Apr 14, 2023

Three Ways to Stay Calm When You Wanna Lose Your Ish

Ding! I opened the text preview at my kitchen table. I dropped my phone on the placemat. I clenched my jaw, closed my eyes, and shook my head. 

The grey bubble lacked logic and overflowed with pessimism and negativity. I read the text to my daughter, who confirmed — it didn’t make sense.⁣

I’d like to say I was fully accepting and breezily moved past without a blip. Yeah, no… I got all kinds of whipped up. My personality going into overdrive, getting some fuel from the validation of my kiddo.⁣

And then, I pause. I remembered. This happens to me. I get all up in arms when there is illogical negativity or a lack of options. My personality gets activated because I feel frustrated, trapped, and limited.

What about you? Do you know what predictably

toasts your cheese?
chaps your hide?

gets your goat?

ruffles your feathers?

More importantly, do you recognize why it’s happening? When you don’t know why, those activators trigger denial, blame, deflection, aggression, and other defense mechanisms that prevent effective leadership and hinder healthy relationships.

When you don’t know why, those activators trigger denial, blame, deflection, aggression, and other defense mechanisms that prevent effective leadership and hinder healthy relationships.

BUT HOW?? You know what ruffles your feathers but can’t seem to get them smooth again!

Here’s the quick process:

  1. Identify the activators.
  2. Notice when the activator happens.
  3. Choose a different response.

The Enneagram is the best tool to help you with each of these steps. The Enneagram shows how each personality gets its feathers ruffled so you can identify what it is that sets you off and when it happens. Then you can choose a response rather than the knee-jerk reaction.

When you understand your Enneagram activator and respond consciously, you build trust with your team. You create safety that leads to: 

  • A happier team.
  • Increased engagement and productivity.
  • Greater creativity and innovation.
  • Decreased absenteeism.
  • Lower turnover.

Discover the Activators for Each Type & a Few Options to Try to Smooth Out Feathers.



Indirect solutions and communications.

Surprises and manipulations.

Unaddressed injustices or irresponsibility.

See what happens if:

Resist jumping to debate and dismissal when listening to others.
Learn to dial back your intensity and ask others to help with that.

Don’t assume surprises are betrayals. Ask open questions.



Direct confrontations, especially without warning.

Feeling any break in harmony or relationships.

Feeling overlooked or unseen.

Pushed to hurry or decide.

See what happens if:

Choose to notice and acknowledge your anger and identify the correct source.

Ask for time to decide what you want and make a choice.

Learn to ask for what you want or state your perspective. It will not break relationships.



Feeling criticized or scrutinized

Deception, irresponsibility, or laziness

Lack of completing commitments 

See what happens if:

Ask questions instead of judgment

Show gratitude



Feeling taken for granted

Feeling rejected or unheard

The advice you’re giving in unappreciated

See what happens if:

Have patience in listening instead of inserting yourself to solve

Ask questions in that lead others to solve for themselves



Feeling embarrassed or losing face

Experiencing blame for someone else’s poor performance

Not getting validation or recognition for accomplishments

Getting stuck in a situation where failure is likely

See what happens if:

Practice honestly sharing when you feel embarrassed or other potential “unsuccessful” feelings

Have patience when others move at a different pace

Take the time for others’ emotions



Feeling your contributions or unique viewpoint isn’t valued 

Not seen as special or different or authentic to who they are. Just like everyone else.

Situations that stir up envy.

See what happens if:

Practice emotional processing and regulation so feelings don’t pull you into a different reality.

Dig out the root or foundation of what is upsetting.

Remind yourself that you have you are not missing something others have.



Feeling surprised or obligated.

Someone has broken confidence, your privacy, or being dishonest.

Not having the space to be with yourself to process and recharge.

See what happens if:

Label and express your emotions externally.

Ask for help and what you need.

Purposefully have times to engage and times to recharge. Communicate those to others.



Experiencing blame or unfair accusations.

Someone questioning your genuine concern or desire to help.

Having your anxieties or concerns dismissed.

Lack of loyalty.

See what happens if:

Ask clarifying questions.

Remind yourself you can make good decisions.

Calm your inner world before jumping into important communication

Share your concerns and responsibilities with others.



Feeling limited, dismissed, or not taken seriously.

Illogical negative emotions.

Unjust criticism.

Mundane, menial, repetitive tasks.

See what happens if:

Accept that not everything is always exciting.

Listen to others who need to work out their thinking, not as quickly as you.

Find the root issue to solve rather than just reframing to a positive idea.

Choose to be present rather than escape.

So…how about you? What gets you irritated and activated and possibly throw a phone across the room?

Lean into your curiosity. What happens if you make some tiny changes when your personality wants to turn you into something other than your best self?

Want some deep-dive support in understanding how to use Enneagram knowledge to create a great team? I’m hosting a small group of leaders to dig into leadership mindset and personality style and actually learn how to apply it to improve your leadership. Find out details right here.


  1. […] used all my tricks from last month’s Three Ways to Stay Calm When You Want to Lose Your Ish. Which was helpful. I wasn’t losing my mind. But I wouldn’t say I was in a super healthy […]


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