Regret is our most common negative emotion, says author Daniel Pink. He should know: He's spent the recent years studying regret, and soliciting responses from both a national and an international study of human regret. The results--as well as plenty of additional research--went into his latest book, The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward.
Pink stresses that just because regrets are uncomfortable to dwell on, they are not to be brushed off--even in the workplace. "They're also our most transformative [negative emotions], in that if we deal with them properly, they can help us in a whole array of areas, particularly in business," he says. "They can help us make better decisions. They can help us become better negotiators, better problem solvers, and better strategists if we treat them right."
The author told Inc.'s What I Know podcast that you need to turn the hurt of addressing regret into learning. An initial step might be to simply acknowledge it personally. Or go a step further, he suggests, and disclose it to friends or colleagues: "Disclosing our regrets is a form of unburdening. Negative emotions are often blobby and amorphous and abstract. And when we convert them into words, that makes them more concrete and less fearsome."
For leaders, the benefit might extend beyond personal improvement. It might also help your team--no kidding--like you more.
Pink explains that there's a widespread perception that when we share negative information about ourselves (our failures, our bad habits, our vulnerabilities), people will like us less. But it's one that 30 years of research has disproven.
"I think there's something healthy about leaders talking about their regrets with their team, and then talking about what they have learned from that regret, what lesson they derive from that regret, and how they're going to apply it going forward," he says.
Doing so might not only drive a useful conversation--but also kindle better communications in the future, as you've shown vulnerability as a leader. That's a lot of positive potential from one big, blobby, amorphous emotion.