“Go ahead… make my day,” says cop Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in the movie, Sudden Impact.

We know he’s looking for a justification to pull the trigger and eliminate the villain. And, truth be told, we all can relate to the feeling of wanting to enforce our will and get rid of the villainous around us.

But, rather than the Dirty Harry approach to negative emotion and message that “I’ll happily trounce you if you do what you threaten,” I’m going with a kinder, simpler meaning behind the popular phrase.

So, “Go ahead…make my day,”  becomes… “Wow, I’m feeling happy and inspired because of what you’re doing.”

And ironically, It has something to do with handling negative emotions.

Here goes…

Do you want to know what makes my day (in a great way) as a coach?

Working with people who jump in and get all messy in the negative emotions like anger, fear and sadness and get to a place of greater appreciation of themselves, another or their overall situation.

It’s inspiring… Not necessarily fun or comfortable, but truly freeing and real. Original. Meaningful. Challenging. Dynamic. All sweet stuff.

Sometimes it starts out soft and gets louder, mixed with silence, harsh words or tears, extreme positions, sincere apologies and best of all, eventually, increased clarity with new directions and the energy to take off or at least a commitment to remain open.

If you’ve been there, and I’m sure you have if you’ve ever achieved anything challenging, you know the positives when negative emotions are handled so that the precious, liberating, creative, motivating energy is available… maybe surging.

In this article…

I will discuss how to handle negative emotions so you’re able to use the precious, creative motivating energy to rise and shine in your business.

Okay, let’s get this negativity stuff handled. Here’s what you need to know…

1– Negative emotions have been around for a very long time… and so are we because of them.

Negative emotions including fear, sadness and anger are the backbone of our uncontroversial evolutionary survival. Fear signals danger is near. Sadness signals a loss is near while anger signals someone is trespassing against us.

At the core of all negative emotions is the feeling of aversion: disgust, dislike, fear, repulsion and hatred.

At a fundamental level these emotions trigger a win-loss game. Whatever one person wins, the other loses. There’s a loneliness factor too. Fight, flight or conserve are the options.

My client Julie has been self-employed for over 20 years.

Over these years, she has built a client base through several sub-contracts. It’s become clear that to grow her business profitability she needs to say no to contracts like these and yes to business relationships where her work is compensated commensurate with her skill-set, experience and value to the client.

While revamping her services, marketing and sales, she gets bogged down with loyalty issues and systemic injustices. She analyzes to distraction at times and stalls, losing sight of the bigger picture. She is aware of feeling angry and overwhelmed.

It doesn’t feel good to her and she senses it’s a downer for people to listen to as well… she feels disappointed with herself when she realizes she’s sharing this dilemma with colleagues… again.

Sometimes they don’t know what to say or they provide an alternative perspective Julie already knows is worthwhile.

This serves to remind her that’s she’s not handling her negative emotions well or summed up, she doesn’t have a handle on her discomfort and anger yet.

She needs to dig deeper. 

Knowing Julie well, I’m able to confidently sing her praises for being so honest and genuine. Indeed those are her strengths along with fairness, sensitivity to justice and loyalty.

She’s given me permission to offer my sense that’s she’s grieving, feeling more sadness and fear too. She realizes that to thrive she must make changes. Her business needs around profitability require bigger asks from her client base for her skill-set and services.

She has to reconcile her need to take care of herself and her business in ways that challenge and hook her integrity and reliability— values she strongly associates with her identity. Maintaining personal integrity and reliability are at the essence of her inner conflict.

For her, the win-lose dynamic of this phase in her business evolution keeps her stuck.

  • If it were a win-win what would she be thinking and doing?
  • How can her integrity and reliability be strengthened while successfully meeting profitability business goals providing valuable services?

She is motivated to solve this inner turmoil and move on with the work ahead. Her willingness to identify the remaining negative emotions sparked some creative thinking and problem solving. You can feel her energy now.

2– Learn when to engage and when not to engage the negative emotion. Choose reappraisal or distraction.

Per an article, Emotion-Regulation Choice by Scheppes, Scheibe etal., published in the journal, Psychological Science, research findings concluded that when the negative emotion was low-intensity, seeing a picture of a sad face vs. a bloody face, or a snake in the grass vs. a snake attacking with an open mouth, people preferred to use a technique of reappraisal to help them manage and regulate the low-intensity emotion.

So, when seeing the image of the snake in the grass, people could manage their fear by reappraisal–telling themselves the snake is probably harmless and helpful to our ecological system. The sad face is a normal human reply to disappointment that your favorite team lost.

Distraction was the preferred method people chose to manage higher negative emotion. So, a bloody face or an attacking snake would be avoided by thinking about going out to dinner with friends or holding your fluffy cat and listening to him purr.

Julie chose to reappraise her negative emotions by realizing that she’s making some major shifts in her business to expand her client base so she could fulfill both personal goals and business profitability and keep services to all clients.

She’s aware of the deeper values at the core of her challenge, fueling her negative emotions and feels inspired to take action based on this increased understanding. She’s got the precious motivation and energy to do it!

3. View your negative emotion NOT as something to avoid, but as an ally to welcome.

Tammy Lenski, in her book, The Conflict Pivot: Turning Conflict into Peace of Mind discusses ways to pivot around uncomfortable sources of conflict. She uses a metaphor of unhooking your favorite sweater from a barbed wire fence.

It’s a metaphor that works for handling negative emotions too…

Here in Texas the notorious wildflowers are blooming and it’s not difficult to imagine wanting to get a better photographic angle of the enchanting field of bluebonnets by reaching through a narrow opening in the barbed wire fence…to capture the picture.

And then it happens.

Your favorite sweater gets hooked. You know if you continue to pull, the sweater will be damaged.

What do you do?

You get closer. You must lessen your distance from the hook to gain your freedom. Carefully, twisting here, standing on your tippy toes there, your precious sweater is released.

You worked it and now have two things you cherish: a photo of the colorful Texas wildflowers and your favorite sweater.

Sweet stuff.

Handling negative emotion is like freeing a beloved sweater from a hook. Get closer to it rather than put more distance. Work with it by learning where it’s coming from and ways to manage it or possibly get rid of it. It’s uncomfortable at times, though the discomfort can be transformative and freeing.

And what about my client, Julie?

Julie is in the middle of gaining that freedom. I know she will succeed. She’s motivated, creative and energetic.

The takeaway is…

You always have the precious, creative energy available.

When you handle your negative emotions with an appreciation for their role in your survival, you have a choice to identify shared interests and take the game from win-lose to win-win. Low and high intensity negative emotions can be handled with reappraisal or distraction.

Negative emotion is your ally when you work with it, tolerate the discomfort (maybe take a breather with some fun distraction) and stay with it until you discover your freedom.

What makes your day?

Bringing your precious creative energy to handling negative emotions… getting the creative, motivating energy over-flowing as a result.

Sweet stuff.

Let me know what you think.

Schedule a “I’ve Got This!” Strategy Session today.

Would love to learn what you’re challenged by these days and begin freeing up your creative energies to get moving productively.