It’s long been said in business ‘leave your emotions at the door’; however, it is unrealistic to expect emotions to never impact us or our work and families. Being able to manage your emotions both as a teacher or a manager is a very important skill to master. Gerhard Erasmus explains …
In our teacher training courses, when we cover classroom management, I often stress the importance of controlling what you can. You can control your own language, interactions, materials, and your response to misbehaviour. Being able to control your response to misbehaviour means you can avoid getting overly upset, which in turn ensures that the atmosphere in the classroom remains positive. This applies not only to the classroom, but also to interactions at home, in the office, and any other areas of your personal and professional life. This blog looks at a few ways in which we can manage our emotions or develop strategies to cope when our emotions try to take centre stage.
Learn to compartmentalise smartly
It isn’t uncommon for work problems to affect someone’s personal life and vice versa. We are complex social creatures and our work, social, and family lives are often intertwined. Negative emotions could, however, affect al of these areas of our lives and learning to separate negative emotions or stress from area of live is a good strategy. Leave your work worries at work and your family problems at home. Your spouse or children or partner do not need to bear the brunt of your unhappiness about things at work. Similarly, your colleagues or people in your team shouldn’t have to be overwhelmed with your family issues.
This does not mean that you should completely avoid talking to others about work or family problems. Remember that those intertwined connections between you work, social, and family lives are also your support network. Compartmentalise smartly. Don’t let negativity and stress impact how you treat others but do use the support network for support. The most important difference is: Don’t get annoyed at a family member who might not understand your work stress. That is not using a support network. Compartmentalise smartly but use your support network.
Don’t avoid anger
There is nothing wrong with getting angry. It is one of the many emotions we experience many times in out lives. Trying to avoid anger is not the issue. What we do when we are angry is. There are few things to do when you are angry:
- Count to 10. And if you are still angry, count to 20. And if you are still angry, count to 50. But do not respond verbally or in writing if you are angry. Calm down first. That might mean removing yourself from a situation for a while.
- It is a great way to get rid of the negative aspects of anger. Whether it is a quiet walk or a session with a punching bag.
- Realise when you are angry. Trying to avoid anger or failure to recognise it is much more damaging.
One thing I find extremely surprising whenever I must deal with emotional issues at work or at home is how often this is purely due to miscommunication. Always clarify! We use concept and instruction checking questions in class, so why not do it in life? Double check what someone means before you feel overly pressured or angry. Make sure people in your team or families know what they need to do and where they can get help rather than just assume they know. You might feel it is condescending to double check, so be aware of not coming across as condescending.
When you are involved in an argument, a good way to double check is to start with ‘So if I understand correctly, you are saying …’ You might be surprised by how often you have misunderstood or by how often you repeat a person’s words back to them and they reply with ‘That’s not what I meant.’
Respect and empathy
Everyone gets overwhelmed by emotions at times. Have empathy for when that happens. It might impact different people very differently. Understand that other people are also experiencing a range of emotions. This empathy will make it much easier to accept that at times, miscommunication does happen and very few people will intentionally try to mislead you. Listen respectfully. That means asking for clarification but listening to understand. Not listening to respond. Allow the other person to finish talking, be considerate in how you respond, even if you completely disagree with what they have said. The simple treat others as you would like to be treated is a very good rule of thumb.
In addition, be aware that people around you might be experiencing a range of emotions that they might be hiding very well. We don’t always know if there is perhaps a death or serious illness in a family or with a person’s close friends. We also don’t know what mental struggles a person is going through, whether these be temporary or an invisible disability. An awareness and realisation that others are also going through emotional struggles makes it not only easier to manage our own emotions, but also to better understand and value those around us. Remember that it is not the size of the problem that dictates the strength of the emotion, and something that might appear minor to you could be a very big deal to somebody else. And obviously, the opposite is also true. Don’t be afraid to feel emotions. What might appear minor to others (or at least in your perception) could be very big for you.
Apologies and forgiveness
When you have displayed emotions or said things that was hurtful, apologise. We all make mistakes, say things that were better left unsaid, or do things that we regret. Apologise and do so honestly and truthfully.
Obviously, when others apologise, be understanding, accepting, and forgiving.
As much as we would like to be completely rational beings, we are not. And it is inevitable that we will be in a situation where we need to manage our emotions. Compartmentalise to ensure when you are struggling that you don’t take it out on innocent bystanders that might be family, friends, or colleagues. Use your support networks. Accept your emotions and understand them. You cannot avoid feelings. Be respectful, empathetic, apologetic, and forgiving and most importantly, realise that other people have emotions too. You have a lot more in common with the people around you, than how you are different. Don’t let an inability to accept your emotions chain you down.