If you are terrified of emotion, read this…

Your team members bring their emotions to work. Which is a good thing, if you are comfortable talking to humans that are hurting. Some leaders aren’t. Some leaders are actually terrified by emotions. And the display of emotions. Some leaders I have coached say that, ‘they don’t do tears’.  

And I get it. It can be hard dealing with someone who is struggling emotionally, especially if you aren’t either good at it, or aren’t willing to get good at it. As a senior leader, you can lean into emotionality or you can avoid it. My recommendation is to lean in, and if you are up for it, here’s how to get started: 

1. You can’t fix humans 

This is the biggest challenge that I see, especially for male leaders. Or males in general. The great business philosopher, Jordan Peterson said to Joe Rogan recently, that males focus on stuff, and females focus on humans. Which I think is a good way to sum this one up. Male leaders want the outcome, want the decision made, want the fix applied to the situation. 

But it is not that easy. Especially for someone with deep emotional issues, and especially if it is a chronic thing (long term), it is just crazy to think that you are going to fix it. It’s not possible. What is possible is for you to know that your role is to sit and listen, and to demonstrate that the human you are talking to is your priority right now. And that you are prepared to be there with them, until they have moved passed the emotional hurdle they are getting over in the moment.  

The biggest thing for this one, is don’t offer solutions. That is the easy road. ‘Just do this or that,’ you might say. That makes the situation worse, sadly. You think you have fixed it, you end the conversation, give yourself a wrap, and move on…  

Tip: Change your mindset from fixing humans, to fixing the immediate situation. You can fix a situation, and it might not be quick, but you can help someone move through an emotion, and sort of level out, just by being there, being present, and being on purpose with your listening. 

2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable  

Thanks to the great business philosopher Brene Brown for this one. The planet’s expert on empathy, Brene Brown explains the process of empathy as ‘holding the space’. I love this one. Holding the space means that you get comfortable with the emotional state you are now experiencing, while someone else is uncomfortable, emotionally. 

Here in lies the root cause of being terrified of emotions. What that means is that when someone is crying in your office, due to their personal circumstances, you are not comfortable with how that makes you feel. Your emotional state changes. You feel anxious, your feel scared, or you feel like you need to be somewhere else… 

Hold the space. 

Breathe through it, and know that your state is not as important as the human in front of you, in that moment. Know that they need you to be in conscious control, to be able to support them. You can’t make rational decisions, you can’t listen, you can’t be present, if you can’t be in emotional control. Breathe, pause, focus.  

Tip: Yes, this one is about being empathetic. I have also heard it described as getting used to sitting in the mud with someone. Which is not a bad analogy, though I prefer Brene Brown’s!  

3. Encourage emotionality 

This one will be a stretch for some people. Breathe. 

Instead of being terrified by emotions, embrace and encourage emotional expression. Start with your own languaging. Start with how you feel. Be honest and be authentic. Watch your connection with your team ramp up as you start sharing how you are feeling. Start conversations with ‘I feel like A’, or ‘ this is causing me to feel B’, or ‘I really care about C’. 

By leading the right behaviour, your team will follow.  

Honestly, you want your teams to be able to share how they feel. You want them to feel psychologically safe enough to talk to you, even when they are struggling and when they are in emotional turmoil.  

I’d love a hundred bucks for every time a leader has said to me in confidence that life would be so much easier if people weren’t involved… which is a bit uncool really. 

Maybe you can hire some robots… which might not be that far away…   

Tip: Instead of running from emotionality, run (or walk) towards it. Embracing what scares you causes you to grow. What challenges you, changes you. 

In summary, leaders can find dealing with emotions a challenge, even terrifying. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It really doesn’t. 

Which side are you on. Lean into emotions, or lean away? 

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

If you would like to learn more about Anton or The Guinea Group, please click hereto book into Anton’s calendar, to:

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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