I’m spending the day working with a group of frontline leaders and managers. The focus of the day is developing key leadership skills for emerging leaders. One of those skills is self regulation (a principle that comes, most recently, from work done around emotional intelligence).

Self regulation or self management has to do with using the awareness of your emotions to choose what you say and do in a given situation. We tend to focus on the latter part of that sentence. When we think about emotional regulation, we tend to think about choosing our emotional response in any given moment. But, the first part, “using awareness of emotions” is as critical to the process, if not more.

If, before I do or say anything in the moment, I become aware of the emotions at work in me (and around me), the possibility of interactive and relational success increases. First, it increases because I have a better sense of what to watch out for–areas in my emotions that could harm me or others. Second, my emotions become an ally in my expression. If I’m aware of my emotions before I act and speak, I can use the energy created by them to add positive force to my words and/or actions. Awareness leads to positive emotional expressions that have the power to shape moments in big and small ways.

So…don’t just choose your response before you speak and act. Take 30 seconds, just 30 seconds, to feel what you’re feeling, name it, and decide how best to integrate it positively in the moment.