By Dave Clark

Self-regulation is a component of emotional intelligence and it speaks to one’s ability to manage emotions in a social setting. Someone with high emotional intelligence, specifically the art of self-regulation, is likely to succeed under pressure, to not be swayed when things don’t go their way and will probably present a calm and steady outward presence (even if they are not slow and steady by nature).

It can be quite a challenge to regulate our actions and emotions. We are challenged constantly by stimuli that threatens our ability to regulate our actions. Sometimes it’s dealing with the stress of too much to do and too little time. Other stressors can include family, friends and coworkers. Perhaps your biggest challenge to self-regulation is found on your daily commute. Safe to say, there is no shortage of opportunities to lose control quickly.

The good news is that self-regulation is a skill that can be improved with work and effort. So even if you struggle with self-regulation today, it may not be a permanent issue if you are willing to put some effort into improvement. For now, if you are someone who is not at the top of your self-regulation game, we suggest avoiding these 10 situations in both your work and personal life.

In the workplace…

1. Agreeing to do more than you can handle at work

You relish being the person that can do the work of an army. You take on numerous tasks and knock them out systematically. You enjoy picking up your coworkers by pitching in to help them too. You want to please your manager so you take on more and more work, until the time comes that you can’t get your own work done.

Your good intentions lead to elevated stress levels and the work that does gets done is mediocre because you did it under stressful conditions, rather than with the focus and effort needed to do it properly. Take on a manageable workload and do that work to the best of your ability.

2. Telling your manager exactly why you are not happy at this moment

At some point, we all need to vent. However, in many cases, nothing positive gets accomplished outside of blowing off steam. As the old saying goes, you can’t un-nail a board so before you put that permanent hole in that piece of wood, take a deep breath, think it through and formulate a plan to fix the situation instead of just venting.

When you bring a solution to the table, your manager will be much more receptive to what you have to say, even if a part of that conversation includes venting.

3. When interviewing, do not focus on a past negative

Everyone has had issues with a former employer or former manager. If you had problems in your last job, avoid dragging that dirty laundry into the interview conversation. Stay positive! Talking negatively may make you look like part, or all, of the problem. When referring to a problem, call it a challenge instead. It shows a certain level of emotional intelligence.

People want to be around positive people so the more you stay positive, the better chance you have of success, especially during an interview.

4. Don’t judge a book by its cover

How many times have we created an initial mental picture in our minds about a person and come to find they are nothing like the person we projected them to be? Especially in the workplace, people have all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. Be open to learning more about people; you may have more in common than you initially realize. Be open to new experiences and ways of thinking.

5. Never take a job you won’t enjoy

Eating, sleeping indoors and having reliable transportation are all luxuries the average person desires and it takes resources to make those things happen. We all need a source of income and having a job satisfies that need. But think long and hard about where you work and what you do.

It’s not just a paycheck, it’s a very important part of your life. An average person spends one third of their lives at work (including about half of waking hours) so why not work somewhere that makes you happy?

There are millions of different jobs that you can do and countless places at which you can be employed. You have a choice! Why not enjoy and be excited about your work? When you do what you love, it no longer feels like work.

In the meantime, until you find that perfect job for you, here is an infographic guide showing nine ways to avoid conflict at your current place of employment.


And In your personal life…

6. Going to your rival team’s stadium in your team’s gear

If you’re a person who lacks social regulation and the ability to keep calm in stressful situations, you may want to avoid wearing the opposing team’s gear in a rival stadium. Imagine what happens if a Michigan fan walks into the Horseshoe in Columbus, the heart of Ohio State country, wearing maize and blue colors? How about a Red Sox jersey in Yankee stadium or a Bears jersey in Lambeau Field? There are certain situations where you invite conflict by your mere presence and inciting strong-willed fans of the opposition brings with it consequences.

Root for your team all day long, but neutral attire might be just what the doctor ordered before someone has to order a doctor due to the predicament you find yourself in by wearing the enemy’s colors in enemy territory.

7. Posting political opinions on social media

Ever notice that everyone is a lot more comfortable expressing their opinions online where they don’t have to back them up face-to-face? Nothing encourages conversation and opposition more than posting sensitive topics on social media. Politics are at the very top of that list. Doing so will sway exactly 0% of the people in your audience but will annoy 100% of them. What do you have to prove?

There’s a time and a place for opinions but I assure you, regardless of what you may believe, no one wants to hear your politically-themed opinions online (unless, of course, you are a politician). Just say no to political posts on Facebook! In a time and place where, at least in America, the country is so severely divided due to politics, it’s a really bad idea for a business person who does business with both Republicans and Democrats to be posting anything that shows a defined preference. The same rules apply anywhere in the world where conflict exists.

8. Posting anything on social media from your favorite watering hole

The epitome of self-regulation lies in this nugget of wisdom. Just say no to social media when you are at your favorite watering hole enjoying your favorite beverage. Just as you can’t un-nail a board, people can’t unsee something you posted. Show restraint. Stay in the moment with those around you and stay off your phone and computer. If you have a physical need to have your phone in your hands, use it to take pictures but wait to post them until you are in a better frame of mind. Consider this a public service announcement.

9. Driving in overly stressful situations

That person you just “signaled” to may certainly be number one, but they may also have a bad temper. The roads are filled with aggression at every turn these days. Avoid conflict. Take the back way instead of the highway. Let the tailgater pass you, even if it makes you mad. A few more minutes of travel is worth the peace of mind that comes with it.

It has been said that it can take up to four hours to fully recover from a truly stressful situation. A near miss on the roads can certainly qualify. Who wants to be stressed out from their morning commute all the way through lunch? I hate to think about what happens when you finally get to lunch and find out your soup is cold!

The point is, conflict surrounds us everywhere, and nowhere more so than on the roads. The decision is each and every one of ours how we handle those situations and avoiding aggressive drivers will go a long way in improving our self-regulation and preserving our emotional state of mind.

10. Freely state your opinions before knowing the opinions of those around you

There’s nothing wrong with feeling strongly about something, but there’s a time and place for everything. If you find yourself surrounded by a group of people who know relatively little about, it would be advisable to keep strong personal opinions to yourself. Everyone feels strongly about something, and sharing your unsolicited opinions in a forum that might have a lot of opposition is not advised.

Save your strong opinions for your close circle of friends; they’ll tolerate you no matter what you think because they appreciate you for who are are; quirks and all.



To become emotionally intelligent, self-regulation is a skill to be constantly aware of, and one to try to master. I call self-regulation an art because it truly is a skill that needs to be developed. One develops self and social regulation the same way an artist learns to paint a masterpiece or best-selling author writes a world-renowned novel. When a person becomes able to win the battle of self-regulation (both internally and socially), his or her chances to succeed in just about anything go up significantly.


About the Author

Dave Clark is the staff writer and editor at TTI Success Insights. He enjoys writing on a wide variety of subject matter in multiple formats. Also a performing musician, Dave is highly Intentional and Harmonious.

To learn more about TTI Success Insights, visit