Have you ever had something happen at work, whether it was a meeting gone wrong or an exchange with a client you manage only to have it throw you off for the rest of the day? You wish you could get a handle and regulate your emotions, but all you can think of is what was said (or, in some cases, what wasn’t said.)
Our emotions can be triggers in all areas of our lives, usually coming up in relationships with others. They are, of course, our greatest teachers in love, care, respect, and consideration, to name a few. It’s in the workplace, as leaders, where managing your emotions are held to a higher standard.
Even in the most challenging times, leaders are tasked with instilling confidence and inspiring others. Yet, they can effectively do so when they can attune and regulate their emotions, rather then have their emotions be their master.
We’ve seen what happens when leaders are led by negative emotions; the effect is destructive. Nothing poisons relationships more than anger, distrust, lack of communication and fear to name a few.
Leaders who regulate their emotions more effectively preserve the health of their relationships fostering trust, connection and confidence to move forward.
It doesn’t mean they don’t feel negative emotions! They just don’t lead with them—a big difference.
We can’t talk about emotional intelligence without talking about emotional regulation. It’s by far one of the most common areas I work on with leaders, and I usually hear some version of the following:
“I want to better manage my emotions.”
“I want to better understand how I feel.”
“I want to better self-regulate.”
Consider emotional regulation en route to developing your emotional intelligence skills. In practical terms it looks at how you regulate your emotions (especially negative emotions), whether they’re showing up at work or in your personal life.
After all, they are the emotions we struggle with managing the most; leaders who emotionally regulate are more easily able to create an atmosphere of trust, openness and inspiration.
Ingredients that also make up a healthy company culture. It’s not just good leadership, but good for everyone you lead.
A client of mine struggled with managing his emotions when advocating for his team. He had recently been promoted to a VP level and had to make a case for a direct report ready for a promotion, yet his senior leadership team didn’t support the move saying the timing wasn’t right.
His intentions were well and good, yet his emotions were leading the way, and he struggled with articulating what to say to the management team, let alone articulate what was triggering him.
After doing some excavating, what came up was that he felt there was a lack of fairness in the situation, and his integrity was challenged. He felt disappointed and frustrated and that he had to argue for things that were the right thing to do when it came to his team.
The best way to get his message across to senior management wasn’t going to be through frustration and anger.
Here’s the key to note: passion does not equal anger. Expressing passion in your message is OK and is simply energy in motion. You don’t have to tame your passion when you’re passionate about your message. Understanding this was helpful for him as he was worried because he felt so strongly about advocating for his direct report that it would come across the wrong way.
We identified some techniques I’ll share below to help connect and regulate his emotions. From a calm place, he worked on crafting a message to effectively communicate his support for promoting his direct report and why he felt now was the right time (contrary to what his leadership team felt).
What I’ve found typically gets in the way of people being able to effectively regulate their emotions is not just how but understanding what they feel. If you’re brave enough to dig a little deeper, understanding why you feel how you feel creates another layer of awareness.
To say “I’m angry” or “I’m frustrated” may be accurate, yet is often masking emotion for something deeper. As emotional creatures, we have a range of emotions, so while mastering and nailing what we feel every time may seem daunting, it’s worth getting attuned to your emotions and better understanding how and what you’re feeling.
Plus, learning some practical techniques to help you regulate will help you show up more effectively as a leader, especially when facing challenging times. All done with practice, care and intention.
“The key here isn’t necessarily learning how to regulate your emotions, but to better understand and manage them.”
Some ways to help you regulate emotions:
1. Acknowledge, allow, and accept – the 3 A’s. Before you dive into identifying what you feel, acknowledge that you FEEL how you feel and allow the emotion to be. Bypassing your emotions through suppression and ignoring them does nothing for you and creates more harm than good. This can lead to your emotions manifesting as a physical ailment.
Give yourself permission to acknowledge how you feel. You’re human, after all. Regardless of your rank or seniority, you can be angry, hurt, sad or disappointed. Accept that you feel how you feel unapologetically and without justification. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotion may be before doing something with it.
2. Identify your emotions – when you’re new to exploring your emotions, it can seem foreign, yet, you’re not striving for perfection here. Sitting with yourself and being curiously compassionate with your emotions, you can create self-awareness and gain an understanding of what and how you’re feeling. By doing so, you’re bringing them up to the surface without burrying them.
3. Journaling- writing your feelings out is helpful in emotional regulation as it will help you process your experience, create self-awareness and mentally “dump” your emotions on paper rather than have them live in your head. It gets the emotion out of the mind, helping create space and perhaps even gaining a fresh perspective.
4. Breathwork – many different breathing techniques are helpful for various purposes. When you’re working to bring a sense of calm to your mind and nervous system, breathwork does wonders and is highly effective. A simple technique I do is to start by drawing awareness to your belly. You may want to place your hand on your belly and one hand on your heart to connect to your breath and feel it go through your body. Do this on the count of 4, breathing in through the nose, holding for 2, releasing through the mouth for 4. I like to do this a few times, exhaling through the mouth, then a few cycles in and out through the nose.
5. Physical movement – a short walk, a quick run, or quality physical movement can do wonders for regulating, clearing emotions and helping them subside when running high. If you’re looking for something to use while working and need something time sensitive, try one of the other suggestions listed.
6. Reframing – reinterpreting and reframing an event or experience and choosing to see it differently can help with the intensity of your emotions surrounding it. We attach meaning to events which can amplify our emotions depending on how we perceive them. When we take a step back and choose to interpret it differently, it can help the emotional trigger subside surrounding the event or experience.
The key to regulating your emotions is to treat them as a priority because you’re a priority. Often, I hear clients wanting a quick fix when working, and while I understand time is of the essence, you can’t rush your emotions. The fastest way to regulate emotions is to prioritize doing so.
Emotions are meant to move and can get stuck when they’re not processed. Rushing through them and not giving yourself the time to regulate won’t help you feel any better more quickly.
You’ll find yourself revisiting the same experience or same emotions, not to mention the ripple effect it has on those you lead.
Want to master regulating your emotions? What about more quickly moving from negative emotions to feeling calm, clear, or centred? Take the time to practice any one of these suggestions regularly. Daily. Yes, every single day.
Make the time to develop a practice of tending to your emotions and learning to manage them. You’ll improve your leadership effectiveness, especially when faced with challenges and your team will thank you.
Now – I know you’ve likely struggled to manage your emotions (believe me, so have I); what have you found most helpful to get you out of the flurry of frustration and into the place of FEELING GOOD?
Let me know in the comments!
Big, big love