Do you find yourself at the mercy of your emotions, a victim of reaction, behaving in ways that you’re not proud of and often regret? Are you one of the millions of people who avoid conflict and confrontation because you don’t know how to deal with other people’s emotions? Perhaps you avoid emotions entirely, not allowing yourself to feel deeply – out of fear or simply because you never learned how to experience, enjoy, and manage deep emotions such as love, joy, sadness, or happiness.
Perhaps you have become numb to emotions, not recognizing what or that you’re feeling something. Without the skills to handle them, you might “stuff” your emotions, exploding at some later time when you reach your breaking point.
Then there are those who were taught not to feel, who grew up learning that feelings were bad and you shouldn’t have them at all. And when you do feel something, you cannot let anyone know about it. Well, you’re not alone. Everyone has emotions and many people have no idea what to do with their emotions when they experience them. So, welcome to the Club.
Learning more about emotions, understanding what happens to you when you become emotional; learning to control yourself and your responses to emotions are your personal responsibility as an adult – regardless of what you may have learned or witnessed as a child – and they a big part of living a successful life.
Success cannot only be defined by what you do or what you have; it’s defined in your heart by how you feel about how you are living your life, the things you do, and the impact you make on others including how you make other people feel. Emotions are what make life grand. Emotions bring life to living.
What does it mean to be intelligent about your emotions?
It means being able to recognize and manage your emotions as well as control your behavior in response to emotion. It also means you are aware of the emotions of others and are able to manage relationships using empathy and competence. This is the practice of becoming emotionally confident and it takes time, vigilance, and practice in order to enjoy your emotions and respond to them appropriately as well as becoming more adept at handling the emotions of others and dealing with conflict.
Obviously, the better you are at knowing and managing yourself and your emotions, the better you become at dealing with other people’s emotions. The first step in learning about emotions is to become more conscious to what you are feeling in any given moment.
When your friend, employee, child or spouse doesn’t behave or perform in the way you had expected, it may seem natural to feel very angry, frustrated or resentful. But ultimately, will a strong flood of uncontrolled emotion get you the results you need? How do you find a better way?
A staff member doesn’t handle a problem with a customer well, and you, as the manager, are upset. You think to yourself, “Why on earth would he do such a thing? Doesn’t he know better? He should know that’s not how to deal with a customer!”
Your young child is playing upstairs. You decide to go and check on her and discover that she’s been drawing on the wall. “Look at my beautiful picture!” this small face smiles up to you. You, of course, are enraged and think before responding, “Haven’t I taught her not to draw on the wall? Doesn’t she know better?”
There are probably thousands of examples of these moments, moments when you think “What would make someone do that?” It is at this very moment when we reach a fork in the road and quite often, we get stuck. The stuck point is the assumption that the person knows better. This is the expectation. You have an expectation for how an employee should behave, how your children should behave, how things should function, even how you should be and what you should do. This the tyranny of the “shoulds”.
Expectations in and of themselves are not bad. We need to have some direction, some vision, and some idea of what we want. Of course, some expectations are unrealistic and this causes tremendous stress, anxiety, anger, struggle, and discontent. But other expectations are reasonable and realistic. Whatever the case, it’s not having the expectation that gets us in trouble; it’s when the expectation is not met that gives us difficulty.
When your expectations are not met, you can experience a psychological response including anger, resentment, anxiety, frustration, disappointment, etc. In fact, disappointment always points to an unmet expectation. This physiological response often causes people to choose the path at the fork that leads to what I call “The Ugly,” the inappropriate, unproductive, and unprofessional expression of emotion – loss of temper, yelling, conflict, bad feelings, name-calling, gossip, etc. In fact, this response leads to poor relationships, decreases morale, and can be deadly to a leader’s reputation as well as detrimental to the environment or culture of the workplace or your home. It leads to fear, causes shame, and requires effort to correct as well as time to heal. The opportunity for choosing a better response is at the stuck point, that moment when you feel the anger start or the frustration creep in. What are you assuming here? Take a step back and question your assumption. That is the beginning of running your mind. This is the beginning of making a choice to embrace peace and happiness.
The pursuit of happiness is not about embracing hedonism. It is about recognizing what matters to you. What matters to the others in your life. Then armed with this you pursue the outcomes in a way congruent with you and your values. Along the way, stop and smell the flowers. When you run into obstacles and road blocks embrace the leaning.