Manage Your Emotions at Work

By Meyerson, Harriet

Your emotions are just as important as your intelligence. Emotions supply you with a different and additional source of information. What's important in dealing with others is how you manage that information.

“The biggest mistake people make regarding emotions is that they equate how they experience an emotion with their expression of it,” says Joan Pastor, Ph.D., a business and clinical psychologist and president of JPA International Inc. in Oceanside, Calif.

If you feel very angry with your boss, for instance, in most cases it’s smart to be cautious and measured in what you say or do.

“Remember, there’s nothing wrong with feeling a particular emotion,” Dr. Pastor says. “However, there are a lot of very strong social dictates against showing particular emotions in the workplace. For instance, men have been socialized to believe it’s not OK to show fear, and women have been taught it’s not OK to show anger.”

Dr. Pastor suggests using the following strategies to process strong emotions at work.

Restructure Your Emotions

One way to deal with a strong emotion is to become aware of what you’re feeling and give it a name. For instance, if you feel angry every day before you go to work, you may block that emotion to avoid feeling it. But the anger stays inside you, and you may take it out on others by having a short fuse or being cynical or uncooperative.

By acknowledging your anger, you can address it directly.

Halt Runaway Emotions

At the very moment you become aware of what you’re feeling—anger, fear, or something else—take a deep breath. Then let it out, and say to yourself several times, “Stop thinking these thoughts!”

Redirect Your Focus

Replace your negatively charged thoughts with something positive. If there’s some aspect of your work you don’t like, such as the stress, refocus on something you do like, such as the people you work with.

Visualize Solutions

Take notes about situations at work that make you angry, fearful, or overwhelmed. In response, write out and then visualize positive situations to redirect your focus.

“Don’t just write what you see, but also the words coworkers say that are positive about your work or your company,” Dr. Pastor says. “Let yourself feel the emotions the positive feedback creates. That way, when something negative happens, there’s something positive in your experience you can use to balance it out.”

Practice this visualization for five minutes every day for at least 30 days and you should notice a different, more positive frame of mind.

Be Realistic

Having unrealistic expectations of how you should feel or act at work can set you up for frustration. If you believe you must always be happy in every aspect of your job, you’re setting yourself up for resentment. Change that expectation to something more realistic, and you can release the negativity it created.

Medical Reviewer: Review in Process Last Annual Review Date: 2008-02-14T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: © Health Ink & Vitality Communications

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