Have you ever been accused of being ”too emotional” at work? And was your first response to that verbal assault to get less emotional? I didn’t think so and you’re definitely not alone.
There seems to be an unwritten rule somewhere that says showing any emotion at work is completely unprofessional. It’s like the minute we hit the front door of the office, we’re supposed to become less than human in order to be effective.
And you can blame Monsieur Rene Descartes for that—he’s the guy who coined the sentence, “I think, therefore I am” making it totally OK for us to believe that our heads were no longer attached to our hearts and our bodies. Our biology makes the sentence “I feel, therefore I am” a better reflection of the human condition.
Still, every day in businesses around the world, there are those business owners, managers and supervisors who feel completely justified in yelling at their employees or berating them in front of others. (And, just so we’re clear anger is an emotion.) Yet, when the employee responds to this aggression with an emotion (upset or hurt), they’re accused of being “too emotional.”
Before I say another word, let me make full disclosure here. I’m one of those “too emotional” people. However, I’ve discovered exactly how to harness the power of my emotions to create remarkable results in my life—and teach my clients how to do it, too.
There are three questions I’ve found to be exceptionally helpful in re-wiring the experience of our emotions so we can harness their power:
1. What if your emotions are perfect for you?
Humans come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not surprising we experience a wide range of intensity in the way we feel our emotions. An easy way to think of this is in terms of temperature. When someone seems “cool” we could substitute words like aloof, detached, unemotional. On the “warm” side we would use words like passionate, enthusiastic, fiery. We simply feel more comfortable around people whose temperature preferences are aligned with our own. It’s a lot like Goldilocks when you come right down to it. “Not too hot, not too cold—just right.”
We just have to remember that everyone’s “just right” is completely subjective. Although your emotional temperature might be uncomfortable for someone else, yours it’s absolutely perfect for you.
Now that you know your emotions are perfect, you can concentrate on what you want to do when there is a temperature disparity in your relationships.
2. What if our emotions are an indicator that we need to pay attention to something?
Scientists have proven that our emotions are a kind of intelligence. When we’re free to feel the full range of our emotions, we just know things we might not be able to see or even say. If you’ve ever “just known” about something—you’ve experienced this intelligence first hand.
Our emotions signal us that something is happening that we need to pay attention to, whether it’s danger or opportunity. The research proves that emotions lock in information. We’re hard-wired to remember everything that happens to us in the midst of a strong emotion, whether it’s positive or negative. Since only by feeling them can we get their signal, we have to pay attention to our emotions. Preventing yourself from having an emotion at work is actually impossible. Think of how many products and services that exist today are the result of someone’s passion — that’s emotion.
3. What if you can feel an emotion and not act on it?
Humans are hard-wired to feel emotion. And we’re also capable of becoming so swept away by our emotion that we’re incapable of rational thought. It turns out that the inability to access rational thought in the midst of a powerful emotion is a survival strategy handed down to us by our ancestors. When faced with a physical threat, our ancestors had to use their whole bodies—including their emotions and intuition—to escape. Any time spent in rational thought was going to get them killed, so clearly the emotional ones had a biological advantage.
In the world we live in, there are still plenty of physical threats that require us to act like our ancestors did. When your emotions erupt at work, it’s likely a warning that something is wrong. Since it’s also likely you’re not in a life-threatening situation, you have to be able to engage your brain to figure our how to handle this threat. That requires getting some distance between feeling your emotions and acting on them. It can be as easy as the age-old practice of counting to 10 before you speak.
Now you know three important questions to ask yourself to “cool down” the next time someone accuses you of being of feeling “too emotional”:
1. What if my feelings are perfect for me?
2. What if my emotions are an indicator that I need to pay attention?
3. What if I can have an emotion and not act on it?