Emotions are a key part of our human experience. Indeed, they make life very interesting! Where would we be without the emotions of love, compassion, excitement, hope or disappointment?
These, and others, form part of our daily experiences both in the workplace and in the home.
Some emotions cause us to dig deep within ourselves and overcome insurmountable odds, other emotions make us feel inspired, and yet certain emotions can cause us to give up, turn on others or engage in some or other form of destructive or self-destructive behaviour.
There is much debate about what constitutes a positive emotion and what constitutes a negative emotion. Some people talk about constructive and destructive emotions, referring to the results of those emotions. Those of us who have been around long enough have seen the results – for good or bad – of emotions that are allowed to get out of control.
The fact of the matter is that, if you want to succeed in your career and enhance your influence over those you lead, you’re going to need to control your emotions. Only then will you be able to play a role in helping others control theirs.
Some say there are only six different emotions: sadness, happiness, fear, anger, disgust and surprise, and that all other emotions fall under one of these six. Whether that is so is not the focus of this article.
The question I want to pose to you is: who, or what, is responsible for the emotions you feel? It’s only when we know the answer to this question that we can start to control our emotions.
Do you, like many people, blame someone or something else for your emotions? Have you ever heard yourself say, “He made me SO angry,” or, “The traffic really irritated me this morning”?
If you accept that someone or something else is responsible for your emotions, you’re living in a place where your wellbeing and happiness are in the hands of others. Your emotions are determined by a continuous, random series of people and/or events over which you have very little control. And you’re condemned to living a life of floating on the sea of emotion swept here and there by the winds currents and tides that you happen to encounter. That’s sad.
If, on the other hand, you are prepared to accept that you, and nobody else, are the only one who is responsible for your emotions, you are in a much better position. That’s because when others determine your emotions, you are simply not in control of your life or your career, but when you take responsibility for your emotions, you call the shots.
Think about it. You really don’t have control of the actions of others, BUT … you can choose how you wish to respond to their actions. So, someone at work may do something that really provokes you to feel anger. You can however choose not to feel angry. It’s not easy, and it’s not necessarily what you want to do. It’s much easier to simply allow anger to overwhelm you.
But before you say, “That’s impossible,” consider that you can choose any emotion in order to respond to that person’s action. While what they did really got up your nose, it really is your choice as to whether you want to react with amusement, disappointment, surprise, anger – or indifference.
Another term for choosing your emotions is “self control”. When you choose, or manage, your emotions, you are in control of yourself and not others.
We need more people who are able to manage their emotions. When people can’t or won’t manage (control) their emotions, they end up doing things that they later regret.
Imagine if in the boardrooms, offices and homes of South Africa people chose their emotions instead of letting others determine what they feel. Things would be very different …
Don’t leave control of your emotions in the hands of others. It belongs in your hands.
So next time your boss, one of your staff, colleagues or children does something that provokes you, before you fall for the default emotion that follows their action, quickly stop yourself and ask, “What emotion do I want to choose in response to their action? What emotion will serve me best?” When you’ve identified the most suitable emotion, choose it!
Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.