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You Have the Power: Have It Your Way

Jan 16, 2024

Become the Thermostat - You set the temperature

Giving credit where it’s due, my friend and colleague Sharon Melnick, Ph.D. penned the term “be the thermostat”.
Her book, In Your Power:  React Less, Regain Control, Raise Others, addresses “Are you the thermostat or the thermometer?”

Get it?  You can measure the mood in the room; being the thermometer.   An example of this is, walking into a room, noticing the tension and becoming tense yourself.  This is being the response.

An alternative to this is being the thermostat.  Walking into the room, feeling the tension and, by intention, changing the tone or mood!  This is being the stimulus.

As the stimulus, you have real power.


Becoming the thermostat takes practice.

In the realm of romantic relationships, being the thermostat means taking charge of the emotional climate.  Let’s contrast being the thermometer to being the thermostat.

  • Thermometer Mode: You walk into a room.  You notice your partner seems distant or you perceive tension.  In this scenario, “thermometer” would absorb and reflect the existing mood.  Thermometer senses unease and responds by tensing or mirroring the emotional tone, without actively changing anything.
  • Thermostat Mode: In thermostat mode, you intentionally regulate emotions.  You walk into a room and feel the tension, but choose your response.  Essentially, you take charge of the emotional atmosphere and become the stimulus towards the tone you prefer, rather than the one you perceive.

Real Power in Relationships:

What would it take for you to become the stimulus?  

It takes practice to be the thermostat.  It takes presence, willingness and curiosity.   Societal norms dictate politeness over authentic expression.  

However, having the power to shape the emotional dynamics can lead to ease of communication and understanding, plus fulfilling connections. It's about actively influencing the mood in the room, rather than merely reacting to it.

Practice this:

Before you go into your next meeting, choose a mood or tone you’re going to bring.  Much like you’d choose a food to bring to a potluck, decide what “spirit” you’d like to bring to the meeting.

Say you choose humor.  Perhaps have a joke in your back pocket and wait for the moment to deliver it.  Look for the opportunity to lighten the mood.  Respond agreeably to others’ humor.  Be the lightness you wish to see, no matter what is going on.  

This is called being the thermostat. It’s often that one conscious person can change the mood of the room.  Try it and let us know your results!


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