My hot potato was my divorce. Have you ever handled a hot potato?


“Pardon my reach,” is something we often say as we lean over the dining table to grab the familiar salt and pepper, ketchup, and other condiments.


Growing up, one of my duties was to set the dinner table. Ten minutes before 5:00pm (we ate early), I would go into the kitchen and set the table with eight plates, eight sets of forks and knives, and eight glasses of water (my parents had six children).


And then, I would place the following, familiar condiments on the table: butter, salt, pepper, sugar, and ketchup.


As soon as we sat down to eat, I smashed my hot potato with a fork, and then added to it a ton of butter and copious shakes of salt and pepper.


Did it occur to me to taste my food first to see if I would like it seasoned differently? No. I was doing what I knew, what was familiar to me.


Perhaps you’re like me?


When you sit down for a meal, which familiar condiments do you automatically place on the table? Which ones to you use to season your food?


Now imagine …


You are transported to a foreign land where you are served French fries . When you ask for the familiar ketchup, vinegar, mustard, or mayo, you find out that the locals serve none of that.


What do you do?


Do you eat your fries “bland” while secretly wondering what’s wrong with those locals?


Or do you experiment with flavours non-familiar to you perhaps?


It is my belief that we have all experienced a hot potato on our plate at some point. Maybe that hot potato was a divorce, a conflict with a child or parent, work deadlines, financial pressures about paying the rent or mortgage, etc.


If that’s ever been the case for you as well,


What emotional condiments did you season your hot potato with?



The old me reached out to the emotional condiments she was most familiar with: the shakers of shame and blame.


My divorce was a hot potato, and I smashed it with my forking words. I blamed my husband for making me feel alone and I shamed myself for not being the hot (potato) wife I thought he wanted me to be. Needless to say, I did not try my emotional food first to see if another condiment might be more appropriate as a response. I shook the condiments of shame and blame automatically. I was doing what I knew, what was familiar to me growing up.


Fortunately for me, I then travelled to a foreign land called Emotional Intelligence. In that land, I noticed that the locals served kindness and compassion as condiments with every dish.


Here are three tips on how to season your hot potatoes with kindness and compassion: 


Take notice of your physicality.


When a  hot potato arises, pay attention to your potential shortness of breath, muscles tension, clenching of teeth, slumping of shoulders, pounding heartbeat, etc.


Our physical body is always talking to us about what emotional condiments we are applying to ourselves in the moment.


To season kindness and compassion, close your eyes and slow down your breathing.


Say to yourself “relax” and say it gently, softly, with each rhythmic breath.


Slowly straighten your shoulders, pull them back, and focus on keeping them pulled back.


When a hot potato is in our hands, our shoulders will tend to round and slump automatically. Focus on standing straight and tall with conscious breathing.



Feel all your feelings and emotions first.


When holding a hot potato between our hands, we often try to deal with our feelings and emotions through another person first.


For example, we say things we might regret, we raise our voice, we stump our feet, or we may even storm out of the room.


All those negative condiments for what? The answer is, to show that we are feeling hurt.


Therefore, give yourself the compassion to feel all your feelings and emotions, where they come from, without doing that exercise at the expense of someone else.


Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?”



Tasty condiments: Put yourself in the shoes of someone in a similar situation as yours.



Empathy goes a long way. Ask yourself, “What might the other person be feeling right now?” “Could it be that their hot potato is burning them too, and they are overreacting like me?”


In that place of mutual understanding, ask yourself what you could do that is kind and compassionate about the situation. Do your best to leave the condiments of shame and blame where they belong: off the table.


I trust you have found value in this article.


My name is Anne Beaulieu and I am an Emotional Intelligence coach who assist her clients to season their hot potatoes with kindness and compassion. I can be reached at


Your EQ coach,


Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash