Manage your emotions at work instead of fighting them : make a 180° U-turn!
Of course, investing and manifesting our Adult (part of ourselves in relation with the here & now, as described by Transactional Analysis) in a professional context is the most appropriate since working together means collaborating.
Unfortunately, feeling one’s own emotions and show them in this context is often seen as inappropriate or as a weakness to be avoided so better not feeling them at all! After all, unemotional people appear strong and in control!
One case: fear management at work
Instead of spending a lot of energy trying to control & hide them, learning how to use them, even the more unpleasant ones, is very useful.
Fear for example. Its function is to warn & prepare us for a real or imaginary danger.
John is an internal auditor with a major construction company for 6 months now. He is 45, competent and appreciated both as a professional and as a person. Per his Director’s request, he’s due to present to the whole board of group VPs and offices Directors, the brand new annual audit plan which he designed.
It is a very important meeting as a lot of budget money is at stake and this will be John’s first appearance at the board. His boss amplified the challenge by presenting this as a not-to-be-missed opportunity. Yet, John is uncomfortable speaking to a large audience. In fact, he is terrified at the idea of being watched and potentially judged. He is petrified at the idea of stammering on stage and blanking at any question. Moreover, he is feeling guilty to feel that way.
So, he spends a lot of energy fighting these feelings and thoughts which he knows well each time he has to speak in public. We spend a lot of time exploring in details when exactly he feels this fear, body feelings, reinforcing thoughts as well as what he does to fight his fear:
- Deep breathings
- Talk to his wife who says everything will be fine
- Self-visualizations succeeding
- Read again and again hos notes up to knowing them by heart
- Persuade himself that he is going to “make it”.
Nothing works out. Fear is still here. In fact, fighting this emotion directs his inner energy precisely towards what he wants to avoid.
Emotional management coaching
First of all, I suggest to John that he stops mistreating his fear as one can get rid of something only when one recognizes and accepts that it is part of oneself! I also ask him to spend 15mn a day imagining in details how it would be if the worse happened: stammering, hesitating, unduly repeating, blanking out, ignoring the audience, appalled looks from the bosses, failure, firing, unemployment …
John refused to contemplate all his fears, even the most unrealistic & irrational ones and so produced his own self-amplifying panic.
So, I suggested to John to do a “180° U-Turn, meaning doing exactly the opposite of what is he usually doing. I told him it would be unpleasant, even painful but I knew he could do it.
When that is done, I asked John to imagine one or several options to state his stressto the audience instead of hiding it! They’ll see it anyway so …
John stepped on stage, looked at the crowd and said with a smile “I’m not used to speak to such a large audience so I’m stressed. I may even stammer a little!”.
John got no questions in the end and his boss even told him “congratulations, you were good and it was not easy!”. When he saw himself on video he saw a rather peaceful John!
Had he mumbled, well, audience was warned anyway! These simple words and the preparation upstream helped John to put his anxiety aside and outside of himself instead of keeping it and look inwards. As he had contemplated the worse before, whatever would have happened in reality would have been far less impacting.
Of course, a lot of other tools exist for stress management and event preparation. In this case, the 180° paradox (do the opposite than usual) broke the usual scheme.
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