Transcript: 4 Questions to Help Women Manage Emotions on the Job

by Allegra M. Sinclair  - June 15, 2023

I’m pleased to offer AI-generated transcripts for each of my podcast episodes. I believe these transcripts will be a helpful resource for you to revisit the wisdom and insights shared in the conversations. However, as advanced as technology is, it might not perfectly capture or interpret some words or phrases, especially industry-specific jargon or names. Therefore, please understand that there may be minor typos or grammar inconsistencies in the transcripts.

Intro: Welcome to the Your Confident Self podcast with Allegra Sinclair

Allegra M. Sinclair: Get ready to punch fear in the throat and gain confidence like never before. I help corporate women get the confidence to ask for the job they want and do the work they love. Isn’t it time you’ve got unstuck and showed the world how fabulous you are?

Allegra M. Sinclair: Hey, this is Allegra welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. I have been promising to teach this lesson for a couple of months, and I finally sat still long enough to do it. For my coaching clients. This is not going to be new information, but for the rest of you, I hope that you’re able to use this quickly and frequently. It’s difficult for women to handle their emotions at work sometimes, not all the times, but we all know we have those moments. And this framework, this assessment that I’m going to teach you today can prevent you from making a career limiting mistake at work.

If I had a dollar for every time I have wished I could take back something that flew out of my mouth almost as if someone else said it, I’d be rich, absolutely rich. But from working with my clients, I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt that way. So this is my gift to you a look into how women can manage their emotions at work. It turns out that the key isn’t stuffing your feelings down or shopping your feelings away or even eating them up. It turns out that by walking through a quick assessment, which is just four questions, you can be intentional about how you respond to emotions in the moment.

Now, we all know that men and women handle emotions very differently. Men tend to be more externally focused and that they experience emotions, and they try to ignore them or do away with them, do anything they can to stop from feeling that emotion or feeling any frustration. Women, on the other hand, are internal, and sometimes we obsess over thinking about and looking at the emotion, which prevents us from actually being proactive about what it is that we’re feeling so that we can manage it.

Also, we know that in corporations, women tend to experience a lot more emotion regulation than men do. What do I mean by emotion regulation? I mean that people attempt to control our emotions, control how we feel. They tend to kind of regulate us in general. But here’s what emotion regulation looks like. Oh, don’t be upset. Or I heard this one recently. Oh, I don’t want you to be mad at me. Mad at you? Dude, we’re at work. What are you talking about? You don’t want me to be mad at you, right?

Women hear things like don’t be emotional, don’t be angry, those types of things. Someone is often telling us how we’re supposed to feel or respond. We get a lot more emotion regulation than men do. So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to look at developing skills to manage your emotions in the moment and then manage your behavior once that initial moment has passed. Now I didn’t wake up with these skills. I learned them over years of being in high stress situations at a lot of companies where I was the calm voice of reason for the organization when all hell is breaking loose. I couldn’t afford as the manager of public relations or the Media relations manager I couldn’t afford to let my emotions show. So some of these things that we’re going to walk through today are the result of trial and error on my part over decades working inside companies where I realize that an emotional outburst on my part can not only affect the organization but can affect my career.

So the emotionally savvy assessment or the ESA as I call it, can be used by women at any level of an organization to help you manage your emotions at work. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by emotions you can try these to prevent yourself from doing something that you prefer not to do. Because overall when your emotions are triggered and we’re going to talk a little bit later about how you figure out what triggers you and how you get triggered less often. But when your emotions are triggered what you really need is to be able to take a beat, just pause for a moment without responding. Asking yourself these questions gives you the space to pause. Pausing gives you the opportunity to choose how to respond instead of reacting. It can be tempting to react immediately, but that’s rarely the best decision. So let’s look at my emotionally savvy assessment.

In that moment when you’re pausing to get a little bit of distance from your emotions, I want you to ask yourself these four questions. All four questions? Allegra? Yes, all four questions. Virginia as you practice it you’ll be able to ask the questions quicker and quicker so that instead of it taking you five minutes to process this, it can take you much less time. So here’s the ESA. The four questions are is what I’m upset about the truth? What do I hope will come from my actions? Am I comfortable that my actions might not be received in the way I want them to be? And four, does my proposed action benefit me long term? If you’re okay with the answers that you come up with in that moment to these four questions then go ahead and pull the trigger. Do or say whatever your instinct told you to do or say. But if not, give yourself a minute because after a minute you might not feel the same way. And by giving yourself a minute you prevent yourself from getting into a situation that could have been avoided. So let’s unpack each of these questions.

