If I had a dollar for every time a person apologised for feeling or experiencing something in the workplace (or even outside of work) I think I’d be close to a millionaire right now, and I don’t know about you but it worries me to think that there are that many people who feel that it’s not ok to express themselves fully in the workplace, or at all.
When a company recruits a person they go through a process of understanding if their morals, ethics, and values are in line with what the company believes in because we know that this is the key ingredient to creating engagement or connectedness within a work environment.
Yet when I look around in ALL of the organisations I’ve worked in, when I think about the conversations I’ve had with colleagues, friends, family members – those who I have just met, one comment that most people make is that they do not feel comfortable truly opening up and being themselves, no matter what emotions arise, within the workplace.
Too often when I’m talking with someone and they are sad, or anxious, or worried about their work, home or social situation they apologise for feeling that way and make it out like they ‘know it’s silly’ or they ‘shouldn’t feel that way’. We were built as human beings to experience both pleasure and pain, stillness and movement, we were built as human beings to have hormones, emotions, neural pathways that trigger fight, flight or freeze modes – we were meant to experience this things, unapologetically, in order to move on.
What I often find is that this expression of ‘I shouldn’t be feeling this way’ or ‘I’m supposed to be grateful’ and ‘these emotions are silly’ actually hinders our ability to acknowledge what is going on and then move on from it. It’s a great start to know that we are experiencing an emotion, that there has been a trigger within our bodies and our brains but we then downgrade what is happening by making it out to be silly. What is all that about?
This can then lead to is disengagement, detaching from the workplace, colleagues, family or friends, longer term health problems (both mentally and physically) from not releasing the pent up emotions and experiences we’ve had and often we build up resentment to whatever it is that is triggering us. Too often this is towards our work, our workplaces and sometimes even a colleague (or department of colleagues) which is not helpful for building a culture of engagement or a feeling of success in what we do each day.
So here are a few quick tips and thoughts for managing your own and others emotions in the workplace and at home:
1. Slow down. We spend so much time racing through life or through our work thinking that this makes us more productive. This often stops us from taking a moment to truly acknowledge the concerns or issues that have arisen, whether perceived or real, and then methodically work through our next steps forward. There is always a need to immediately talk to the person who may have upset us, or walk away from the challenge or problem that has arisen without fully solving it because it seems too hard, too out of our control, or even run head on at that problem or challenge to quickly without actually considering what we need to do to move forward in a positive and productive way. My advice - don’t speak to someone you are upset with (in any way) until you have made sense of what YOU are experiencing, and have taken the time to consider what you ultimately want to achieve by having that conversation (and hopefully this outcome is based in the positive, not the negative). Seek advice, let the excess noise and thoughts out to someone trusted at work or at home, take your time to consider everything and then move forward. Don’t rush into conversations, don’t scrap things that haven’t worked immediately, slow down, pause, and then proceed.
2. Take a breath. Not only does this help with point number one (it gives you a couple of extra seconds at the very least) but it also gives your nervous system a little kick to say it’s going to be ok! An instant reaction when something that we consider to be a danger arises (emotionally/ physically) is that we hold our breath, often unconsciously (think about it). This then leads to our sympathetic nervous system to kick start preparing us to run, or sometimes to hide. By stopping to take a deep breath we CONSCIOUSLY change this reaction within our nervous system and give ourselves a second of space to process.
3. Walk away. This doesn’t always mean forever, but it’s important to step away and consider your options in order to use your logical brain, not your emotional brain. I attended this great workshop where Gold Mind introduced the theory of ‘flipping your lid’ and it’s so true. When something stimulates our nervous system, both in a good or bad way, it has the potential to literally flip the lid of our neo-cortex or logical brain, which leaves open the limbic system (our emotional, sensory processing, attention, consciousness, autonomic control, motor behaviour and more) to run the show. For this reason, we literally are not in the right state of mind in order to make decisions from a place of clarity. Stopping, walking away and switching back into our logical brain will result in better decisions based on true intuition and knowing.
4. Never apologise for experiencing what you are experiencing, but do apologise when you have made a decision, or spoken inappropriately or out of line when you flipped your lid. And there is DEFINITELY a difference between those two things. Your emotions arise, and as long as you can see them for what they are, implement the first three steps and then move forward before making any ‘emotional’ decisions will hopefully prevent you from having to apologise for making a bad decision or reacting in a way that negatively impacts those around you. And because no ones perfect, simply understanding when you don’t need to apologise because you have been triggered vs. when you do need to because of something you have said or done helps you to become more mindful at the very least. You don’t need to apologise for how you were or are feeling, any apology or retraction that is necessary should be based on the ACTUAL ACTIONS that have impacted the world around you. You are allowed and should feel what you need to, and if for some reason the place that you work in or the relationships that you have trigger you into a limbic response more often then they don’t then please step back and take a moment to consider whether you truly align with them or whether you need to walk away and towards a new opportunity, perhaps more permanently.
These four tips are just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many more ways in which you can handle your own and others emotions in the workplace and also in life in general and really, these 4 points are all about mindfulness. Being aware of, acknowledging and then letting go of the stimulus around you. It will always be there, we will always experience stress or perceive danger it is simply how we manage that and how much of it WE CHOOSE to hold onto that drives our emotional, spiritual and physical state each day.
Stay tuned for more blogs on topics like these, including mindfulness in the workplace, managing stress in the workplace and more.