Emotions need not apply.
Are you emotional?
Before you answer that, here’s a basic, back-of-the-envelope guide to emotions:
Emotions are in response to something you experience.
Feelings are the reactions you have to those emotions.
Feelings help guide you to determine if your needs are being met or not.
Emotions are biochemical responses that create sensations in your body, affect your thoughts, behaviors, words, interactions and experiences.
What’s the point of emotions? They’re neither good nor bad, they’re just data points. They exist to help you make sense and interact with your world.
So, based on that, are you emotional? The answer is yes. We all are. We all experience emotions and feelings minute by minute, some of us are more clued into our emotions and what they mean than others. The idea of being emotional has received a bad rap though, because we have all witnessed someone in our life lose it, go off the deep-end and generally be a complete pain-in-the-rear-end, and act in a way that we classify as emotional. The experience taught us that emotions are not good, we don’t appreciate the affects of other people’s emotions towards us, and we create beliefs that feeling emotions is a negative thing. Let’s explore this.
Why are we so uncomfortable bringing emotions into the workplace?
Emotions typically aren’t welcome at work. In the history of “business”, for decades, emotions have been pushed out, and with good reason. Many of us have witnessed irrational behavior at work, or seen how so-called emotional people create and wreak havoc in cultures and that’s informed a belief that emotions at work have no place. However, there is a side to this belief that has created an unhealthy pattern - Have you heard comments like this before? “There isn’t room for that fluffy stuff in this organization, we are a serious business and get stuff done”, “That’s female stuff that doesn’t belong here.”, “I don’t believe in that airy fairy stuff.”, “To be successful you can’t have emotions in play.”, “Emotions must be controlled.”, “We don’t want people crying all over the place here.” Comments like that are still commonplace in many organizations. The resulting effect is that they reinforce beliefs, create stereotypes, paint a picture that feelings can’t be trusted and must be overruled, and there is no value in emotionally connecting with each other because it’ll only land you in hot water. However, as we learn more, and with growing scientific evidence, we have come to recognize that when we engage with emotions in a healthy way we are able to have more engaged conversations and create meaningful cultures, which has a direct correlation with profitability.
The reality is, like it or not, every single human has and feels emotions, and even the naysayers use their emotions minute by minute to assess, respond, create and manage interactions with others. Many people in business recognize they can’t achieve anything without other people, and it’s through collaboration we get stuff done. Yet we devalue the role emotions and feelings can play at work - and they actually help us. Every single desire, motivation or idea that springs forth is from a feeling. The only reason, anyone goes to work is first because of an emotional response. This over simplifies it, but makes the point. You join a company because it feels good to you - either you like the culture, you like the mission, you like the promised income, the status, the experience. Any reason you can find, will be emotionally charged and motivated. Emotions are helpful. The relationships you build at work with colleagues, clients, and investors, are all created on the engagement you feel with that other individual. Your ability to get stuff done has a complex web of emotions intertwined. Your ability to communicate effectively is impacted by your thoughts, which impacts your behavior, both of which are influenced by your emotions and feelings. If we don’t have a healthy understanding of how our emotions interplay this can make interactions tricky and complex.
Many of us did not grow up learning how to express and interpret the wide spectrum of emotions we naturally all have. Many of us learned as children that if we had temper tantrums there were consequences, and that didn’t usually end in ice-cream. If we consider a temper tantrum to be the result of feeling anger or frustration and we don’t learn how to identify, trace that emotion to the underlying cause, and then release it in a healthy way, then it’s likely that as adults we won’t know what do with or respond to emotions like anger or frustration. Equally if someone around us is demonstrating behaviors we suspect are triggered by anger or frustration and are “acting out” we respond in the way we learned - in similar ways to the adults that were around us when we were children. “Pull yourself together”, “stop it”, or simply walk away, are three examples that could be a response.
If while growing up we didn’t learn how to make a connection between the emotion we experienced and our needs not being met as a result, then it’s plausible that the same will happen as adults too. When we witness adults having a so-called temper tantrum it reinforces our impressions that those individuals don’t have control over their emotions and they need to pull themselves together. We point the finger at them to discuss “bad” behavior. We comment “they should know better.”, “Push those feelings down, do anything to regain composure and control.” Or the opposite happens we say someone is emotionally devoid because they don’t recognize and see the impact their behavior and actions have on others. Either way we blame the actions that result from emotions. Being branded as “too emotional” has negative connotations. If you are known as “that person” at work it might be that you have melt downs to get your own way, you lose your temper and act out, you show irrational behavior, throw your weight around, and generally act in child-like ways that other adults don’t appreciate or value. We also see this play out on the world-wide stage too, from news to social media, from one country to another. All of this reinforces our beliefs that strong reactive emotional responses have no place in the workplace.
Why are we feeling so much more emotion than we used to?
In the quiet of conversation, we are asked this a lot: Why do I seem to feel so many more emotions than I used to? Why do I feel more frustrated, irritated, overwhelmed, burden, angry, bitter than I have before?
Well, to answer this we look at a few facts about our life today.
Technology - We have access to more information, services, and minute-to-minute living than ever before. Technology is brilliant, but it comes with some side effects. From 1 hour grocery deliveries, to cars on-demand when we want them, options galore from TV to shopping choices, video and messaging conversations with people all over the world. News travels faster than light it seems. Have you ever had someone contact you to ask if you’re ok because they just heard on the news that your town or city has had something happen and they’re checking in with you from another country or location? Meanwhile you haven’t even heard of what’s going on in your own town and it’s your friend, family, or colleague that notified you to the event. Information, services, and news is viral and readily available at the click of a button.
