Todd Dewett | June 28, 2021
Understanding emotions is a crucial part of success in leadership and life. Sadly, emotions as a topic are not a focus of most basic educational systems. This is a problem because emotions are so fundamental to the human experience. That’s why “emotional intelligence” has become a fairly common topic in organizational training and many institutions of higher learning. Simply put, the better we understand our emotional experiences, the better we can begin to use emotions instead of simply being subject to them.
However, even if you are very emotionally intelligent, the proverbial pipes still become clogged over time and need to be cleaned. As we go through our days, we move from task to task quite rapidly. We never have time to fully process the emotions that arise in any given situation. So, we pile on layer after layer of new emotions. Some are positive (e.g., joy, gratitude, amusement), but many more are challenging or negative (e.g., fear, anger, sadness).
Regarding the build-up of negative emotional residue, you only have two choices. One is to deny and suppress your emotions, which puts you at risk for a future breakdown, whether that is unexpected crying or a fit of rage, or something more enduring like depression or stress-related health issues. Or, you can occasionally take note of the pent-up emotions clogging your insides and strive to deal with them.
We all need an occasional emotional detox in order to keep stress in check. This is time dedicated to processing the emotions you’ve been stockpiling. Let them out and face them!
Step one is to hit the release valve. For some, this is easy, you just let your guard down and the emotions flow. For others, it takes a little work. Let me help – try this:
Make time by putting it on your calendar. Choose a comfortable and private place. Give yourself permission to let it out, whether that means yelling, crying, singing, or something else you feel driven to do.
It sometimes helps to intentionally trigger your emotions by engaging in an activity that kickstarts the emotional flow. That might be a chat with a particular friend or loved one. It might be a book, movie, or song you enjoy. It could be a meditative focus on things for which you are grateful or even time spent reflecting on a person who is no longer with us.
My personal favorite (don’t laugh) is videos of people auditioning on singing shows! There is something about watching them take that risk that does it for me. Tears! I’ve met people who play with babies or puppies, listen to comedians, and break things in rage rooms. Try things and find something that works for you.
Step two is about reflecting and processing. You don’t have to be a psychologist! You are just striving for better clarity and focus. Ask why you felt the way you felt at a particular time. Think about how the emotions came out (or not), how it was (or was not) productive, and what you can do differently next time. Consider the possibility that some of your behaviors and relationships need to be modified to maximize a productive emotional experience. Be specific about possible changes to make.
It works best if you do a little writing. So, one last tip: consider writing daily for five minutes! It’s a great way to capture some of the key events and interactions that create emotions in your life, and it becomes a useful reflection starting point the next time you need an emotional detox. Try detoxing as we’ve discussed at least two or three times per year, and you are far more likely to stay emotionally intelligent and healthy.
WHAT’S UP WITH DR. D?
· My latest TEDx talk, “Perspective is Everything” is now on YouTube: https://bit.ly/3deVeLG. It’s an emotional story about a lesson I learned thanks to my father.
· I’m releasing a motivational album! What? I found an interesting guy who works with speakers to take parts of their speeches and mix them up with compelling music. The product isn’t a song and it’s not a speech either, but it’s motivating! More soon…
We’ve all been there: you do something – a task, a project, a presentation – and you thought you were prepared…and it didn’t go well. What do you do? If you know me, you know I’ll start by reminding you not to engage in blame or excuses. The right answer is to be proactive in addressing the issue. Specifically:
· Act quickly to show ownership. That means acting before someone (e.g., your supervisor or client) tells you that your performance was problematic.
· Come prepared to make amends. Don’t just admit something and share some version of “I’m sorry.” Talk about the specific things you will do to fix the issue.
· Share your plan for the future. Be ready to articulate what it is you will do to reduce the odds of making the same mistake again.
· Ask for insight. To wrap up your effort, be sure to ask if they have comments or suggestions you need to consider.
Don’t worry, we all make mistakes, it’s how we deal with them that determines our level of success.
Until next time – stay safe, go learn something, maybe help someone, or at least do something interesting!
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All of my links in one place: https://linktr.ee/drdewett.