7 tips to deal with emotions at work

Wherever people work closely together, emotions can flare up. That’s normal. However, it is not always easy to deal with your own emotions or those of others. These 5 tips will help you prevent the situation from escalating and help you regain control. 

1. Make room for emotions 

What do you do when a colleague suddenly starts crying? We usually don’t know how to handle other people’s emotions, especially at work. We often tend to respond right away by offering advice or minimizing the problem. That’s only human, but it’s not the right response. It is much better to make room for what’s happening. Listen to what is going on and wait a moment. Let the person in question catch their breath. Confirm that you understand that it is difficult (e.g., “That sounds difficult”). After that, you can start to gently probe and ask your colleague some questions. Have they experienced something similar before? What was the solution then? Is that also possible now? 

2. Everyone is entitled to 1 meltdown per month 

Emotions in the workplace are perfectly normal. So just let them in. It’s good when people express themselves instead of bottling everything up. On average, one crying meltdown per month is perfectly normal – nothing to worry about. Even two is okay. Do you recognize a certain pattern? In that case, the cause may be addressed by ensuring that the colleague in question gains more self-confidence by, for example, a mentor, a buddy, a training course or other support. Or maybe the context has changed the colleague is no longer the right person in the right place. 

3. Make a list of pros and cons 

Is something bothering you? Write down a list of everything that is making you feel stressed or unhappy. Then write down something positive next to each point, such as things that are currently going well. That helps to put everything into perspective. You are probably feeling a lot better already. Finally, name one step you can take to improve the situation. That will be your action point and your way to solve this. 

4. Write down worrying thoughts 

Take that same list and note point by point what you can do about the negative items. Then schedule these activities in your calendar. By putting everyting on paper, you can literally get your worried thoughts out of your head. When you worry, it means that your mind does not want you to forget something, so you keep coming back to it. By putting it on paper and then getting to work on it, you take the anxiety out of your head. It’s as simple as that. 

5. Finish the week off with a “crap session” 

We don’t like to look at the negative aspects of our life. Ideally, we would like everything to be positive all the time. However, you cannot have positive emotions if you do not allow space for the negative ones too. There are two sides to every coin. To make room for the negative, you can end the week with a 15-minute crap session. Discard anything negative (by noting it down, for instance) and then finish the week. The following Monday, you can then use the first 15 minutes of your working day to prepare your schedule. What do you want to start with? What will you focus on? What will you avoid? This way, you also create space in your head, and you do not feel that continuous pressure and urgency. 

6. Communicate openly and inviting 

Do you know what you are worth and what you want? Then talk about it in such a way that people naturally grant it to you. Don’t wait obsequiously until it’s your moment. Seize the moment! But don’t claim this position in a dominant manner either. Somewhere in between is perfect. Try to find a neutral, inviting attitude. You will notice that this way of communicating attracts people who will help you to get closer to achieving your goal. 

7. Don’t take yourself too seriously. 

The problem today is that we take ourselves too seriously. This is reinforced by the illusion of perfection created by (social) media. The reality?  Life is more doom and gloom than celebration. The trick is to celebrate during the doom and gloom. Is something not working? Think of it as a monopoly game: go back to start and try again. Does this approach work? Make it a ritual. It doesn’t work? Try something different. And embrace the process. Because in the end it is the process that matters, not the result.