Health - We know the U.S. has a medication problem (that’s now old news). Medicines are readily available, and the messages we get are constant and encouraging; don’t ever get sick, got a cold? no problem, just take this and you’ll be able to work 24/7. Need more energy? Great, just take this, you’ll be like the Duracell bunny. Can’t sleep? Don’t sweat it, just take this and you’ll be fast asleep. Don’t want the more serious illness, it’s totally fine, have this injection. Oversimplified to make a point, medicine 100% has its place and it does some incredible things to help people heal. That’s not the discussion here, we are highlighting the underlying message. The idea that humans never ever need downtime, rest, or recovery. The idea that we can operate consistently, powerfully, and regularly at the same levels of productivity 24/7. Now, here’s the issue - of course we can’t, none of us can do that! Even with all the amazing advancement in medical care, we all need downtime, rest, and recovery, and we all need to process and feel. Yet society and business cultures make it hard to admit that and we become critical of ourselves when we feel tired, lacking in energy, motivation, or feel emotions that we don’t like. We then push through, fight our lackluster feelings, drag ourselves along and just keep going no matter what.
Messages - By 2023 it is projected that we will be sending and receiving 350 billion emails every day. It’s estimated that we see 10,000 marketing messages a day. As of June 2017 we were sending each other 781 billion text messages every month. On WhatsApp we send 55 billion messages every day. Instagram has 95 million posts a day. There are 355+ billion messages sent in FaceBook every month. In 2018 there were 198 million app downloads. That’s a huge amount of data and processing we all have to do. Our minds and bodies are working flat out to make sense of, decide what’s real, figure our what we think and feel in response to all of this information that we receive daily. No wonder we’re tired!
Emotional Trends - We know there is an increasing need to feel good and pivot our lifestyles towards that. There are many studies which demonstrate that as humans we can empathize more with one individual’s story than we can with the plight of thousands. With the increase of news and visibility of tragedies occurring worldwide we learn to numb emotions that just overwhelm us. We search for ways to distract what we’re feeling and constantly seek ways to feel good - holidays, shopping, experiences, travel, drinking, drugs for some. Anything we can find to help us not feel and forget those so called bad emotions and find the good emotions instead. Thank goodness for the trend of raising the case of emotional and mental wellbeing, the hundreds of millions of people struggling with emotional difficulties, the new support systems and mechanisms that are emerging, and the overall awareness that wellbeing is so much more than just plain old vanilla benefits. Wellness is moving upfront and center. We are seeing this in the startup space and in the way corporations are responding to hiring wellbeing managers and departments are turning on their heads to figure out how to incorporate new ways of support their people to achieve new levels and sustained practices of wellbeing.
Intertwine just these four areas (and we know there are more) and we begin to understand why our levels of emotions and feelings towards things seem to be overflowing. Even the cup-half-full people are finding they’re needing to bale out their cups a bit more regularly! So, we can be forgiven for noticing that our emotions pop up a bit more readily than we once remembered.
What if we were to consider emotions as beneficial and helpful for us?
As humans we feel many emotions daily, sometimes they change minute to minute, sometimes there is more consistency. It doesn’t matter and there is no right or wrong to feeling emotions. The point is not to push so called bad or good emotions away or find ways to chase down the good ones. Rather, let’s learn how to recognize, acknowledge, and see emotions for what they are - data points. To see them like we do clouds in the sky. Sometimes we notice the clouds, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we change our behavior because of them - rain? We take an umbrella. Sun and no clouds? We reach for sunglasses. We don’t analyze every cloud, we don’t react or change our behavior to every single one, we have learned how to read the indications and how they can help us thrive. Emotions are the same, learn how to recognize what’s going on in yourself emotionally as a result of your external experiences and it gives you the power to learn how to navigate your world more consciously, deliberately, confidently, and clearly.
We don’t have rely on reviews to make decisions, or people to tell us what to do, we don’t have to find consensus in everything, we learn how to be clear with what we want, we learn to recognize when we don’t feel aligned to something, and can use our emotions to help us understand why we react or don’t react to things. When we feel anger or bitterness we can learn ways of getting underneath it to understand why and move through those emotions so they don’t take hold of us and drag us along unwillingly. We don’t need to be hooked in by our emotions that make us behave in ways that create issues for ourselves - from our own self-talk to our interactions with colleagues, friends, and family.
How do we apply our emotions in the workplace then?
There are techniques that allow us to identify our emotions, understand our thoughts, and recognize our behaviors as a result. Behaviors determine how we interact and communicate with others and that has a ripple effect. We all know difficult people at work - and give it a minute’s thought and you know how you, and others, react around them.
By becoming more conscious to emotions and feelings we learn how to perform in different ways, how to communicate more effectively, and how to change and enhance the way our workplace culture exists.
Creating more connection with people gives them space to be who they are, and gives you space to be who you are. The profound impact that has is immense. Businesses thrive in new ways as a result.
What can I do to get more comfortable with my emotions?
A great place to start is to begin noticing your own emotions, without judging them or applying analysis.
Give yourself permission to notice a feeling about something. Jot it down if it helps you.
Look at anything, right now, see if you can name the emotion you’re feeling. That’s the very first step. Become aware of your emotions.
If you are interested to learn about this and how your organization can benefit from Emotional Needs work please contact us.