Chances are you’ve felt happy, sad, mad and all other kinds of other emotions at work — sometimes even extreme versions of them. Chances are you’ve also tried to stifle some of the emotions generally thought of as ‘negative’, in a bid to appear more professional. You want to appear composed and might think showing certain emotions might make you appear weak — it’s understandable.
Fortunately, though, this mindset is slowly changing. A recent study by LinkedIn found that nearly half (47%) of Australians are more open at work than before the pandemic. Two-thirds of those workers (66%) say that doing so has boosted feelings of belonging, as well as made them more productive.
Psychologist and founder of The Happiness Institute, Dr. Sharp, explains that one of the most important elements determining whether or not we’re engaged with our work is psychological safety – the belief that one can express their emotions, and be vulnerable and authentic.
“Research suggests that those who are more authentic at work are also happier, more satisfied and more likely to be committed to expending discretionary effort,” says Dr. Sharp. “So, it also goes to performance. In addition, this engagement is also associated with health and wellbeing, which has other notable advantages.”
Too many people feel they should leave their ‘personal selves’ at home, and that expressing emotions is somehow unprofessional, says Dr. Sharp. He believes leaving personal selves at home isn’t possible and that labelling expressing emotions at work as unprofessional is simply incorrect.
In saying all this, there are some things to know about expressing your emotions at work Ahead, Dr. Sharp shares what to keep in mind when doing so.
Take Some Time Out
After a heated situation or when an emotion feels overwhelming, the first thing Dr. Sharp recommends you do is to take some time out. In other words, you want to respond, rather than react.
“Because we’re upset, we tend to not think as clearly,” he says. “We might catastrophise or ‘make mountains out of molehills’. If we do this, we might then respond in ways that are unhelpful, so taking some time out, some time to pause and think, allows us to be more mindful and more considered in how and what we do.”
Embrace Your Emotions
You’ll also want to try to embrace your emotions and be compassionate to yourself. Dr. Sharp says to remember that our emotions are part of us being human.
“Trying to deny this is like trying to pretend that some part of us — our arms or legs — aren’t there,” he says. “It’s absurd and unhelpful. On the other hand, accepting and embracing our emotions — all our emotions — allows us to better manage them and to function better in pretty much every way.”
Find a Safe Person in a Colleague
Though Dr. Sharp says reaching out and asking for help within your company, like a colleague, can be extremely helpful, it’s also important you find the right person to confide in.
“Not everyone will be willing or able to help in the same way, and that’s okay,” he says. “By finding the right person, you increase your chances of getting a helpful and supportive response.”
Think About the Bigger Picture
Also important, Dr. Sharp says, is to keep perspective on the situation.
“More often than not, stressors are temporary, which is why the saying ‘this too shall pass’ is so helpful,” he says. “But there are two types of perspective — temporal perspective is about asking, ‘How bad will this be in a week, a month or a year?’. Global perspective is more about thinking, ‘If I take everything into account, how bad is this, really?’. Both can be very helpful.”
Creating and maintaining boundaries is a way of exerting control, and exerting control is a way of enhancing our happiness and wellbeing, explains Dr. Sharp.
“We can’t control everything, but focusing on what we can control has been shown to be very important,” he says. “Essentially, creating boundaries is a form of this, so determining what you want to say ‘yes’ to, and what you want to say ‘no’ to, is a very healthy coping strategy.”