The Respect You Deserve: Re-Leasing Your Emotional Energy

In my exploration of self-care, I’ve so far given you some compelling reasons to re-lease your mental and spiritual wellbeing in order to enhance your career. It’s not every day that someone suggests you work LESS hours and resist trying to be the hero by always being available to your colleagues. But these mindset changes are critical to your productivity, which is beneficial to both you and your firm. I hope you’ve deliberated on this and have started to give yourself a break! Let’s now begin to consider re-leasing your Emotional Wellbeing.

Let’s Get Intelligent!

We are evolving away from a culture where the workplace was a battle ground, and our psychological safety was amongst the casualties. The expectation was that you were to leave your emotions at the door, since emotions make you into a weak warrior in the workplace. Think about it: Have you ever been loudly or subtly urged, encouraged or bullied to suppress your emotions at the office?

True story: I was speaking with Anna, the Head of Global Diversity at a prestigious law firm, who was interested in creating a series of workshops in Intentional Productivity. All was going swimmingly until we began detailing what the engagement would look like. I shared the methodology: “Productivity begins with self-awareness and self-regulation, which are two tenets of emotional intelligence.” Anna looked flushed and suggested I dropped the word “Emotional” when submitting the proposal— no joking!

Anna’s request is a symptom of our “push on through”, “suck it up” and “never let them see you sweat” culture, which has gutted our productivity and sense of worth. A workplace with the cultural attitude that emotion shouldn’t come in to play is consenting to a toxic environment where trust is void, turnover is high, and a pervasive undercurrent of anxiety and stress dominates.

Today, metrics prove that an inclusive culture is vital to the success of a workplace, and yet, we are still resisting instead of embracing the opportunity to build a trusting workplace, which begins with emotional intelligence. The sooner we can accept that unrecognized emotions steer our lives, the quicker we can learn to recognize, allow and manage these emotions, before we run aground.

The Amazing Journey

In my experience, the powerful emotions of hurt, rejection, embarrassment, fear and shame create that sense of unworthiness we’ve been exploring all month. Call it “taking things personally”— a phrase with which I’ve had a rocky relationship. Until recently, I’d built a thick wall of resistance against embracing my emotions, attempting to fool myself and others. Instead of managing the actual captains of my life, I was only suppressing them, until they exploded!

As a young restaurateur, I’d conduct tough discussions like a zombie, divorced from emotion. My attitude had been that my employees were deserving of frank feedback— no candy-coating. I refused to be curious about their points of view, struggles or realities. I had brainwashed myself to believe that if I saw them as people that I’d let my guard down, they’d take advantage of me, I’d be seen as a sucker, and my guests would suffer. I acted like a bratty, entitled, paranoid commander, and my older, wiser self now cringes at my lack of empathy.

Fast forward a decade, to when I entered the corporate world, and I was on the receiving end of all kinds of harsh and unempathetic rejection. For a long time, I’d chant to myself, “it’s not personal, it’s business” in a false attempt to sooth my soul. I refused to turn inward to acknowledge that this dismissal was hurtful. I pretended I was tough, and I indeed recovered from the initial sting of defeat. But because I didn’t lean into the hurt, these undetectable emotional scars wore down my sense of worth. I had linked my self-worth with others’ decisions.

Thankfully, my adoption of the Growth Mindset and embodiment of the practices of Conversational Intelligence® have allowed me to release my old approach of “not taking things personally” and acknowledge that business is personal. We do bring our emotions to work. And as I’ve given myself the space to observe my emotions of frustration, anger, defensiveness and sometimes just a “what the bleep”, I can rebalance, examine with perspective, and then release all of that latent unworthiness. And since I now embrace the reality of others’ emotions, I can respond and interact with greater compassion, and always self-compassion.

Go Through The Motions

There’s a technique with which I talk myself down, realign my emotions and pivot to self-compassion after bad news has come my way or I’ve been blindsided, or I feel I’ve been unfairly treated. Recall for yourself an instance when one of these things has happened to you— not the most emotionally charged instance, but an event or situation resulting in you feeling “less than” or rejected. Now, go through this process:

  1. Check In (with your emotional state): Take three slow, deep breaths. With the first breath, focus your attention on the actual breath. With the second, focus on releasing anxiety from your body. Imagine yourself physically releasing your tension and letting it flow out of your fingertips. On the third breath, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?”
  2. Call Out (your emotional state): Name what you’re feeling, as in, “I’m such a loser! I can’t believe I didn’t get that gig. I was treated unfairly.”
  3. Feel the Emotions in Your Body: This was scary for me at first. Where do you feel these emotions in your body? I feel shame in my gut, anger in my chest, and embarrassment in my throat. Give yourself a moment to allow these feelings. Lean into the discomfort.
  4. Gain Perspective: Now, take another breath and ‘zoom out’. Ask yourself to consider the other person’s possible point of view. What is their emotional state? Remember, when people are under great stress, they have myopic vision. It’s all about them. Now consider, in their mindset, what their motivation might be.
  5. Get Curious: What are the lessons? What can you do better in the future? Can you ask better questions? Understand the politics better? Have better follow-up? Develop additional skills?
  6. Send Some Self-Compassion Your Way: We are all works in progress. You’re not the best, but you’re doing your best.

Now just between you and me, we just explored the tenets of emotional intelligence. Investigating these emotions didn’t make you feel defensive and powerless, did they? Perhaps you’ll come away from this article with ideas about how you can feel more worthy of the respect and inclusiveness you most certainly deserve– from others and more importantly from yourself! In my follow-up article the DRIVEN Team and I will share some of our favorite resources to employ all kinds of self-care.