Article by Tim Herzog and Wendy Bay Lewis, published in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle

I don’t mean your company’s regulations… I mean yours. Huh? “Self-regulation” refers to a state of calm but alert, possessing situational awareness and feeling even-keeled. Dysregulation, on the other hand, is a state of narrow focus, where (whether you want to admit it or not) you feel off-kilter, perhaps flustered. Self-regulation, or dysregulation, can make or break team dynamics with families, athletic programs, or even corporate entities.

Conflict seldom stems from only one person. It can be a complicated web of interactions and is usually some mixture of bossiness, retreat, and/or inaction. It may be hard to acknowledge it, even to yourself (let alone with your boss, colleagues, or subordinates), but these behaviors come straight out of dysregulation. Usually, our insecurities have somehow been triggered, and rather than notice it, and rather than acting in line with what we value, we engage in those instinctual fight, flight, or freeze behaviors on autopilot. The problem is that these behaviors often make a lousy situation worse.

When groups share a clear common vision, each member of the group is able to be mindful of power dynamics, to communicate in a direct but also collaborative style, and to coordinate efforts toward that common goal. This does not mean that individuals will not get triggered, but remembering your vision can remind you of the kind of behavior you value during those off-kilter, potentially narrow focused moments. If you can own that you DO sometimes get triggered, the awareness of becoming triggered also opens the door to good breathing.

Breathing??? Yes, this is not woo-woo advice; this is psychophysiology 101. With dysregulation, we tend to breathe short shallow breaths from our chest, heart rate becomes flat and arrhythmic, and we can experience skewed focus/judgment. When awareness arises that you are being triggered, it serves as a brilliant cue to become self-regulated. Breathing by filling your belly and deflating it completely, for an inhale of about 3 seconds and an exhale of about 6 seconds, helps pave the way into a state of self-regulation where one is more equipped to make better decisions, including mindful proactive communication.

What does this look like in business? CEO Joe gets a message from an important client that the company “blew it,” and that the account is being transferred to a company that “actually cares.” Underneath a cool exterior, he is panicked. When it becomes clear that Joe’s typically reliable admin assistant, Chris, forgot to deliver an important message, he becomes internally irate. He is ready to lay into his admin, or to tell the client that they should take a hike if they are going to be that petty. Then, he realizes he has been triggered; he notices his breath, consciously employs a few nice long exhales, and calmly asks his admin to get the client on the phone. Chris, who was about to pack her desk and/or cry had similarly gone through her own self-regulation process; she already had the admin from the client’s office on the phone. The client tells Joe, “I was about 30 seconds from calling your competitor, but I’ll hear you out.”