Is it the truth? There’s a difference between something that is the truth and something that is true if it’s truth in the world, like it can be proven, it is truth. If it feels true to you because of your life experiences, it is true, but maybe not the truth. So here’s an example. True usually comes from feelings, while truth usually comes from facts. Truth comes from the external world and is readily accepted or usually generally accepted. And true might be just based on your personal history or interpretation of the situation. There is no judgment here because if it happened to you, it feels true to you. But a little bit of distance gives you an opportunity to find out if you’re making an assumption or if you actually have evidence to back up what you’re feeling. See, assumptions will lie to you every time and have you react from pure emotion and you deserve better. For example, the statement men always cheat. Is that true or is that truth? So it might feel true to you, but not all men cheat. So again, while this may feel true to you because you’ve had three boyfriends and all three of them cheated, it’s not the truth. Because your friend has a boyfriend who did not cheat, you feel how that’s different. One of them is true, feels true to you, and one of them is actually the truth. Because if you stop for a moment and say to yourself, what I’m upset about is it the truth? If it’s not the truth, then you don’t have to be upset about it. Then you may be annoyed or you may be concerned that something that is not the truth is going on, but then you can address that in a very different way than if it is true. So let’s not use the cheating example. Let’s say at work someone suggests that you mishandled a project and now it’s over budget. Well, is that the truth? If it’s not, it is simple for you to document that you did manage the project appropriately, that the finances were in order, and you are not, in fact, over budget. So there’s no need to get all agitated about that when it’s so easily proven that what was said was not the truth.

Okay, question number two is what do I hope will come from my instinctive reaction, from what I’m about to do? What do I hope will happen? Ask yourself, what do you hope is going to happen? So if you want to say something right now, you’re all up in your emotions and you want to say something, what do you hope is going to happen as a result of what you just said? Do you hope that the person is going to realize they are wrong now, they have been wrong for several years, and that they should try to be right in the future? Okay, well, that’s what you hope will come. But suppose that’s not what happens. Or do you hope that the person will realize that they have been mistreating you forever. You’ll get promoted and suddenly the company will be named after you. I mean, that’s a ridiculous example. But in that moment, let’s pretend that you want to bless someone out. What do you hope is going to come as a result of that? Because once you’ve addressed your motive, you might feel differently about how you want to respond. I can’t think of a time in a work setting where blessing somebody out had a good result. So if you think to yourself, what do I hope for happen from this? And what I want to have happen is a better understanding and an improved relationship with my coworker, then cussing them out probably isn’t going to lead down that right path fearlessly. Look at your own motives. Is what you’re about to do the best way to manage your emotions and achieve the outcome you want? Because at the end of the day, you still want or need what you want or need. So is what you’re about to do the best way for you to get that? If not, let’s think about a different way of handling it.

Question number three, are you comfortable with the fact that your actions might not be received the way you want? I remember when I was in college, one of the first hard lessons I had to learn was about communications. I am responsible for what comes out of my mouth, but I’m not responsible for how you hear it. So I can have the best of intentions and say something to someone that they completely take a different way. Not the wrong way, but a different way. So before I act, before I speak, I have to ask myself, am I okay with the fact that what I’m about to say might not be received in the way I mean it? Because then there’s more work for me to do to repair relationship, to explain better, right? So what I’m about to say in this moment of emotion am I okay with it not being perceived in the way I want? If not, then maybe you need to say something different. Or maybe you need to say it in a different way. Are you seeing how asking these questions gives you just a moment to step away from the emotion and think about what it is that you want to do next? And how doing this over and over will enable you to go through these questions so quickly people won’t even realize that you have done it?

The last question is, does my proposed action benefit me? Let’s say in the moment you’re triggered and you want to quit. You want to walk to your desk, send out an email and tell everybody I’ll see you when I see you? Does that benefit you in the long term? If you had a plan, if you had great savings, if you were planning to leave anyway, maybe that does benefit you.

But if it doesn’t, that pause provides you the opportunity to say, hey, what I’m upset about is truth, what I want to do, yes, I’m comfortable with what I want to say. I think that will lead me to my desired result. I am okay with the fact that my actions might not be received in the way I want them. And four, the long term benefits to me are worth whatever it is that I’m about to do, then go ahead and do it. This last question gives you the chance to think what is the best way to manage my emotions in this moment and still be true to myself? How can I handle this moment and still look myself in the mirror and be proud of the person that I see? How can I manage my behavior while standing up for myself and others? Because see the question before this about how your message would be received. There’s the difference between intent and impact. But this one here, the fourth question about the benefit you is all about you.

