(Or how to avoid people in white coats)
He was literally doubled up. First he coughed, then he spluttered then he erupted into a staccato ‘yuk,yuk,yuk’ that sounded like a machine gun firing. At one point he was gasping for breath and could hardly breathe.
I love it when I get this kind of response to a joke!
Naturally a few minutes later he stopped laughing and we continued our conversation. If he hadn’t stopped laughing then events might have taken a slightly different turn. People in white coats might have appeared and put him in a special cardigan with sleeves that tie at the back! Then he would have been taken away – to the funny farm.
Laughter results from a particular state of mind.
Other states of mind include sadness, confidence, calm and Texas (no, sorry – that’s a different kind of state).
To maintain a state you have to keep reinforcing it
So to feel sad, you would have to keep reminding yourself of reasons to be sad. To feel happy you’d have to remind yourself of your reasons for being happy and to be moody you’d have to remind yourself of the reasons you’re in a mood. In effect this is mood management. This process of mood management is a critical skill in building emotional intelligence.
People create their own moods
I’ve found the fundamental causes for moodiness are:
– a lack of self-awareness or recognition that mood management is under each individual’s control.
– an inability to express oneself clearly and appropriately.
1. Lack of self-awareness or recognition that mood management is under your control
The moody person might not be aware of how they make themselves moody, and that’s part of their problem. Without self awareness they have no idea how they ‘do’ their mood.
Moods seem to descend on them like a fog or rain
But unlike the weather, moody people do have some control of their moods. The moody person usually blames something or someone for the way they feel. They don’t realise it’s their own way of thinking that’s keeping them stuck in the mood.
Negative thoughts attract more negative thoughts
To become moody you could start by having a negative thought about something. Then that negative thought attracts more supporting negative thoughts until pretty soon there’s a whole gang of negative, poisonous thoughts just lying in wait ready to hijack the next person who dares make conversation.
Moods can be switched on and off
Here’s an example: I was working on a project with a colleague who, for some reason, was in a bad mood. My questions and suggestions were met with blunt one or two word responses or grunts. He responded to my attempts to lighten his mood with glares which were easy to mind-read as, ‘Why don’t you just drop dead?’ The situation was tiresome, childish and unprofessional.
Enter the boss
At one point his boss came into the room. For a moment I thought she must have been some kind of fairy godmother. Her entrance had an almost magical effect on my colleague who took on a whole new persona for the ten minutes the boss was with us. He was lively, fun, confident, even a bit flirty. The minute the boss left, it was as if she’d taken his good mood with her.
The darkness returned
The black cloud came back, along with the one word responses and dirty looks! If you’ve ever been around someone who’s moody you might have experienced something similar. The fact that a mood can be interrupted like that is a testament to just how much control people really have over their state of mind.
2. An inability to express oneself clearly and appropriately
As you saw from my example, a mood can be targeted towards one or two people. This is usually because the moody person hasn’t got the communication skills needed to say what they want to say to whomever they need to say it. They haven’t learnt how to say how they feel without blaming someone else for those feelings.
Being moody becomes a way of punishing everyone the moody person holds responsible for their feelings – plus a few others (this is a really great confusion tactic, because then no-one really knows who is guilty of upsetting the moody person!)
So if you’re a moody person, how can you change?
There are several ways:
- Take responsibility.
- Tell whoever has upset you exactly what they did and the impact their behaviour has had on you.
- Remember others cannot read your mind – they may genuinely have no clue as to why you’re in a snot!
- Develop more self-awareness.
1. Take responsibility.
Recognise that moodiness is a choice. No-one can make you feel unhappy unless you allow them to because only you control your emotions. When you allow others to control your responses you’re behaving like a victim – and giving away your power. You could change those knee-jerk reactions.
You don’t blame others when you’re happy do you? So why would you blame others when you’re unhappy?
2. Tell them about it
If you believe someone has done or said something to deliberately upset you, tell them about it. If you think you can’t tell them, learn how to, or write them a letter – but not an email! Better to get the issue off your chest than keep it inside eating away at you. If you believe the misdemeanour was not deliberate, then why are you getting upset? Forgive the person and move on!
3. Remember others cannot read your mind.
They don’t know what you’re upset about. So if you don’t tell them what’s upsetting you they might easily, and perhaps unwittingly, upset you again.
4. Develop self-awareness.
Become aware of your own thought processes. How are you making yourself moody? Observe the negative thoughts that are making you moody. Then, one by one begin changing them to support a better mood.
You could use the same process to feel good
Yes, you can use the same process you use to become moody – but use different words. To make yourself moody you need to keep remembering something negative and searching for other things that you believe justify your moodiness.
So use the same process but remember something that was funny
Replay it over and over in your mind. Notice the pictures you make in your mind and words that make it funny and start laughing all over again. Then think of something else that’s funny and have a giggle about that too. However, don’t do this for too long – remember those people in white coats with their special cardigans.