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How to manage your emotions at work?

An emotion is an inner experience or feeling of e.g. anger, sadness, fear or joy. That emotion is usually evoked by a certain situation.

Emotions are subjective feelings associated with physical reactions like facial expressions and particular behaviour. In total, there are about 40 emotions with different levels of intensity. One of my favourite visual representations of emotions is the Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (See figure).

Fortunately, every person is subject to positive and negative emotions.

Emotions are there for a reason and so they help to make us conscious of particular feelings. (There is a difference between feelings and emotions!)

Emotions tell us what really touches us.

Therefore we should never ignore an emotion. Look at this metaphor: If you get a signal that you are hungry, it tells you that you need food. You don't ignore that. The same with emotions: If you are angry, it indicates that someone is crossing your boundaries (or that you are crossing your own boundaries).

However, when you give your emotions a free playing field, situations could escalate. For instance when you are angry with someone, you may explode and start yelling badly at the other person. It escalates and this does not help you and the people in your environment.

That is why we often get the well-intentioned advice to try to repress emotions. But that is resulting in pent-up frustrations, arguments and stress which may even lead to a burnout!

It is impossible to switch off emotions completely. They are a part of the human being and if there is something wrong, the emotion will get back.

A professional business person should dare to recognize his / her emotions and knows how to interpret the emotions. This would enable him/her to share and express the emotions, but the question is how and with whom?

Most people do not want to share emotions with each and every person and certainly not with colleagues, because it includes a level of intimacy and it could make you vulnerable.

This doesn't mean you couldn't get angry with your colleague, but stamping feet or crying is not done. Showing emotion is considered very professional, provided it is done in the right way.

So, the trick is to learn how to master your emotions in your work during difficult situations instead of allowing your emotions to take control over you. This is a form of self-control development and so, it prevents you from escalating.

This is what you can do to master your emotions:

  • Don't shy away from emotions. Pay serious attention to them and study the effects on other people. Will they fight, freeze or flight? This helps you to know yourself better and create self-control.

  • Know which situations make you lose your self-control. This helps to get more control over your emotions at work. What behaviour of your colleague makes you grumble, swear or block you?

  • Ask yourself why an irritating situation triggers you so badly, leading to strong emotions. Are you being treated unfairly? Does that colleague still don’t understand you? Stress? Note: the real answer is usually on a deeper layer than your first thoughts. Hence, keep on asking.

  • Have a dialogue with yourself. Is it correct what I think? Is my way the only right way? Why is my colleague behaving like this? Why does my manager take this decision? Is she doing this on purpose? This helps you to feel more comfortable and enables you to continue the discussion in a more constructive way.

  • Write down your frustrations. When reading your own text you see the issue in a better way.

  • Allow yourself a time out. As soon as you feel that you are losing control of your emotions. What helps her is counting to 10 or spell the alphabet (slowly). It will calm you down. Alternatively, go to the coffee-machine and get yourself a coffee.

  • Indicate the facts you have observed. So, use the left-half of your brain: logic and reasoning.

  • Learn to communicate assertively. This means that you express your opinion, interest, idea or feeling in an effective and constructive way.

THE GOLDEN NUGGET: Never take a decision or reply when you are in a strong emotional mood (angry, fear, sad, happy, etc.). Hold off all communication. Draft your response on paper and reread the next morning, after a good night of sleep.

Emotional stability leads to being more successful and being happier.

There is much more to tell you about emotions at work. Please contact me if you would like to get more information or would like to be coached on managing emotions.


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