3 Tips for Impulse Control

One of the challenges I see others struggle with is in keeping their impulses under control, especially in work related situations.  Someone raises an issue and quick as a flash a critical remark, a laugh or a joke at their expense comes from the impulsive individual… followed slowly by the realisation that, well, they should have thought about it first.

So how can we keep impulses under control. And referring back to my eQ (Emotional Intelligence training) I’d like to impart three tips.  The foundation of impulse control is to become aware that you are impulsive. By becoming more emotionally self-aware, you better prepare yourself for emotional self-management.

You can manage your impulses in three basic ways:


Distraction: When you sense what you are about to do could be impulsive, you can most quickly deal with it by distracting yourself. Shift your thinking by counting to ten (or even 5) or focusing on prepared distracting thoughts. By counting to ten, you give your more rational mind time to think through the potential impact of what you are going to do. For distraction, you can train yourself to quickly change your thoughts, or the subject if in a conversation, to something such as talk about the weather, what you ate for breakfast, where you plan to travel next, a project you’re working on, or any other event rather than react impulsively to the other persons remark.

Analytic: An analytic approach involves stopping and analyzing your thoughts when you feel impulsive. You can ask yourself questions such as: Why am I thinking about this stressful problem or event? How can thinking about this stressful problem or event help me? Could I be thinking about something else? What’s a better alternative thought? From analysing your actions you are better able to control your response to others actions.

Coping: A coping strategy involves a number of specific coping thoughts that you practice in advance. These thoughts include statements such as I know I can control my responses. I can just slow down a bit. Let me think this through. I don’t have to rush with a response. I can think of alternatives.

Strategies such as these can help you successfully deal with stressful problems or events when you practice them in advance. You can’t effectively try out these strategies impulsively. Should you feel a desire to address your impulsiveness, you do need to mindfully consider the alternate actions and plan out your response.  With planning and practice, you can go a long way in dealing with impulsive thoughts, words, and actions.

Do you suffer from impulsive responses, maybe share how you cope below.