By Julie Fuimano, Personal & Career Coach
Every day it happens. You experience emotions.
We all do. But how good are you at managing them?
How do you deal with anger, hurt, disappointment,
frustration and fear? What about joy? How often
have you experienced joy, and do you know how
to enjoy it when it arises?
Like everyone else, you probably learned about
emotions from watching others, like your parents.
How well did they express their emotions? It's
not like someone takes you aside in high school
and teaches you how to recognize and manage all
of the different emotions you experience in life.
Each of us has to fumble along and figure out
what works for us.
Until the last 15 years, that is. There is now
a whole field of study dedicated to emotions called
Emotional Intelligence or EI. EI is defined as
the capacity to effectively perceive, express,
understand, and handle your emotions and the emotions
of others in a positive and productive manner.
EI is about connecting with others and with yourself
on an emotional level. People who possess a high
EI are more successful in relationships and are
usually viewed as more effective leaders.
The first step in managing your emotions is
to recognize that you are experiencing one. You
have to be self-aware. Most people are not. They
act out of habit. Someone experiences an emotion
and there is an automatic response that occurs
without even being consciously aware. So before
you know it, you are doing it again. You've raised
your voice or shrunk away and said nothing because
you could not find the words. Saying nothing is
just as bad as screaming. When you say nothing,
you do not honor yourself or the message your
Inner Self is trying to communicate.
It's easy to see why there is so much emphasis
on conflict in the workplace. People disagree
and tempers fly. And if you are not skilled at
managing your own emotions, it's even harder to
handle it when others are emotional in your presence.
Dealing with Emotions in the Workplace
While you have no control of what other people
do, you always control you and your response.
You are responsible for your emotions and your
behavior. Here are several things to know when
dealing with emotions in the workplace:
1) Emotions are inner messages. They bring
your attention to something. The next time you
experience an emotion, just notice. Identify
what emotion it is that you are experiencing.
Pause before you respond. This is the way to
gain control over your emotions rather than
allowing them to control you.
2) Acknowledge the emotion you are experiencing.
We are so dependent upon our brains and our
deductive reasoning ability, but the body is
also a source of intelligence IF we learn how
to listen to it.
3) You cannot think and feel at the same time.
We've all tried to rationalize while we were
angry or sad and it doesn't work. So don't even
try. Separate the emotion from logic. If you
are upset or emotional and you cannot think
clearly, take a time-out to experience the emotion.
If you can think clearly, then handle the situation
at hand and process the emotion later. Don't
repress the emotion; you need to know understand
what is behind your emotional response.
4) Don't try to problem-solve, rationalize
or communicate with someone else's emotions
either. If the other person becomes emotional,
acknowledge the emotion. "You seem upset.
Do you want to talk about that?" The emotion
is a distraction and requires attention. Often
people don't even realize that they are wearing
their emotion on their sleeves. They are not
aware of what they do and how their behavior
is affecting their ability to communicate.
5) You don't have to tolerate other people's
bad behavior. Ask for what you want. You need
to teach people how you want to be treated.
This is best done in the form of direct requests.
"Please lower your voice." Or "It's
not acceptable to speak to me in that way."
This is known as having personal boundaries
and it's a way of letting people know what you
are willing to tolerate in your presence. If
you don't tell them, they will continue to treat
you in whatever way they like. You need to speak
People often experience emotions in times of
conflict, both internal conflicts as well as conflicts
with others. Understanding the sources of conflict
can be helpful in transcending it.
1) Conflict occurs when people take things
personally, when they are attached to the outcome
being the way they want it to be and no other,
or when they make assumptions about the knowledge
you have in your head and what they have in
2) Seek to understand what the other person
is trying to say. This means you need to be
simply curious. Ask questions. When you are
genuinely interested in what they have to communicate,
they will feel that you are interested in them.
If you repeat back what they have shared to
be certain you understand what they are saying,
they will feel heard.
3) People are limited by their use of language
and their ability to express themselves clearly.
People also do not give proper consideration
to what they want to convey before they speak.
They don't always speak with purpose or intention;
they just want to get their feelings or thoughts
off their chest. After listening and reflecting
back what's been shared, ask them if they need
something from you. They may not. Being heard
may be enough.
4) You can only control you so make sure that
you do not take it personally when someone else
becomes emotional. It is not about you; it's
5) And do not be attached to the outcome. In
other words, listen to them, do what you can
to express yourself and then let it go. Sometimes
people will get it and sometimes they won't.
You can only do what you can to help them to
understand your position. Then you have to let
The steps I've outlined in this article are not
easy. They sound simple, but they take practice
and discipline. Mary is a client who was frustrated
by her boss's demeaning and intimidating behavior.
Through our work she is able to see how, while
she cannot change him, she can control how she
responds to him. His continued treatment of her
in this way sends the message that she is not
being clear enough with him about how she expects
to be treated.
She is not a victim unless she chooses to be
and this is a great opportunity for learning how
to be more direct in her communications. Her feelings
of frustration are about her, not him, and bring
her attention to what she is doing (or not doing)
to allow him to continue his inappropriate behavior.
Speaking up may not ensure a change in his behavior;
however, it is what she needs to do to honor herself.
Mary might be thinking, "He should know
better." And maybe he should but the fact
is he doesn't. Or maybe he does know better but
he doesn't practice it. This is how he acts. She
needs to respond to reality rather than indulging
her emotions or wishing he would be different.
You can become more comfortable at handling emotions
as you learn a process of self-mastery that allows
you to experience your emotions and honor what
they are trying to teach you. When you can be
calm in the midst of chaos, you are succeeding
in managing your emotions. The more you practice,
the more comfortable you become with not only
your own emotions, but with other's emotions as
Julie Fuimano, MBA, BSN, RN
is a Success Coach and the author of "The
Journey Called YOU: A Roadmap to Self-Discovery
and Acceptance," the manual for unleashing
the power of you. Sign up for our e-newsletter
or purchase your copy of the book at www.nurturingyoursuccess.com
or write to Julie@nurturingyoursuccess.com.
Live Your Greatness.