As I think back on moments when my emotions have gotten the better of me, I wish somebody had just said to me, just take a breath. Just take a breath. I’ve been telling people to take a breath since I was doing crisis communications back in the 90s. Just learn to take a breath. So when something that you’re not expecting comes up, take a breath. Think of something that you’re dealing with right now. Is it the truth? What do you hope to have happen? What are you going to do if people take it the wrong way? And is there enough upside in the situation and what you want to do for you to do it anyway? If so, go with it.

When your emotions are going on, what you really need is a shift in energy. You need to move from that level to fight everybody who shows up energy to a place where everybody can survive more around level three and level four. Because remember we’ve talked about energy leadership before. And the first two levels of energy, level one and level two damage you versus level three and four. And the higher levels build you up and help you be more of who you want to be if something’s not true. But you’re still ready to scream that you are clearly in level one or level two energy. When you think about what you’re trying to accomplish, that’s clearly around a level three. You’re negotiating and figure out the long term effect of your response. And then when you plan what your response will be if people take it wrong, that solidly in level four. And then at level five, what you’re thinking about the upside of taking this action. You’re fully at level five energy then and you’re intentional about making choices that make sense for you and others. So these four questions are how you move from a very low damaging energy level to a higher energy level that works better for you long term.

So you can use this assessment and these four questions in any situation in your business or personal life. Now, what can you say if you want to walk through these four questions but the person who you’re talking with is standing there looking at you like, hello. Right. So if you need to take a moment to walk through the four questions or you just need to take a moment to just choose how to respond, what do you say? Well, there’s nothing wrong with saying, that’s food for thought. I’d like to process this conversation and get back to you with my thoughts in a few minutes or in an hour. I’m on my way to a meeting. I don’t want to give you a quick response. I want to think about it and come back together so we can talk about it. There’s often a way for you to simply say, I’m thinking about what it is that you said. You don’t have to say, thank you for sharing with me. Can we talk about that real quick? I don’t have to thank someone for dumping all over me, right? That’s a totally different conversation, but it’s okay for me to say, wow, that’s a lot to think about. I need to process that and come back to you. Can I catch up with you in 15 minutes? Let me get back to you. Or how about this? It feels like there’s a lot of emotion around this topic, so let’s table it for a moment and get back together at three to finish this conversation.

You can practice lots of different ways of saying, okay, give me a minute to walk through my emotionally savvy assessment so that you can have space in that moment to not say something that you’ll regret. The more you practice at managing your emotions, the better you’ll get, and it doesn’t take long to experience an improvement in managing your emotions. We’re not talking about having to go six months here immediately. The first time your emotions are triggered and you use this, you will respond to better and then you’ll get better at it over time. And it’s wonderful, isn’t it, to find something that gives you immediate relief. It’ll probably take people around you by surprise that you don’t respond immediately and that you remain calm. But that’s okay. Let them be surprised. Do what you need to do for you so that you don’t regret being overly emotional. The better you get at it, the faster you’ll work through the questions.

Let’s talk just a little bit about how you keep yourself from getting into this situation where you need to use the ESA. Think about what triggers your emotions at work and how you can cope with them in the moment. So as a rule, we can be surprised, but we tend to know over time what types of things set us off. If you don’t know, ask a good friend. Ask a coworker you trust. Okay, what makes my head pop off my shoulders? Because we can be faced with a lot of triggers at work that bring about emotions that can be difficult to manage. And everyone experiences triggers differently. And everyone has their own coping strategies. But thinking in advance what types of things trigger me is helpful. Because then you can plan advance for how you’ll respond. You can plan in advance for how you’ll take the time you need to give an intentional response. It’s important to be aware of how we get triggered, what triggers us, in order to develop a plan that works for us. So keeping an eye on your triggers and understanding their roots will help you learn to manage them quickly in the moment and you feel much more confident, you feel more powerful and successful in the workplace when you’re not being triggered by surprise.

