Take the Emotion Out
In honor of International Women's Day I took part in two internal interviews for my company. At the end of the interviews, the audience was allowed to submit their own questions. One of the questions that was asked of me is something that I personally have struggled with throughout my entire career. I was asked, "Do you find that you have to take emotion out in order to approach a difficult or an adverse situation at work because, as a woman, you're expected to react emotionally?" My answer is one million percent yes! I can't tell you how many times I have sat in an overly frustrating discussion where I was left fighting back tears or the urge to scream in someone's face. It wasn't until I saw a man react "emotionally" that I realized how the response can come across to the opposite gender. But that wasn't the only reason I changed my approach.
So often we hear that women are too emotional in the workplace, while a man with a similar reaction is considered passionate. We find that men dismiss us or roll their eyes if we get heated, raise our voices or, God forbid, let a tear roll down our cheek. It must be "that time of the month". If it ever gets to the point where we are crying in the office, I think I can speak for most women when I say, that means we are at our breaking point. But why are we ever letting it get that far?
I once took an emotional intelligence and communication course, which showed me how to take a different approach when speaking with colleagues (and friends and family). I used to point fingers at others and say things like, "YOU did XYZ, which is why I reacted this way", placing all the blame on them and assuming no responsibility for my actions. I can tell you those reactions got me nowhere. Why? Typically when you scream in someone's face they shut down and stop listening. Or if you unexpectedly cry in the workplace, men don't often know how to react. Learning how to speak with others in a manner that allows them to listen and reflect is not only human, it's the most effective way to get your point across.
I always have to remind myself, "This is just business, it's not personal." When you are passionate about your work it's hard not to take things personally. It took me years of practice to be able to speak openly and calmly with my colleagues about frustrating situations, and I still lose my temper at times. What is most important for me is:
- I don't want any colleague, male or female, to feel like they can't come to me because I might explode emotions all over them.
- I don't want any colleague, male or female, to feel like I shouldn't be in my position because I can't control my emotions.
- I don't want my actions to negatively impact the perception that the opposite gender has on us females. I want to set the best example that I can so that we, as females, are taken seriously.
Yes, I believe that we should do a better job of taking extreme emotions out of the equation; however, we are human and not robots, we cannot take all emotions out of the workplace. We should be passionate. We should get excited. It's ok to get worked up about a frustrating situation. It's also ok to have a bad day. What we, as people, need to learn to do is better understand what triggers specific emotions. We need to learn how to reflect on any and all situations, understanding what we did well and how we can better react to similar situations in the future. We need to ask for feedback from our colleagues without being offended and figure out what steps we need to take to improve upon ourselves.
At the end of the day, my goal is to be the best Brittany I can be. That means taking even the harshest piece of criticism and working to understand why I am receiving it. If you are looking to be the best version of you [in the workplace], I would encourage you to take a step back and analyze how your actions are impacting those around you. We always play a role in every situation and, once you realize that, you may see the world a lot differently.
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