This week we are talking about negative emotions or what I like to call “non-preferred” emotions at work. We could say “negative” but I’m changing the way we talk about these less than savory moments.
We are going to talk about 3 specific “negative” or non-preferred emotions today and how they actually can be of benefit…if we can truly understand them. Most of the time when we feel awful it is a mis-understanding. First, let’s get clear why we are only talking about a few emotions when it feels like we can have so many different ones
Research conducted at the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow suggests that there are only really four fundamental emotions; fear, anger, sadness and joy/happiness. Anger isn’t considered a “core” emotion in some circles though and is thought of more as a secondary emotion; secondary to fear. Fear and anger are very closely linked. If we understand fight and flight this makes a lot of sense; the fight, flight (and freeze and faint) are all fear responses. So even when we are someone else looks angry, we can get pretty quick that we might also be experiencing fear. This is a good thing to know about humans. Fear that we won’t get what we need, that we aren’t loved or respected, will be excluded, etc…The point here is that it is fear and that in some way we feel threatened.
And it can also look less vulnerable to seem angry than hurt and afraid. Anger can also help us set boundaries and really is best used when it is used for justice and not all about oneself and is a “chosen” response, not a reactive one. It has its limits, in other words.
Fear is a core emotion that was meant overall to keep us alive physically. If we were fearless, we would also be stupid. And at times we definitely need courage to overcome our fear. Courage comes from the French word coeur that means “heart”. So courage is the triumph of the heart’s love over our fear and the overcoming of our mind’s rational murmurings of certain destruction and failure.
Imagine what would be possible at work if we could truly reveal our vulnerabilities and shift from anger and fear more quickly?
So what about sadness?
Well, one thing we should know is that it can be an enduring emotion when it occurs, more so than fear and anger. The value of sadness seems harder to understand versus anger and fear. However, we see some positive results from sadness. Some people who were in a sad mood had better judgment and were more sensitive to social situations and more generous in studies. Sadness is something that fosters us reaching out to one another in support. Deep joy is often found on the other side of sadness due to the arising of loss that is often associated with sadness. The way through sadness and grief that comes from great loss is to use it as motivation to generate a deeper sense of purpose and meaning. Grief and sadness are the reminders of the depth of our love; it is a reminder that we truly loved something we’ve lost.
So, we can use our emotions and manage them in a positive way too. Check out this link from Mindtools for more on that topic.
In our leadership, think about the times when someone has left our team or that we had let a certain program go?
So, how do you feel about emotions at work and especially the “negative” ones? Have you been able to experience the benefits?