If we want lasting change, we have to understand all the forces around us, and emotions may be our strongest opponent. When forced to change, people feel fear, rage, anxiety, and other emotions.
Emotions are designed to satisfy basic needs: defend, fight, flight, reproduce. But when they overwhelm us, they shut down logic. They’re great when we’re suddenly confronted by a lion in the African savanna, we don’t have to take time to think. We just feel fear and run. But when building a strong family, or tackling some other tough, long-term challenge, emotions can confuse and distract us. We often don’t even notice that we’re feeling fear, rage, lust, or love… we just feel and act, no thinking required.
By training ourselves to notice and label emotions, we allow them to continue to exist. But can put them on the same playing field as other factors relevant to our goals.
We have to start with ourselves. If we label the emotions of family members or teammates, we rob them of agency. But if we label our own emotions, we signal psychological safety, inviting others to do the same.
- Eric Gibson, Principal Coach for Agile Valley. a business consulting firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Jay Beale is CEO of InGuardians, Inc. a computer security services company in Seattle.
- Matt Zimmerman is Director of Online Products for Springer Publishing in New York.