It makes me a little mad when I hear folks talking about emotions at work in a negative context.
Emotions are a really natural part of being human and rather than thinking we need to stifle them, instead I would encourage curiosity. See if you can create the space to ask yourself; what is this emotion here to tell me?
Anger is probably the emotion that women allow themselves the least. By the time we are entering the workplace, a lot of us are so hard wired to try to please others, that anger is simply something that isn’t on the table. When we feel it, we swallow it. We do it so often that we don’t even recognise it as something that we feel. The bad news is that it doesn’t actually leave us when we do that, and at times it can show up in different ways.
I love this exercise from Kristin Neff, she uses it for anger, but you could really use any emotion here. Think of something that has made you feel some type of way recently.
1. What was the situation?
2. How did the [emotion] express itself?
3. What was the result of the [emotion]?
4. How did you feel after the [emotion]?
5. What was the [emotion] trying to do for you?
6. Write a letter of thanks to your [emotion], even if the way it showed up was something you didn’t love or enjoy, the [emotion] itself was most likely showing up to protect and support you.
Being better able to translate our own emotions and see what they are doing, also helps us to give others a little more grace with their emotions. Often the situation that’s happening right now isn’t actually the original source of the emotion.
Understanding our emotions better gives a huge head start to communicating confidently at work, but there are also some practical things that we can do to get better at it.
1️. On the days where you are feeling emotional
Take a little extra care of yourself by taking a few minutes before a meeting to find your breath and centre yourself. Most of all, give yourself grace. If the conversation is a challenging one, there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging how you are feeling to the other person that you are a little worried about it – that actually goes a long way to humanise us to others.
2️. On the days where you are feeling a little worried or anxious
This is a great time to reflect on all the times where you’ve nailed meetings and felt confident. These are also the days where we have to become our best ever life partner. What can you do before work to make sure you feel as good as possible? Before the meeting or thing you are anxious about, see if you can create some space to breathe ahead of time. We are trying to mitigate against a stress response like fight, flight or freeze here, but if it happens mid-flow, see if you can find your breath at the tip of your nose and bring yourself back to you.
3️. On the days where you feel like you don’t know what’s happening
Often we won’t be able to plan things in advance, so the tip here is to prepare for what you can. Perhaps that means asking for an agenda where there isn’t one. If it is something like a meeting where you don’t have a set plan and want to build confidence to start to speak up and give input, have a little brainstorm beforehand. Are there any issues or projects within your team you are aware of, that it is worth surfacing with the wider leadership team? Based on what you understand of the challenges the company is facing, what are the things within your team/business area that are most relevant? What questions do you have for this person too?
For example, I was Chief People Officer, so if there was a challenge around Sales, there was almost always a People element to that that I was able to comment on, even if I wasn’t able to add value to the overall discussion otherwise.
4️. On the days where you are not feeling like yourself
This is where the groundwork you put into knowing who you really are and mapping out your personal brand is essential. On the days that you don’t feel like you, have a little look back at your values, at who you are and what you believe in, and at what some of your catchphrases might be. Authenticity is a buzzword these days, but honestly, I think real authenticity is showing up as who we really are on that day. So if you aren’t really feeling at your best, own that with your team. By doing that you also give them the permission to do the same when they feel like that too.
5️. On the days where you have to give a presentation to folks that have influence within your workplace (could be an external investor too)
Sometimes it’s hard not to put someone on a pedestal when they play an influential role in your world, but it’s up to you to level the playing field. I love stakeholder mapping for this. Becoming strategic about your key relationships with influential leaders will mean that you are taking the time to think about who they are, what are their needs and expectations, what do they like, what do they not like and then more importantly, what can you do to build a relationship with them. A lot of it comes down to being a human and building rapport. The more you can find a way to interact with them, the more comfortable you will hopefully become.
Ultimately, the key to communicating with grace, ease and influence, whatever the weather, really comes down to the relationship you build with yourself. It’s all about knowing and being able to read how you feel, what you need and making sure that you can get access to whatever that is.