In Part 1 we talked about the importance of teaching children how to recognise and manage their feelings; and in Part 2 we explored how important feelings can be in the workplace, and the impact they can have when things go right – and when they go wrong.
In this last part of our three part series on Feelings, we’ll have a look at some practical tips for managing your own feelings, and how to help others to do the same – not just in the workplace, but across all aspects of life.
Managing your own emotions
Step 1: The first and most important thing to do when you feel emotions begin to rise, is to take a few moments alone, away from the situation. Take a few deep breaths, and put what you’re feeling into perspective. It’s natural to feel these emotions, so give yourself some space to feel them.
Step 2: Analyse it – what are you actually feeling? Are you angry, overwhelmed, or frustrated? What are you reacting to – is it the problem that has arisen, or is there something more deep-seated – possibly even in another area of your life – that is heightening your reactions, or making you more vulnerable? There’s usually a lot more emotion behind the one that’s showing its head at that time.
Step 3: Once you’ve identified the emotion and its cause, you can work on addressing it. Negotiate with your feeling. It doesn’t have to be this way; your feelings come about because of your thoughts, and the reaction you have had to a situation. If you know what’s behind your reaction (Step 2) you can think about the problem differently – and start to think about where the other person is coming from too. Understanding the other perspective can help a lot. It’s good to remember that in most cases, people don’t act from the place of ‘bad emotions’. Anger, frustration and shouting usually have their roots in shame, fear and embarrassment; and it’s good to remember that we, of course, react like this as well.
Step 4: Come up with a plan to resolve the issue that’s caused this reaction, and then carry it out calmly and confidently. If more issues arise in the resolving of this one, do the same to resolve those. In resolving issues or coming up with a plan, whether it’s about somebody else’s emotions or especially our own, the simplest method is to use empathy: empathy towards others, and empathy towards ourselves. Treat yourself like your best friend, and imagine what you would recommend in this situation to them, if they were in this position.
Step 5: Recognise your triggers – if you know what’s likely to upset you, you can prepare for it. Come up with a strategy for dealing with things that make you feel angry or frustrated. You may even be able to anticipate how others will react.
Top tip: never make a decision, write and email or make a phone call while your emotion is at its height – it’s very difficult to take back that angry communication when the anger has subsided, and you may find you have more issues to deal with as a result! Try typing out a response (without adding an address, just in case!) and saving it in your drafts overnight. You can come back to it in the morning, and then hit the Send button or pick up the phone.
Managing the emotions of others
If there’s one quote that sums this up, it’s this:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, and people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou
And if people are feeling confident, secure, valued and passionate about their work, in an emotionally safe environment where they can express themselves without judgement, they are more likely to perform well, come up with create solutions, and make informed decisions. So when things go wrong, it’s so important to deal with problems swiftly and sensitively , with empathy and compassion – and to make sure everyone feels they have been heard, and had a chance to deal with their feelings, too.
Unexpressed feelings have a habit of bursting out into other conversations or situations, and they can also make it very difficult for their owner to listen.
When a conflict or issues arises, there will be emotions to deal with on both sides; and both parties may deal with their emotions very differently, so it’s important to keep that in mind.
If there’s a problem between team members, call a meeting with both of them. Begin by introducing rules for how the meeting will run – who will speak, and when – and then give them tools for discussion, which is a formula for using empathy and labelling each others’ feelings, which changes the dynamic between them.
Encourage them to say “I feel…” to illustrate what they’re saying, and to demonstrate empathy by noticing how the other person is reacting: You sound/seem/look …….. (worried, frustrated, angry, et.) about …….., and I imagine that’s because……. followed by a pause here for the other person to have space and think about their feelings. They also need to learn to listen to what each other is saying.
Finding out what happened in the lead-up to the problem may also be important, as it will give a narrative to their reactions, and may also give them the tools they need to figure out a resolution.
The bottom line is that there is a job to do, and managing feelings is an important part of achieving that. As in all things, communication is the key. Being able to communicate with others, as part of a team or as a manager, is critical in dealing with feelings and problems alike, and coming up with solutions together.