Emotions can cloud our judgement and impede our leadership abilities. Keeping our emotions in check – or keeping a cool head – is a vital skill for managers and business executives.
There’s no escaping that our emotions can get the better of us from time to time. Colleagues are going to upset us, bosses are going to make decisions that seem unfair, and clients are going to push our buttons. The conscious leader knows when to step back from an issue. Sometimes a little emotional downtime is just what is needed to make the most of a difficult situation. But emotional downtime is still downtime, so it’s important to know the most effective way to cool off.
Over 100 years ago, Freud wrote about catharsis – the purging of emotions or relieving of emotional tensions. Freud endorsed catharsis as an effective means to diminish anger and hysteria. What was referred to as catharsis by Freud is now commonly known as venting. And Freud was wrong.
Think about the last time you “vented.” Were you able to accurately describe the way you were feeling? Did you say things that you didn’t mean? Did you continue to become angrier as you vented? Venting can get very heated as it may stir up emotions that may not have existed in the first place.
The truth is: as you express anger, it builds. The limbic system which controls your emotions is frantically creating anger over the employee who didn’t finish their work and made you look bad in front of a client. While another part of your brain (prefrontal cortex) is trying to maintain some semblance of social acceptability. The process becomes bottlenecked, causing an abundance of words (often exaggerated, hurtful, or untrue) without actually mitigating much of the emotion. At the very least, venting is useless and most likely harmful.
Next time you’re angry or emotional about something, try this exercise:
Instead, find yourself a quiet place and take your time to develop the most accurate description of your feelings. Explore words like angry, upset, frustrated, sad, disgruntled, etc. to find the best. You don’t need to tell anyone or write it down or say it out loud, just create a precise acknowledgement of how you feel. The process allows the different parts of your brain to work in unison to find the perfect balance of language, meaning and emotion. When that balance is found, take a couple deep breaths and you’re ready to face the world!
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