5 Ways to Negotiate the Language of Emotion in Business

stressed business
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Even though the business world has relaxed over the years on everything from dress codes to work environments, one holdover persists from its buttoned-up past -- emotions in the workplace. In just about any job, it can be easy to feel frustrated, exuberant, deflated, or a whole other host of emotions because we now spend a large portion of our waking hours at work. But we still live in a business environment where employees often feel obligated to leave their emotions behind when they head out to work in the morning.

As a woman entrepreneur, I feel vested and connected in my team, the highs and lows feel very significant, and my personal relationships with my team members really matter to me. And yet, as you rise up into leadership or start your own small business, you realize the importance of being objective, fair, and even-keeled toward people. I’ve seen how the very best leaders and entrepreneurs hone in on the passion and the upswing of emotions in order to motivate and inspire team members and really contain the downside.

Here are some tips that I’ve learned over the years that can help small business owners when emotions threaten to spill over.

Don't Mistake Business Decisions for Personal Ones

Many times, tough business decisions feel personal. We experience them in the moment and they often have lasting effects, but the decisions themselves have nothing to do with the emotions of the situation.

Instead, decisions involving reorganizations, restructurings, or layoffs often have to be made for the overall health and long-term well-being of a growing organization. It can be gut-wrenching to implement them, but we have to remember how much careful thought and analysis goes into each decision and that the larger interest of the business often depends on these actions.

While this can be easier said than done, being empathic, understanding, and emotionally available during tough times can help, as well as being really transparent about the reasons behind these decisions.

Take a Step Back from the Intensity of the Moment

When clients, customers, or business partners respond with anger or frustration because something goes wrong, it can be tempting to respond in kind and get frustrated back. While that may feel right at that given moment, detangling from the immediacy of the situation -- particularly in the hectic pace of a small business -- will be a better solution over the long run.

Try stepping back and acknowledging how your counterparts may be feeling, as well as really listening to what they say. Diffuse the intensity of the conversation by saying, “I hear you; I understand that you’re really upset; let me re-group with our team and we’ll get back to you with a solution.” Engaging in the moment becomes so fraught with emotion that it can be very hard not to respond in kind, and you always will regret doing so.

Do You Really Want to Send That Email?

We need to watch emails carefully, as we fling them endlessly, and if recipients don’t fully understand the context, they can make emotional interpretations of the content.

They can mistake the tone, and if anything, people tend to assume the negative.

Today, even in work situations, we see people adding smile emoticons to indicate that the emotion isn’t negative because context can be so difficult to convey in email format. Finally, while people often turn to email because they think it comes across as more objective and straightforward, the challenge becomes learning to communicate effectively face-to-face, especially about topics that may be sensitive or filled with tension or conflict.

Model Your Team’s Emotional Tone

Leaders set the emotional tone for the team. Similar to when we parent our kids, we know what we say to them directly really matters, but they also pick up on our conversations, behavior, and tone when we don’t think they’re listening. For example, when we talk on the phone.

So just as kids pick up on all the emotions we exhibit, if you want to keep your team focused, make sure you model the emotional essence of what you want them to be. If you want them to be passionate, open to criticism, enthusiastic, and critical thinkers, you have to emulate that emotionally for them because they will take their cues from the top.

Forget Perfection – Find an Outlet

Finally, no matter what your experience level is, and regardless of how many times you’ve encountered a specific scenario, sometimes your emotions will get the better of you. Sometimes people will get under your skin, or you’ll feel frustrated or overwhelmed. The solution? Accept that perfection remains unrealistic and find support outside of work, where you can process and vent and get your frustrations out of your system. We’ve also seen an increasing number of entrepreneurs and business owners turn to yoga or meditation as a way to reduce stress, and these techniques really can help when emotions become overwhelming.

It’s important to know that you can acknowledge your emotions, you can process them, and you don’t have to suppress them, but you also don’t want work to become the outlet in which they begin to swarm. Often, the things you do while highly emotional become what people remember for a very long time – and they’re not easy to just sweep under the rug.

About the Author:

Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Influence Central, is a social media strategist, attorney, and best-selling parenting author. A frequent national and international speaker, she consults with brands on consumer and social media trends.