Six years ago, Dr. Robert Schaefer (Co-author of Meaningful Alignment) and I met in our conference room, and we asked the question, “What are we noticing is happening in our world?”
Yes, I know a big question to ask, but we were focusing perhaps more on what we were personally observing as we navigate day-to-day life. A major theme that emerged from that discussion was a lack of emotional composure and, quite frankly, a display of anger that we had not seen to the degree that we observed prior.
We pulled out a whiteboard and asked ourselves, “How do we know that this is true? What is the evidence that there is more anger and lack of emotional composure being displayed in our society?”
It took 5 minutes to fill up the whiteboard. That is not a lot of time, yet it was pretty easy to put the marker to the board and write out the extreme intolerances witnessed in the current culture.
The words that appeared were: road rage, school shootings, intolerance of disagreement, cyberbullying, lack of a spirit of collaboration in our political leaders, and Schadenfreude, just to name a few. Mind you; this was in 2015. Times are changing. In 2021, I am observing even higher levels of anger, anxiety, and aggression, not only in our society but in the workplace. This is a troubling dynamic that is on the rise. And it is not just me who notices this problem.
40% more people reported high levels of anxiety in the last year, on top of a 36% jump in 2017.
62% of workers report being impacted by incivility at work at least once a month.
75% percent of employees say they have been affected by bullying.
So what is going on? Why is everyone so angry?
It is clear that something is wrong with the way that people are handling their emotions and aggression. Indeed, we all agree that the COVID-19 epidemic put additional strain on workplace relationships and, frankly, all relationships in our lives. Having essential yet challenging conversations can be difficult when your relationships are hanging on by a thread.
I have discovered that most people lack the confidence, comfort, and competence to have the conversations they know intuitively they need to have with others in a manner that builds connection and trust. It is easy to give your opinion, but it is much more difficult to say it with love.
This goes for both personal and professional lives. Often, due to a lack of skill, people avoid tough conversations altogether. On the other hand, they may have an increasing level of intolerance toward others, so when they have difficult conversations, it is a poor effort resulting in a great deal of aggression. What is the problem with this? Issues are not being solved, and relationships will be irreversibly damaged.
What do we do about this?
Recognize that when we are emotionally charged or triggered, it comes from a place of fear and, therefore, something within us to address. It can be easy to turn your frustration towards a situation or try to blame someone else. But, this does not solve anything.
When you find yourself on the verge of an emotional outbreak, begin by asking questions such as:
- Why am I so activated?
- What is it about this that makes me so angry?
- What does this remind me of?
- What word or words come to mind to describe what I am feeling right now?
- What is a response that would serve me and the other person better?
Remember that the way you interact with others, especially during intense emotional conversations, impacts them just as much as yourself. If you enter into the discussion with an open mind while monitoring your emotions, you are much more likely to walk away with an actual conclusion to your issue. Screaming at someone to get your point across will only make them less responsive and tune you out.
There is an opportunity cost when we misdirect our emotions and place our anger at the forefront of our responses. Major issues are going on in our homes, community, and world that require our attention. When you let yourself stay angry or get worked up over the little things, you are stealing your energy away from yourself. Learning how to manage your emotions keeps your energy focused in the right place.
At Meaningful Alignment, we teach others how to manage emotions in the moment of a tough conversation and how to build emotional composure over time. You don’t just wake up one morning emotionally intelligent and capable of fully keeping your emotions under control. It takes practice and diligence.
Looking at the list of displays of anger Dr. Shaefer and I came up with six years ago, we can see that strife is not going anywhere. There will always be stress in life and the workplace. That is something that we can guarantee. The key is to learn how to work through the emotionally charged moments with resilience and grace for the sake of our own well-being as well as those around us.
In future blogs, I will present some tips and tools to do this!
The Opportunity Cost of our Culture of Endless Outrage: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/arianna-huffington-outrage-culture-opportunity-cost-attention/?utm_source=Newsletter_General&utm_medium=Thrive
Explaining EQ Series: Managing Emotions (Part 4 of 4): https://meaningfulalignment.com/explaining-eq-series-managing-emotions-part-4-of-4/
3 Strategies to Help You an Emotionally Triggered Response: https://meaningfulalignment.com/4-strategies-to-help-you-handle-an-emotionally-triggered-response/