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Conventional wisdom has suggested that it's better not to talk about negative emotions as a way of handling them. So, we turn to alternative strategies such as holding our negative emotions in (as suggested by Anger Management and Emotional Intelligence programs), suppressing them, managing them, or sharing them with others (gossip/triangulation) just to get them out.
However, recent discoveries at neuroscience research centers are revealing how to handle negative emotions in new and healthy ways. This updated wisdom takes us down another path. Rather than suppressing or ignoring emotions, which only damages our internal healthy functioning, we need to learn to express our emotions in constructive ways. Learning how to label emotions in healthy ways has a big impact on emotions - both for the speaker and the receiver.
Careful labeling of an emotion enables us to regulate the emotion. If the emotion is "rage" or "frustration"- labeling it causes the rage and frustration to settle down. Constructive labeling enables the speaker and listener to clarify the emotional distress. It prevents the speaker from bringing a higher emotional tone to the situation and brings a more logical frame of reference to the situation. This practice regulates the brain and provides a calming effect.
Learning how to label emotions and express our discomfort enables us to quell the fear and pain centers of the brain (amygdala) and activates our reasoning and forward-thinking centers in the brain (prefrontal cortex) where our strategic and social skills reside. Our pleasure centers are more closely linked to the prefrontal cortex, so we feel better when we come up with more effective strategies for handling our emotions and creating new strategies for the future.
We are at a critical inflection point in the world today. In this WE-centric universe we need to acknowledge our vital role and responsibilities to each other on our journey. Our new WE-centric world is built on candor and caring, which expand positive powers in the world. In a WE-centric world, leaders understand that human beings are designed to be social. We either pull people toward us, or we push them away.
Rejection = pushing people away and is experienced as pain by those rejected. Compassion and caring = pulling people toward us and is experienced as pleasure by those who are accepted. You can become a game-changer and shift your culture into a "WE-centric" culture by applying these neuro-tips at work.
NEURO-TIP #1: Our brains are designed to be social
Our need for belonging is as or more powerful than our need for safety. When we are rejected, we experience pain in the same centers in the brain and body as when we break a leg. Being emotionally orphaned is more painful than death. When others show us love, respect, and honor us, it triggers the same centers in the brain as when we eat chocolate, have sex, or are on drugs. Understanding this dynamic will change how you lead.
QUESTION: Knowing that our brains are designed to be social, what Leadershift could you make in your life starting tomorrow to create greater positive connectivity with others at work?
NEURO-TIP #2: Appreciation reshapes our neural networks to give us a broader perspective of the world
When we feel sad, depressed, alone, fearful and disconnected from others, our mind closes down. Messages from the amygdala say "protect" and our brains are hardwired and designed to protect us from harm. Through co-creating conversations that focus on how we can tackle our challenges and difficult situations together, we activate an appreciative mindset. Our neural chemistry changes; we 'turn off' the fear-based neuro-messages from the amygdala, and 'turn on' the brain connections that feed up into the prefrontal cortex - our 'executive brain.' We see that our 'perspective has shifted' and it's because that part of our brain - our prefrontal cortex - is now engaged.
QUESTION: Knowing that appreciation is the food that enhances the health of our brains, minds and souls, what Co-creating Conversations could you initiate tomorrow and with whom - that could shift the feel of your workplace from judging to appreciating?
NEURO-TIP #3: We avoid what is painful; we engage in what is pleasurable
From birth, we learn to avoid physical pain and move toward physical pleasure. We learn to protect ourselves from ego pain, building habits and patterns of behavior that protect us from feeling belittled, embarrassed, or devalued.
At work this tendency translates into avoiding a colleague who appears to compete with you when you speak up or avoiding a boss who sends you silent signals of disappointment. Pain can also come from what you anticipate-not from what is real. If you imagine that telling colleagues they are annoying you will lead to a fight or argument, just the thought of having that conversation will produce the social pain of being rejected or being in an uncomfortable conversation. We often avoid the conversation and hold the frustration inside. The feared implications of pain become so real for us that we turn to avoidance, since confronting a person with a difficult conversation may lead to yelling, rejection, or embarrassment.
QUESTION: Knowing that avoiding others to avoid perceived pain of a difficult conversation may only create greater pain down the road, what person and what conversation could you have starting tomorrow to build greater trust and candor with a colleague?
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