Bring Your Emotions to the Surface

How to feel.

What we can learn from Terry & Nicole.  Lots.

Last episode I talked about  your relationship with emotions, and the affect of EQ on our careers and our lives. I promised to dive into self-awareness and self-management.

Because for many, self-awareness doesn’t come easy.  Of course, because we’re not really taught it.  If only there was a class in school, or college (maybe there are now, but certainly not when I was in school) called:  “Don’t fear your emotions, they can’t hurt you”.  or “How to choose your emotions, because you can.”  What a different world we’d be living in.  Rather some of us, me included, weren’t raised to consciously notice, discriminate amongst, label or understand where our emotions are coming from. And this affects us as adults.  It most definitely affects us professionally.  This could be a short stories series….Gotcha, Your Untethered Reactions at Work.

Yes, I could recount so many tales of myself and others, not paying attention to or understanding emotional reactions and the affect that had on those around us.  When we’re in a role of influence, power or leadership-this has an even more profound effect.  I have begun to think it’s our duty to explore, examine and strengthen this area.

Not truly understanding ourselves can cause us to act in ways that erode trust, impact credibility and cause confusion.

Here’s an example.  Let’s say two peers are co-leading a project team.  We’ll call them Terry and Nicole.  And each wanted to lead the project independently #bummer.  So, there’s some tension in the relationship and frustration about how each of them leads the team.  Terry is concerned about Nicole’s speed and understanding of the project scope.  Nicole is irritated about Terry’s constant interruptions and feels he dismisses her perspectives.  They are not having fun.  While they remain professional, of course the team picks up on the bad juju.

Neither is taking the time to dig beneath the surface, to understand their own emotions in the moment.  Exactly what they are feeling, and the thoughts associated with those feelings, they ignore them and either:

Pretend they’re okay or compartmentalize them until they can go home and 1. Exercise their demons, 2. Eat their feelings, or 3. Complain about them to others who have no idea of the real dynamics of the situation—but reassure that you are the “victim” in the situation.  Because like, they’re your family or friend and they love you.  #inmyeyesyoucandonowrong

This situation highlights our professional vulnerability and impact that is caused from both a lack of self-awareness, and the lack of constructive self-management.  Because in order to build trust in the relationship and to create a really positive team environment, Nicole and Terry would need to talk.  Like to one another.  And share their feelings and have a dialogue.  That is not attacking, blaming or personal.

In fact, what if they each dug deep and even empathized with the other?  What if Nicole tried to understand Terry’s perspective and Terry tried to understand Nicole’s?  Or what if they just assumed good intentions?  What if they entered into the conversation to learn about each other rather than to respectfully and professionally “give constructive feedback” to the other?

Now maybe in your world, this occurs.  You and others around you show up with clarity about emotions, manage them in a healthy constructive manner, choose to empathize with others, and have transparent, authentic conversations where intentions are good, open mindedness is demonstrated and resolution is ensured.  But I must say, I haven’t encountered many environments that operate with this type of mindset, and skillset.

And some of this is tied to what I shared in the last episode, our beliefs about our emotions at work.  And some of it is tied to the lack of recognition of what the costs are to us of not being this emotionally strong.

Costs such as anxiety, stress, ruminating about others in our heads, poor dynamics that impact the speed and quality of our work.  And the quality and integrity and trust in our relationships.

So…what do to?  Here are 3 practices for the next week:

  1. Practice getting in touch with your emotions for one week. Travis Bradberry’s research suggests we have about 400 emotional experiences a day.  Say what?  Pay attention to yours.  Note the physical sensations in your body.  Notice them.  Label them.  Keep a log.
  2. Understand the thoughts that are causing the emotions. Emotions don’t just happen.  They are caused by our thoughts.  If Nicole thinks Terry is disrespectful and Terry doesn’t think Nicole has a clue—these are the thoughts that cause the emotions.  Be the watcher of your thoughts.
  3. Consider how you want to manage your emotions. As you examine the thoughts, can you reframe them?  Are they true?  Exaggerated?  Can you see the other person’s point of view?  Can you share feelings directly (using assertive communication)?  Can you choose to strengthen the relationship rather than burying your thoughts and feelings?

Choose these 3 actions.  Because emotional intelligence is a choice.  It is a set of complicated behaviors that together create a truly profound impact on our lives.  Though I choose to live a life not focusing on the past, and wallowing in regret, if I could do something profoundly different in my life—it would have been to strengthen my emotional intelligence in my youth.  Because to live with this insight today, is truly life altering.  I no longer run from or bury my emotions.  I own them.  Understand them.  Honor them.

You can too.