Sensitive or Really Just Pissed Off?

Sensitive or Really Just Pissed Off?

I was so angry!!  
 
This was just one more example of how this colleague was trying to make my team look bad.  I had enough, and today I was going to tell them my frustrations.  And I did.  It was going well, until I started crying! Through the sniffling and nose wiping, my effectiveness dropped immediately.  I started hearing comments like, “don’t take it personal”, or “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings”.  
 
Now I was even more ANGRY.  My Achilles heel had reared its ugly head again.  My feelings weren’t hurt, I was pissed!  But, like many women I know, when I get angry I get tears.  
 
Does this story sound familiar to you? Why is it that ‘emotional’ is used to describe tears but ‘passionate’ is used to describe yelling?  Can’t we be ‘passionate’ when we are crying?
 
I believe this is one of those quintessential male and female conundrums that will likely never be solved. When we cry we are then deemed ‘sensitive’ or ‘emotional’.   
 
If I had started yelling and swearing, I would have been listened to, but because the tears came first, I was disregarded.  That said, being the ‘angry’ woman might be just as bad as being the ‘sensitive’ woman. 
 
Mind you, I definitely don’t think crying at work should be considered shameful.  I think emotion at work is an important thing to display. My argument is for control.  For the ability to display the emotion I intend to display, in a way that will be appropriately recognized.  
 
Do you think I was effective in the situation above?  I don’t.  I think that person couldn’t get me off the phone fast enough.  He also still avoids me when it comes to discussing sensitive topics for fear of making me cry.
 
Time has passed and I now look on that conversation and know how I could have handled it differently.  Leading up to that conversation was a time of tremendous change at work.  I recently had to lay off some people, I had been moved into a new role without clear expectations or agreements, I was in the midst of some very sensitive situations at work.  
At home we were raising two young kids and my husband just started a new business.  I was stressed out!! I wasn’t sleeping. I was often upset and crying at home, and I felt beat down.  
 
In hindsight, all of these circumstances paired together to create a perfect storm.  It was just a matter of time before the flood gates broke and I let my emotions out of the bag.  
 
Today I can see that.  I can see that I was not in a good place emotionally to have a difficult conversation.  I can see that stepping back and getting my emotions under control with logical analysis would have been a better next step.  
 
If I would have practiced my yoga breathing exercises when I started feeling the emotion swell.  Or if I had asked a lot more questions instead of attacking, I might have been able to get them to my conclusion without forcing the issue.
 
Today I know how to recognize my thresholds and how to manage my activities to avoid passing the dreaded emotional threshold.  If I’ve gotten too little sleep, or had a stressful night at home, I purposefully temper my actions and behaviors at work.  If I’ve had a tough day at home, I find ways to shake it off or relax during the commute or by laying down for a few minutes.
 
These are the ideas I would like to share with you and learn from you. I want to talk about ways to reduce your emotions in the moment, and ways to reduce your emotions out of the moment.  
 
I want to talk about the things I have learned about how different activities impact my display of emotions, and how to gain control.  Because the truth is, I am a bit of a control freak in most areas of my life.  And now I’ve learned to be a control freak when it comes to my emotions.  Because they are mine.  No one else can make me feel them and no one else can make them go away.  But I can, and I have…mostly.
 
Control is a tricky word.  It brings up images of power and influence or of deprivation.  Neither paints a particularly good image. I’d like to change your mindset.  I’d like you to envision a different type of control.  
 
A control where you imagine yourself as strong, confident, stable, sure footed, even keeled, calm and steady.  Can you picture this?  How do you look in that image?  How do you feel about yourself in that image?  For me, it feels good.  It feels…right.  This is where I’d like us all to be.  Right where we want to be, in exactly the right frame of mind. 
 
I view control as having an intentional response to all things.  Instead of reacting out of fear or anger, control is slowing down to process and understand before reacting.  That doesn’t mean that you won’t be afraid or angry, it just means that you will have an intentional response.  That you will manage the outward expression of your inner feelings, and that you will display the emotion that you want to display.  This to me is control.
 
Talk to me…how do you get control of your emotions in stressful situations? How do you stop the flood gates from opening? How do you keep the tears at bay?
 
 
 
This article was originally posted on JennThoma.com.  For more original articles like this one, subscribe to JennThoma.com.
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