Emotions get the best of us tangled up!
Some of us freeze with it.
Some of us overexpress it.
Some of us hide it.
Some of us fall ill.
Some of us eat it.
Our emotions can bother us.
We respond to it in twisted ways.
All because we do not know how to understand them.
Emotions exist for a reason.
They tell us something about ourselves and the situation we are in.
We can use emotions as a compass to help us navigate ahead.
Twisted and confused.
- Anger is about getting what we need. For example – justice.
- Sadness is to acknowledge a loss. For example – the loss of a relationship.
- Joy is for seeing the present moment and rejoicing in it. For example – a win.
- Fear is to account for the future and prepare. For example – an exam.
However, we are complex. We replace one emotion for another as that is what we practiced growing up. And that causes the tangle.
When someone disrespects us, we can be angry and hurt. Instead, we cover it with sadness and cry.
When something joyful happens, we cover it with a freeze in our emotions as happiness feels alien.
When we are in a threatening situation, we throw tantrums because we are afraid and cannot admit it.
When we do this automatic replacement of one emotion covering another we confuse the situation and behave in ways that are not emotionally intelligent. This in turn impacts how we show up as a leader.
Vinay – VP L&D and OD
Vinay led a competent team of leaders and specialists in their field.
Vinay came to coaching as he was asked to. He had received consistent feedback on anger issues. His boss shared with me that Vinay was an ‘old timer’ and had grown through the ranks. His boss trusted and appreciated Vinay’s competence as a leader as also his capability to consistently deliver on his mandate. However, ‘ there is this one small issue we need your help with’ said his boss. The small issue being Vinay’s anger.
Vinay’s coaching took 6 months. In alignment with my typical approach, we often start at the deeply personal level in understanding the background that shapes us. Many early influences in Vinay’s background and life experiences showed us both that he had the permission to lose his cool and not be contained. He had many role models who talked down to others and he had himself received rough feedback in front of others. He had learnt ‘blowing up’ from his younger years and had formed many poor beliefs around feedback and managing tough conversations.
Much boiled down however to what lies below his anger. All his anger bursts happened because deadlines were slipping, mistakes committed in significant events, faults picked by his bosses on his team’s delivery, and loopholes found in key accounts with very important client processes. All situations where his credibility, reliability, and competence were in question.
Fear lay beneath all of it. Fear of judgment, showing up poorly, and his image impacted in front of his peers. Each time fear came up, he lost his temper with his team. Fear was not an easy emotion for him, it felt unfamiliar. The mask of courage and fearlessness could not be put down easily. This was an ‘Aha’ moment that changed him.
Becoming critical, and giving rough feedback became his masking mechanism. These strategies had worked till now as few had called him out on it. However, the current team of senior specialists he led had few colleagues who confronted him. Understanding his fears and the range of anxieties he had connected to fear was useful.
We needed very little work post that as the bright leader that he was, he created plans for how he can address his fears. Mindful centering practices became one of his core practices. He found anger outbursts reduced over the next many months. The key lay in looking below the top layers.
Emotional competence can be learnt.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are a boon to their teams.
They lead with nurture and structure – both of which are so significant for team health. Such a leader knows how to contain themselves. They use trust-building language and handle feedback conversations with ease.
Leaders need a practice of being reflective. Allowing end-of-day honest and bold reflections on one’s behaviour is a good starting point.
Here are some pointers to look beneath:
- Understand that emotions are layered.
- Look beneath what you are expressing.
- Ask yourself – is this anger, sadness, hurt, happiness, or guilt?
- Is what you feel a combination of some of these?
- Ask why you are feeling the way you do.
- Watch your inner chatter – it reveals a lot.
- Journal and read it later – you will see layer after layer emerges.
- Talk it out to a good listener – they help us drop into the layers.
- Coaching can help your self-awareness.
- When you reach the ‘real’ emotion you also find a solution or next step.
Emotions help us with solutions and problem-solving. However, only when we understand it correctly do we know how to use it.
How has understanding your emotions been useful for you?