it along you propose a solution before EVERYONE has a chance to weigh in.

Your co-worker sends a poorly written, irritating email to you. You blast off a snippy reply to “all” with typo’s marked in red.

You’ve already heard enough during the presentation so you interrupt the speaker and ask for the “point.”

You have an overwhelming desire to hit the car in the parking lot that cut you off this morning.

If these sound like you, you may lack impulse control. While your intention to move things along or express your feelings may make sense to you, it may be a detriment to your career and relationships. Too many of these incidents at work and you will be labeled as not only impulsive but as an unproductive colleague and unwelcome teammate. But before you reach for a quickfix, Paxil-cocktail, there are ways you can start the change process.

First, think about your triggers. Do you find yourself running off at the mouth in meetings or when you are protected by a computer screen? Does the windshield provide a buffer for your bad behavior or do you fancy being a public grumbler and mumbler in the back of a room? Remember these regretful situations in which you are most vulnerable to judgement lapses.

Second, create space. When the urge to “blurt out” or “tell it like it is” comes over you, recognize the signs. Does your heart race? Does your brain flood you with ideas or images? Take this moment to wait… way longer than you feel comfortable. Do the proverbial “count to 10.” Then evaluate what you will gain from your actions.

Of course, there are times to speak, to make a statement and to disagree. Our greatest contributors, however, do so with respect, passion, intelligence and most of all careful timing. Finally, trust that these moments will pass and you will get better with practice. Surprisingly enough, what you don’t say rarely hurts you. Instead of being that guy that never stops talking; the boss who will yell for almost no reason; the women who will tell all your secrets, with a little discretion and self-control you can be freshly characterized as the thoughtful colleague who always makes a situation a little better.

Mary Louise VanNatta, CAE is CEO of VanNatta Public Relations, a PR and strategic communications company in Salem,Oregon. PRSalem.com.