Another suggestion I have for avoiding getting in these situations where you need the assessment is to step back and practice self care. Can I say that 100 times a week? Kind of, because I do. Well, maybe not 100, but at least 50. Taking care of yourself should be a top priority when you’re thinking about how you handle your emotions at work. Self care comes in many forms, whether that’s making time for self reflection, relaxation, self love, meditation, however you want to define self care. If you’re feeling your best, it’s a lot harder for you to get triggered. If I’m hungry, if I’m tired, if I’m stressed, if I’m irritable, oh, I’m a trigger waiting to happen. But if I’m well rested, I’m feeling good, the level is higher, the barrier is higher for someone to jump over to trigger me. So think about self care not as a selfish thing you need to do, but as preparation for times when your emotions might show up at work. Deciding which self care practices you’ll use to specifically help you from getting triggered emotionally is a great exercise. It builds up resilience and strength. So take time out for self care because it will help you maintain the mental clarity you need and the self confidence that you want so that you can get through challenging times.

We’ve talked about Affirmations. That’s another great way of making sure that you’re not getting triggered so you can manage your motions at work. You can create different Affirmations for different situations. You can write them down, you can record them. I have a couple of Affirmations in my phone. So if I’m going into a situation, when I think to myself, I have been triggered in this space before, the situation looks familiar, it smells familiar, there may be an emotional trigger coming. I’ll read the Affirmation to myself a couple of times before I go into the setting because then it’s kind of like putting on my self affirmation armor and I’m better prepared for wherever I’m going to face affirmations will keep I’ll keep playing that in my mind. It reassures me and it keeps me intentional and it keeps my thoughts clear.

So what tools can you use to build emotional resilience in the workplace and manage your emotional triggers? I have suggested this before, but you’re going to find that several of the tools that help you with overall self awareness are excellent at helping you figure out where your triggers come from, how to manage your triggers, and how you would choose to behave differently if the situation occurred. Again, a journal is amazing to track how you felt, what led up to the situation, what you did in the situation, and if you had a chance, what you would do differently. So I’m a big fan of journaling because it helps you track and reflect on your feelings.

Meditation is a great tool. It just slows down your mind and helps you cultivate a stronger connection with your emotions and with your more powerful emotions. Meaningful conversations with other women who understand what you’re going through. Do not underestimate the power of a circle who will check you when you need checking, but who will support you when mayhem is happening. It feels so good when you have been triggered in a situation, to be able to say to someone, this happened and I thought I was going crazy, and for that person to say, oh my gosh, I felt the exact same way that happened to me two weeks ago. That is another great tool for helping you manage your emotions at work, creating a circle of people who will see you and help you deal with the pressures of your work environment.

The last thing I want to say is, as women we have to get comfortable with the fact that sometimes we make emotion-backed decisions. Remember I said we’re internal and we seek to understand the emotions versus denying them or running away from them. But an emotion backed decision can be incredibly powerful. All emotions are not negative. So it is okay to walk through the emotionally savvy assessment and decide to make a decision that is being fueled by your emotions, by your passions, by your desires, by your dreams and goals. That is okay. The challenge comes when it is something that does not serve you well and does not have long term benefits to you.

So rather than feel discouraged in a moment when you’re feeling emotion, embrace who you really are and embrace the strength of the emotion, but then move purposefully towards expressing it in a way that serves you. The overarching goal of managing your emotions at work is for you to be able to act authentically and confidently and to maintain mutual respect between your colleagues and peers so that you can do the work that you are on fire about. It is possible to handle your emotions in the workplace with grace and power. You can take actionable steps to practice self Care walk through the emotionally savvy assessment, build emotional resilience, reframe your triggers, and use positive affirmations to stay focused. Doing so will help you walk confidently through your day, even when there are challenging situations around every corner.

Walking through the four questions, asking yourself it’s the truth. What do you hope will happen? What happens if it’s not received in the way you want it to? And are there long term benefits for you? Is the upside strong enough that you’re willing to take the risk to do what you want? The purpose here, and the intent of this, is for you to be assertive about taking care of yourself while respecting yourself and others in the process. Everyone deserves an environment that is open and respectful of their feelings. So embrace your strength within the workplace. Trust your decisions and instincts, and just take a breath. Remember, it’s okay if you need extra support working on emotions. This is bigger work. Seek out a coach. Seek out a trusted friend. Work with someone who can help you see where you may have blinders and have a little bit of work to do to be even more effective and even more successful than you already are in your workplace.

Allegra M. Sinclair: I’ll catch you next time.

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Allegra M. Sinclair

Allegra M. Sinclair is a professional coach and confidence expert. She hates to see women living small and loves to help them change how they show up in the world.

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