Your negative emotions are powerful guides to what needs to change in your life.
Because you’re a human being, you’re going to feel emotions while you’re at work. It’s hoped that the bulk of your emotions will be positive, such as excitement, wonder, gratitude, and joy.
However, it’s inevitable that you’ll also feel some negative emotions. But here’s the thing: The way you handle your negative emotions will largely determine how successful you’ll eventually become.
After all, it’s easy to manage a business or do a job when everything’s all sweetness and light. What’s difficult is making things happen when times are rough and things don’t work out the way you’d prefer.
With that in mind, here are the six most common negative emotions that people feel at work, along with a plan to transform those emotions into something to help you become more, rather than less, successful.
1. If you’re feeling fear…
Step back for a second and try to see the situation objectively. Ask yourself: “Is my business or career truly at risk?” If not, then you may just be feeling nervous and excited rather than fearful, just like when you get on a roller coaster. So enjoy the ride.
If you decide that the situation is truly serious, then do something physical, like taking a walk, to clear your mind. When you return, create an action plan for how you’re going to handle the situation right now.
Think of all the times that you’ve successfully handled similar situations or other situations that were personally challenging. Have faith that you’ll be able to do the same this time. Then take the first step in your action plan.
2. If you’re feeling rejected…
Decide whether you actually respect the opinion of the person who “rejected” you. If the rejection came from an idiot, a blowhard, or a mooncalf, a “rejection” is actually a backhanded compliment.
If you DO respect the other person’s opinion, recognize that you may be interpreting the situation incorrectly. The only way to find out is to ask. Say something like: “The other day, you said ____ and I felt hurt. Can you clarify what happened?”
Finally, realize that, in a very real sense, “rejection” is an illusion. It almost always stems from a difference in the “rules” by which people interpret events. Probably you got “rejected” because the other person had different rules. So where’s the sting?
3. If you’re feeling angry…
Your first task is get some distance from the situation. If you can, get up and go for a walk, or do something that will distract you for a moment. If you can’t take any of those actions, use Mom’s old standby and slowly count from one to 10.
Now that you’ve calmed yourself down, pinpoint the reason that you’re angry. You will find that in EVERY case, it’s because somebody has violated a rule or standard that is deeply important to you.
Rather then “blowing up” or “letting off steam,” figure out how to communicate to the other person the importance of that rule or standard so that the same situation doesn’t recur in the future.
4. If you’re feeling frustrated…
At work, this emotion emerges when you feel that your results aren’t what you expected, given the amount of work and effort that you’ve expended. You know your goal is achievable, but it continues to seem out of reach.
Your first step here is to reassess your plan and your behavior. Is this really the best way to achieve this goal? If not, your frustration is telling you that you need to change the plan and the execution of the plan.
If your plan is solid and your behavior appropriate, it’s time to exercise patience. Stop worrying about the goal. Let go of your results and concentrate on the behavior and have faith that “God’s delays are not God’s denials.”
5. If you’re feeling inadequate…
Welcome to the club! Whether people admit it or not, even those who seem the most self-confident secretly worry that they’re not going to measure up or that they’re ill prepared for the challenges ahead.
The wonderful thing about this emotion is that it’s the easiest to handle. Your sense of inadequacy, like everyone else’s, stems from a lack of skills, experience, and strategies in an area where you’d like to be successful.
Your plan is therefore simple: Decide that you’re going to work on your skills in this area until you master them. Find a role model or a mentor. Read books or take seminars. Worst case, you’ll learn in the “school of hard knocks.” It’s just part of life!
6. If you’re feeling stressed…
There’s no question that today’s business world puts extraordinary demands on people’s time and energy. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an executive, a line manager, or a worker, you’re constantly being asked to do more with less.
Even so, you (like everybody else) are constrained by the limits of time and space. Regardless of how you feel about it, you’ve got a limited amount of time to get things done and to keep yourself healthy and happy at the same time.
Therefore, the best way to use stress is as a signal that it’s time to prioritize. Do what’s important rather than what’s urgent. Remember: Twenty percent of your work generally produces 80 percent of your results! So focus on the 20 percent!
By the way, the above is loosely based on some notes I took at an Anthony Robbinsseminar a couple of decades ago, along with additional perspectives gleaned from the brilliant speaker and savant Art Mortell.