Early in their careers, many people learn that is best to put emotions aside when dealing with interpersonal workplace challenges. Emotional intelligence is not a subject taught in business school, and most leaders are generally underequipped to handle stressful interactions. New research out of the London School of Business affirms the idea that leaders should consider creating a culture that supports emotional expression. Suppressing emotion only leads to anger and unresolved conflicts and what the researchers refer to as a "display climate", "...where people fake smiles or warmth, and aren't being honest about how they truly feel."
While being too emotional on the job is never a good idea, there are many ways to attain a more balanced and healthy approach to personal expression. Leadership training should have a strong focus on communication skills and resolving conflict so that leaders are more prepared to manage their own emotions, and the emotions of others. After all, emotions are what make us human. Without them how would we communicate, relate to others and make important decisions?
By building a healthy reserve of emotional resilience, you can more easily form -- and maintain -- rewarding relationships. As well, emotionally resilient people often experience a greater sense of purpose and find greater meaning in the work they do. When you are equipped with emotional fortitude, you are in an excellent position to handle life's challenges and keep an open mind during high-stakes social interactions.
Of course, people will dramatically differ in the amount of resilience they have at any given time. Perhaps there is a genetic component but much of it is built through life experience. Emotional composure and resilience skills can also be learned by practicing certain capacity building exercises. Ideally, you want to have a reserve of resilience. Think of it as an emotional bank account that you want to keep topped up. Certain life events may test and deplete your emotional resilience reserves -- while emotionally healthy behaviors will expand your ability to deal with life pressures.
Reflect on a situation in your life (work related or otherwise) that seems challenging. Use the following ten questions to help you move from a sense of being overwhelmed to a sense of possibility or neutrality. Revisit this exercise often to hone emotional resilience and shift unhealthy patterns of thinking that may be holding you back.
1. What is the situation?
2. What about this situation do I find so challenging or overwhelming?
3. How are my thoughts in this moment a reflection of fear, self-limiting beliefs or close-mindedness?
4. How do I feel when I think these thoughts? (Do my thoughts bring stress or peace into my life?)
5. Am I absolutely sure that my thoughts about the situation are realistic and objective?
6. How would I feel without these thoughts? (Would I feel more peaceful?) Could I let these thoughts go?
7. What is at least one thing about the situation that is possible?
8. What is one step that, if taken, would move me forward?
9. How do I feel when I imagine myself moving forward and taking that step?
10. Could I take that step? Would I take that step? If so, when?
When you are consciously aware of your thoughts and reactions -- and that they account for some of the challenges you face -- you have taken the first step in building emotional resilience. The doorway to equanimity will then be open and, as the great Emily Dickinson once wrote, you can then "dwell in possibility."