10 questions to consider before blowing UP, acting OUT or shutting DOWN.


Most successful leaders function very well within a fairly broad range of circumstances. But some executives (most of us at one time or another) have limits beyond which we believe that blowing UP, acting OUT (passive-aggressiveness, sarcasm, etc.) or shutting DOWN are not only defensible, but the only alternatives available. As an experiment, the next time you feel like blowing up, acting out or shutting down, first ask yourself all 10 of the following questions–and notice what happens.


  1. Is this a real emergency? Is your life being threatened? Are your loved ones lives in danger? How about your employees?
  2. If this is not a life and death situation, what is the most likely long-term outcome of this situation based on your past experience?
  3. What is it about this situation that “trips your trigger” to blow up, act out or shut down?
  4. What emotion are you really feeling? What is the emotion “under” that emotion? (Example: Anger, rage and disgust are secondary emotions. What is the primary emotion you feel? What came before anger, rage or disgust? If the primary emotion is fear, what are you afraid of really?)
  5. What is the long-term impact of blowing up, acting out or shutting down in this situation?
  6. Will my behavior bring me closer to or farther from the life I really want in the long-term?
  7. What are the alternatives to blowing up, acting out or shutting down in this situation? List at least three other options.
  8. What will be the short-term effect on your employees and peers? Will they be more or less likely to do the things you think they should do in this situation? Will they do the things you want them to do with more or less enthusiasm and concern about quality?
  9. What is the long-term effect on your employees and peers of blowing up or shutting down? What example do you set as a role model? What example do you want to set for your employees and peers with respect to stressful situations?
  10. Would you blow up, act out, or shut down in front of an important client or a business peer? How does your audience change your behavior? How do you refrain from blowing up or shutting down in cases where it would be embarrassing or inappropriate?