No one wants to appear weak at work… yet, when you or one of the people you are leading become emotionally upset, judgments of this makes me too vulnerable or I’ll be seen as weak are common.
Society tends to give women a pass to express tearful emotions openly. After all, women have 6 times more of the tear hormone prolactin than men. Our tear ducts are bigger too. Yet, in the work setting showing tears is not advised if you want to be viewed as strong.
Men get mixed messages about sharing emotionally. In a podcast On Being with Krista Tippet, Brene Brown, researcher on shame and vulnerability shares an encounter she had with a man who accompanied his wife and daughters to her book signing. His perspective on reaching out and sharing (personal) stories?
Here’s what he told Ms. Brown…
We (men) have shame–but we can’t talk about it– my wife and daughters that have your book and just got your autograph– they would rather I die on top of my white horse than fall off.
Now that’s a powerful story.
And you know what? We’re human, not robots and emotions are with us.They can be messy and yes, they do get in the way… at work and personally.
We all agree a line of appropriate and inappropriate show of emotions at the workplace exists. We all want to maintain emotional control and choose how to share our emotions and ultimately our vulnerability in the workplace.
That’s why strategies to deal with emotions (and other weaknesses) are so helpful and make you stronger, not weaker, more confident, less insecure, and more likely to be in control of where you share these (perceived) weaknesses.
In this article…
You get 3 strategies for dealing with emotions which makes you stronger, not weaker. Here’s how…
Strategy One– Be strong by freeing up your energy to use elsewhere.
It takes energy to keep emotions contained. Simply acknowledging your feelings helps to free energy for something else. If you have a trusted friend, spouse or therapist/coach ask them to listen. Describe what it is like to be you. Identify feelings (mad, sad, glad, anxious, guilty, insecure, etc.) Use a journal and write. Finish the sentence: I feel…… as many times as you can.
I’ve worked with clients who want to “clear the air” of emotional stuff before tackling more challenges. We agree that they unload whatever they are feeling/thinking for 2 minutes.
Sometimes clients need to rant about something… I get it… I do too at times.😉 After 2 minutes I ask if they want more time and add another 2 minutes if needed.
I can tell you most people feel less pressured and uplifted after sharing emotions and the thoughts supporting them.
The advantage of using a professional coach/therapist is she will support your emotional expression and respectfully challenge your perspective if needed. Sometimes friends and family can’t be objective because they’re too close.
Strategy Two– Be strong by preparing for the amygdala hijack.
Simply, the neocortex (thinking brain) can be bypassed by the thalamus (the brain’s dispatcher) when we sense something threatening and directly engage the amygdala (the emotional brain). The amygdala gets triggered for a primitive stress reaction of fight, flight or freeze.
Normally, the thalamus (brain’s dispatcher) alerts the neocortex (thinking brain), and then the amygdala (emotional brain) responds with an appropriate emotional reaction. When the amygdala gets threatened it can react irrationally and destructively. Daniel Goleman, calls this action an amygdala hijack.
If you’re breathing and involved in life, both inside and outside of work, you will experience an amygdala hijack.
What causes your amygdala hijackings? I know mine. Hint: You know you’ve been hijacked when your feelings (mad or sad) move from 5 miles per hour to 100 miles per hour in a matter of seconds. It could be a gesture, an intense interaction with your loved one or an unexpected critical performance review.
Know what causes your amygdala hijackings. Then, apply strategy 3.
Strategy Three– Be strong by practicing new (and sometimes old) skills.
It’s an oldie, but goodie–counting to 10 before you respond, breathing deeply, taking a brisk walk around the building, or excusing yourself for a break.
As a newer leader or employee it’s predictable that emotional feelings will be more intense and with additional experience, insecurities will lesson.
Scheduling time to reflect through journaling, meditating, exercising and enjoying the company of others helps balance your emotional world… and resist impulsive behaviors.
Get used to asking for help. We all benefit from the help you receive.
Seek out a mentor, coach or therapist/consultant. Have support.
Here’s your takeaway…
While showing emotions at work may be perceived as a weakness, dealing with emotions will make you stronger.
Take time to acknowledge your emotions and free up more energy, prepare for the inevitable amygdala hijack by knowing your “hot” buttons and practice skills to resist impulsive verbal and behavioral reactions.