Self-Managing: How Not to Snap!

Self-Managing: How Not to Snap!

Think back to a time when you reacted to a situation in a way that you thought afterwards “I wish I wouldn’t have behaved like that”.

It could have been when you were at a job interview and you panicked and got confused so the potential employers didn’t get to see you at your best.  Or when you made a mistake with your sister and she got upset and yelled at you.  Or when your friend gossiped about you and when you heard about it you snapped, and yelled at him.  Or when you took your learners test for driving (for the first time), and fear and anxiousness lead you to failing it.

How do you not snap?

How do you stop yourself?  What can you do?  You can see it happening in the moment and yet it’s like a movie – you can’t seem to do anything about it and once it’s over you feel ashamed. There’s good news and bad news (well just sort of bad news).

The good news is there is a way forward – there is hope.  The bad news is that it takes time and practice and a willingness to get a bit vulnerable. Learning to self-manage is the key.


What is it?  Essentially it’s the ability to change an unhelpful habit by overriding your impulse in the moment.  It means that you are able to manage what is occurring for you internally and to have more choice about how you behave.

How do you do it?  Check out this infographic on the ABC’s of Self-Managing.  It outlines how to do it, and is one skill that everyone on the planet could benefit from practicing.

What are the benefits?  The biggest benefit is that you get to be your authentic self (who you are at your best) and behave in a way you choose, rather than a way you have learned.  You get to be intentional and choiceful about your response rather than reacting using an old, often unhelpful, automatic pattern.

Let’s take PinkShirtDay, which was on Feb 26th. The focus is on reducing bullying.  There are 2 roles in a bullying situation and there are self-managing strategies for both:  Stand up (for the person being bullied) and Stand down (for the person doing the bullying).

Stand up – Some people have personality types where their automatic or default pattern is to lash out and “fight” (one of 3 patterns that occur when your emotions get hijacked by your amygdala and your body goes into to fight, flight or freeze).  The person being bullied may have a pattern of “flight or freeze” and can learn to self-manage and practice watching their tone and body language, standing confidently and setting a boundary with the bully.

Stand down – the person doing the bullying can practice overriding the impulse to be aggressive and be empathetic to the other person.  They can then choose a more effective behaviour in the moment.  Even if they want to change their behaviour, they may not know how.

Here’s a great video about calming the amygdala to reduce anxiety and self-manage.

2 factors that must be present:

The stakes have to be high enough that the person wants to change their behaviour, and

They have to be willing to get vulnerable and try out new practices and behaviours.

Self-managing can be helpful in a wide range of situations where we want to learn to behave more effectively in the moment.

Self-managing is also helpful in the following:

  • When you want to be supportive of a child or teen and want them to make their own decisions, and in this case you may not agree with their decision,
  • Staying focused by overriding the impulse to constantly check your smartphone,
  • When you want to give a colleague constructive feedback about their unhelpful behaviours at the office,
  • When you want to stop shutting down your significant other’s ideas and to support them to feel heard, and

To stop back-seat driving when the fear is really your issue. (Find more about how to self-manage in my book Awaken Your Authentic Leadership in Chapter Six:  Action).

Imagine the inner peace that builds when you can choose your responses and override unhelpful thoughts and behaviours, that have got in your way till this point in your life.

All you have to do is start!


Tana Heminsley headshot business succession planningTana Heminsley is a Mentor and Executive Coach at ViRTUS, specializing in emotional intelligence, authentic leadership, strategic planning, change management, leadership development, and executive coaching.

Tana Heminsley
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