As professionals, typically we don’t pay much tribute to emotions. In fact, this word is more likely to have a negative connotation than anything else — phrases like “you are getting too emotional,” or “it’s business, not emotion,” come to mind when we think about accessing our feelings at work. After all, nobody wants to work with the volatile person in the office who is labeled “overly emotional,” right?
On the other hand, emotions have an innate power to signal to us at deeper levels. If we have the courage to confront feelings with honesty before we take action, we can actually empower ourselves to make more informed decisions. These decisions, in turn, will bring us better results that align with who we are, as well as what we really want.
So, rather than train yourself to resist your emotions in an effort to maintain “professionalism,” I recommend these four ways to access the power of your emotions and put their guidance to good use.
Step 1: Stop judging your emotions and accept them.
Look, professionals or not, we are human beings and not robots. We don’t simply turn off our feelings during the hours of 9 to 5. After 17-plus years in the workforce, I know for a fact that work situations can trigger tough decisions and emotional states.
When we completely suppress strong feelings in order to appear “professional,” we simply aren’t being honest with ourselves, or our colleagues. And when we disregard the truth of what we are feeling, we are more prone to miss the underlying signals our emotions are meant to trigger. This can cause us to take actions that are completely misaligned with our values. We then experience outcomes that don’t align with who we really are at the core, causing our realities to feel chaotic, confusing, draining, and forced.
Step 2: Give your emotions some credit and acknowledge why they are there.
The physical body always provides great analogies for one’s internal state. My clients and I often laugh about the silly things we might do if we refused to acknowledge physical pain. For instance, would we stand on our heads if we had a migraine? Or would we jump on a trampoline if we had a sprained ankle?
The same thing goes for our emotional states. Is it best to congratulate someone for a job well done when we are really disappointed about performance? When we are angry about something, does it make sense to pretend like we are happy?
The point is, whether we like the feelings we are experiencing or not, we have to extend some credit to their existence. And, once we take the time to explore their reason for being, prior to taking action, we are more likely to guide ourselves toward outcomes that are congruent with the truth of what triggered our emotions in the first place.
Step 3: Explore the actions and outcomes that will arise from your emotions.
Once we’ve acknowledged what we are feeling with complete honesty, it’s worth it to take a moment and question the best that we can really expect from our actions, given our current emotional states. Remember, like energy attracts like energy, so acting on feelings like fear, anger, or sadness will just attract more of the same.
That said, if our emotional states have simply not reached a zone of responsibility or acceptance, then it’s OK to give ourselves some breathing room before we take action. This might mean stepping away from the desk, going for a walk, or just sleeping on it.
Step 4: Make a conscious choice to act, stabilize, or shift.
Once we are in touch with the chaos or turmoil that could ensue by acting from a low emotional state, we are empowered to make a choice. We can either act upon our current feelings, and in doing so, experience results that validate our troubled states of mind, or we can re-elevate our thinking, in an effort to stabilize and shift to more motivating actions.
In order to move toward modes of responsibility and acceptance, we can ask ourselves questions like, “What’s another way to look at this?,” “How might another person perceive it?,” or “What could be going on behind the scenes that led to this situation?” By allowing our minds to access different vantage points, it becomes easier to stabilize our emotional states, while still maintaining the ability to listen to signals that our emotions issue.
At the end of the day, feelings don’t just arise out of nowhere. Typically, they are spurred when we are confronting an experience, place, or person that simply isn’t aligned with us. And, by brushing off or criticizing our feelings, we ignore some of our greatest intuitive cues. On the other hand, when we courageously confront our feelings with honesty, and become aware of the greater implications of why they are there, we empower ourselves to make more conscious choices.
Nina Cashman is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.