“I lock away the pain, put aside the fears, show you only smiles, not the hidden tears.” – Unknown
Are we led by our thoughts or by our feelings? Often we hear people look down upon those who express emotion in the workplace. Specifically negative emotions such as fear, hurt and betrayal. Why is that? Is it a result of a culture that has continued to perpetuate over centuries that emotions are weak; that only logic is strength and shall prevail?
When a comment is made about someone being emotional, or referred to as an ‘emotional person’ although it may just be an observation, it is typically not perceived as a compliment. So we spend our careers toughening ourselves up, building up walls, and building what some refer to as a ‘teflon barrier’.
I have to admit, I have coached others in the past to let things go, and take caution in sharing too much of their emotions in the workplace, specifically those perceived as negative. So I have to ask myself; have I become a soldier of stereotypes instead of a champion for change?
After much deliberation between me, myself and I… the realization occurred to me that in our attempt to teach others to manage through their emotions in a healthy way, we instead may be teaching them to hide and shut off their emotions.
What do you think a person will do, if you tell them they shouldn’t let a situation frustrate them? Or that they should not allow a circumstance to make them cry or feel sad? Unless you provide them with the tools to learn healthy release of these emotions, they may just shove them down or push them aside. Or as today’s subculture of the popular Vampire Diaries TV series refers to it; shut off their humanity. And what happens when the cup runneth’ over and the emotion is allowed to creep back up? It will explode with a force so strong, that without the proper tools they will not be equipped to tame the wild emotional beast that has been sequestered in the deep dungeons of their heart.
A little dramatic? Sure. But you do have to admit it resonates.
The reality is; in an attempt to deal with the taboos of feelings in the workplace, some people will turn to unhealthy ways to keep that emotional beast down. Anxiety, depression and unhappiness begins to take shape. Most of the time people will attribute this to stress and the hectic lives they live. Suppressing the beast with alcohol, food, drugs and other not so healthy vices.
Yet…. it doesn’t have to turn into a beast that must be kept out of sight.
I like to think of it as a ‘pitbull’ pup. If raised with care, compassion and training, it will be controlled, loving and obedient. Or it can become unruly and out of control if ignored, mistreated and used in fight.
So next time, we see tears and strong emotions in the workplace, lets show compassion and kindness. Let’s begin a revolution that says that feelings are not bad. After all, we are emotional beings which IS a part of the human experience. We can find healthy ways to manage our emotions and respect them simulatoeulsy.
Ask yourself as you reflect on the following three bullet points; do you have a healthy oversight on your emotions or have you imprisoned them in an effort to contain them?
- Do you reflect and talk it out sincerely? Do you acknowledge that feelings are a natural and healthy response to life situations? Or do you shove powerful emotions out of sight, quick to forget, deflect and deny?
- Do you take the time to release physical tension that builds up through highly emotional situations? Do you take walks, exercise, hike or do yoga regularly? Or do you bury your emotions in unhealthy vices?
- Do you let love in? Pause and appreciate the beauty around you? Hug your loved ones often? Say thanks for all you have instead of dwelling of what you don’t have? Surround yourself with people who are your rocks? Or do you shut yourself off wanting to be alone to simmer in your emotions?
Don’t deny your feelings and emotions.
Acknowledge and find healthy ways to express them in the appropriate way…at the appropriate time.
Most importantly, let’s show the value emotions have in our society today by respecting them and honoring them. By doing that we will help others, including ourselves to build our self-esteem and learn healthy ways to process that which we feel. Isn’t there already enough judgment in the world today? Is life not complicated enough already? The last thing any of us needs is to have the additional pressure of having to come off as if nothing bothers us.
So next time someone hurts you or makes you feel frustrated at work due to their actions, I dare you to tell them. After all, we hear about how important it is to be authentic in the progressive workplace. Be real, be sincere, be respectful ….and be an advocate for change.
Do you ever wish you could turn back time? Press rewind on a conversation or a situation?
If you could, how many moments in your life would you redo?
Certainly, the positive moments full of love and care. Moments of regret, when you wish you could handle something differently or when the outcome of a situation doesn’t align with your intentions. It is in those times that we realize, how powerful our actions and words are. So powerful that within a moment they can alter the dynamics of any relationship, personal or professional.
In reality, life keeps humming forward, there are no replays and no rewind buttons. For that reason alone, our response to any situation is vital, therefore teaching yourself to respond versus react to the world around us, is a critical self-management skill.
Few years back, I read a book called the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. One of the very first agreements the author introduces the reader to is “…be impeccable with your word”. Ruiz defines this agreement as “…speak with integrity and say only what you truly mean…” and “…avoid using the word to speak against yourself or others…” Finally he reminds us to “…use the power of your word to speak in the direction of truth and love.”
Unfortunately, as beautiful and simple as it sounds, this agreement is much harder to live to. Most of us are on two opposite ends of the communication spectrum. We either say what we feel immediately without filtering our reply, which is a typical reaction and has been known to quickly escalate to over-reactions. Or we freeze and become paralyzed, not taking any action. We may have grown up with the teaching that it may better to say nothing if you do not have anything nice to say. While the rest of us were raised without a filter and hence do not hold great concern with voicing our thoughts, and their resulting implications. Keep in mind that not addressing an issue, does not mean it goes away. It will remain inside you and overtime will begin to leak out via resentment and frustration which will build, until eventually it will explode and cause an unplanned and likely unhealthy reaction.
Having no filter, or being “brutally” honest on the other hand, may feel freeing. It may make you feel proud of your ability to “tell it like it is”. Some people have likely complimented you on your courage to not hold back in “telling the truth”. However the reality is this; it is still a reaction, a first impulse that breeds from your feelings toward the situation or person. And by the way, those feelings are YOUR truth, not THE truth. It is your perspective which exists from the lens only you, alone, view the world through.
So here is MY truth.
Somewhere out there lies an invisible line that teeters in between saying too much and not saying enough. If we give ourselves time to respond to a situation versus reacting to it by shutting down or not shutting up, then we can be more deliberate with our messaging. Emotions will always create a haze over any situation. When you acknowledge this and give yourself time for the haze to pass, clarity will come. I am not saying by any means that we should lose our sense of urgency when time is of essence. Just remember that when running the race, you may have to slow down and pace yourself a bit, so that you can get your sense of direction back…..and still get to the finish line which you initially set out to reach.
Since life does not come with a rewind option, let’s make the most of each moment we are presented with. Let’s acknowledge that how each of us behaves, the words we use to communicate have a powerful impact. Don’t you want certainty that your actions are in alignment with your intentions?
In closing, we can all use a little reminder to be deliberate in our behaviors, to be aware of our actions and impeccable with the words we put out into the universe. After all, who does not want the world around them to hum in harmony with their true intentions?