The Importance of Reining in Your Emotions

Posted on January 22, 2014.

After the recent AFC Championship game, I  bet Richard Sherman, the Seahawk’s cornerback, wishes his interview with Erin Andrews went viral for a different reason than what the media is calling his “trash talk”.  In fact, if you read anything about Mr. Sherman, you see that he’s a pretty smart guy who’s accomplished some amazing things.  So why do smart people end up doing such stupid things?

Early in my career, I didn’t understand the nature of internal politics and tact. I was brutally honest about everything and felt that was a positive attribute, not a negative one.  I was passionate about everything at work- other people’s work ethic, the managers’ oversight  (or lack thereof). I had an opinion about everything and everyone knew it.  To say I was emotional would have been an understatement.

It took many years and a lot of feedback for me to realize that feeling so passionate and emotional about work was not necessarily a good thing.  Or if you do feel that deeply, it’s best to leave the emotion at home.  Here’s how I learned to rein it in:

·      Always say something positive first. If you’re in a meeting and one of your employees or peers says something you think is stupid, try to find even one thing that isn’t crazy about their idea and give them the compliment.  If you can’t do that, say nothing.  You can then go on to explain how you might attack the same problem in a different way. Not only will you seem more positive, but more professional and supportive.

·      Wait 24 hours before giving into your anger.  I know there’re times when you want to march yourself into someone’s office and tell them exactly what you think. You’re so angry about something you just can’t keep it in any longer. Stop. Take a breath. Take a walk. Wait until you’ve had time to explain your feelings, rationally. The same idea holds true for emails. How many times would you like to take back that scathing email? If you must type it out, save it as a draft and wait a day. You’ll be surprised at how crazy it sounds the next day.

·      Be honest, but not tactless. It took me many years, but there are ways to provide honest feedback and not hurt someone’s feelings.  Instead of saying, “You really dropped the ball and screwed up the project”, try saying, “What could we have done better as a team to have a better outcome next time?” The person likely knows they screwed up, so they don’t need you beating them up.

·      The ends don’t justify the means.  Most of you work with someone you might describe as, “she breaks a lot of glass”, or “he steamrolls over everyone to get what he wants.” These are people that feel passionate about what they do and feel the outcome justifies everything.  If you are one of those people, you need to know that the end never justifies the means. And your emotions are helping derail your career.

If you ask people that know me well, they’ll tell you I’m still an honest person and my feedback is often very direct. But I’ve learned to temper the emotion around it and stay fairly even in my delivery.  I’m sure Mr. Sherman would like to take back his emotional outburst and be remembered for something other than “trash talk”.