Figure in the Emotional Factor

     Coping with changes or challenging situations generates strong emotions. Whenever a problem arises, there is an accompanying threat: the threat of losing something you already have, or the threat of failing to gain something you are trying to obtain. Loss of anything important to you is felt as a threat either to your physical or emotional security. The normal reaction is fear. Fear is a primitive emotion placed in us for our protection. It triggers a number of bodily changes to meet the increased physical demands of “flight or fight” – the natural response to a threat.

     But when the danger of loss is not physical, the adrenaline, the increased breathing and heart rate, and accompanying metabolic changes tend to be used up in emotional release instead. A problem may be perceived as a threat of loss of profit, failure to reach a goal, disruption of the smooth working of the organization, or even loss of respect for one’s ability to lead. Since running away to escape the danger and physical fighting are not considered appropriate in our society, the fear of loss is turned to an emotional reaction – anger. Unless the anger is addressed, problem solving cannot proceed. If anger is repressed or ignored, the emotional energy is forced inward and turns to depression. For your own mental health and that of others around you, commit yourself today to handle anger as constructively as you can.

     When you feel anger directed toward someone, especially when you need to work with that person toward mutual goals, ask yourself what loss you are afraid of suffering. When you can identify the loss that is causing the fear and anger, you can decide how likely and how serious it is. Sometimes you realize it is of no real importance and not worth the anger it is generating. Only when needed results are threatened is it time to take action.

     If you perceive a potentially explosive situation is developing between you and others, or that others are angry or defensive, open up communication by asking questions Effective, tactful questions reveal the underlying assumptions and needs contributing to the anger. Carefully chosen questions also allow you to begin to understand the thinking of others, build trust, and enable you to move together toward mutual understanding of the problem. Here are a few examples of questions that disarm the emotional explosives and produce constructive solutions:

     “What do you think is causing this situation?”
     “What do we know and don’t know for a fact?”
     “What have you considered doing about this?”
     “What can you do, and what are you willing to do about this problem?”

      When you see that a situation is developing into a crisis and must be addressed, approach it calmly. You will accomplish more by keeping your emotions under control. Refuse to allow fear to control you because fear and anger alienate others and destroy your own creativity, blocking the pathway to progress. Invite others to join you in “attacking” the problem and “destroying” its bad effects. Then you can develop a “battle plan” and “deploy your forces” to “head off the enemy.” Using these “fighting” terms helps you satisfy the inner urge to fight the threatening force, but you are able to direct the physical energy into productive goals. When you stay calm and in control, others follow your lead. Then you can communicate, take constructive actions, and begin solving the problem.

     Whatever happens in your efforts to make needed adjustments, cope with change, and handle negative situations, resolve now to uphold the highest ethical standards and principles in every interaction with others. Well-intentioned people sometimes under the stress of conflict do or say things that damage reputations, make permanent enemies, or do irreparable damage to the self esteem and confidence of others. Decide beforehand that you will always act according to your ethical standards, striving to build up others and motivate them to their full potential. Then be tolerant and understanding of those who have not yet reached that level of personal growth. When someone gives way to emotion, decide now that your response will be a question to yourself, “What are the communication skills I need to use in this situation to help create an opportunity for this person to grow and develop?”

     Emotions give your personality force and color. Make your emotions work positively for you. Use their intensity to communicate your caring, understanding, and empathy. Use the energy that emotions generate to work toward important goals. Your actions then communicate your strength and maturity to others. They are then more likely to follow your lead in moving forward toward the achievement of professional and personal goals.

Leadership Management Institute
Reprinted with permission
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