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5 Steps To Let Your Negative Emotions Out

5 Steps To Let Your Negative Emotions Out

Emotions can be a veritable minefield, they can be our greatest friend or our worst enemy. Some have a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it whilst others like to mark out a comfortable spot in your psyche and settle in for the long haul.

If we are talking about positive emotions such as joy or excitement we tend to welcome them in with open arms and an open ended invite. Yet if these emotions fall on the negative side such as anxiety or anger they are firmly told their name isn’t on the list and they’re not getting in. The problem with this approach is that it’s impossible to shut out negative emotions yet ride off into the sunset with the positive ones, they just cannot be cherry-picked.

These negative nasties are part of our emotional make-up. You can’t outrun then and you can’t hide from them. Instead of being held hostage at their mercy each time they appear perhaps a shift in perspective is needed. In trying to understand their purpose and learn how to release them in a healthy way we can develop a better relationship with them so that they show up as overnight guests instead of moving in for good.

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Changing our emotional behavior is never easy but these 5 steps might help to show how we can learn to release negative emotions in an emotionally safe way:

1. Feel The Feelings

Have you ever noticed how young children deal with their wild array of emotions? They simply abandon whatever they’re in the middle of and let the emotion pass through them. Whilst it might not look like an emotionally mature reaction to sit down in the middle of Target and wail at the top of their lungs this is actually where kids have one over us. They instinctually feel their feelings. The interesting part about this is that it’s usually a very quick process (yet probably feels like a lifetime to most parents).

I’ve yet to meet a 6 year old harboring a year-long grudge over not being allowed a piece of cake. They get upset, stamp their feet and move the hell on. It’s actually how we as humans are designed, yet as we grow older it becomes less socially acceptable to simply stop in the middle of the supermarket and start screaming.

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It is of vital importance to understand that emotions are simply energy. If we refuse to deal with them they go and find a hiding place deep inside our body. Stuffing our feelings down by pretending they don’t exist or lying to ourselves simply prolongs the process. Instead, when you notice a negative emotion coming in try to actually sit with it for a while. No easy feat, it can be incredibly intense initially. Notice which part of your body it’s affecting, name the emotion. In saying out loud “I’m feeling anxious right now’ it can loosen its grip.

Unfortunately negative emotions tend to come with a physical reaction, for example you can literally shake with anger or become nauseous from anxiety. Find a quiet place and let your body do what it needs to do. Cry, scream, or simply curl up in a ball. Chances are that when you allow yourself to really feel the feeling it no longer has the same hold over you. When it comes to emotions the only way round is through.

2. Ritualize Your Mornings

Have you ever gone to bed angry and woken up with that same anger burning a hole in your pillow? Or simply just woken up on the wrong side of the bed, feeling wretched for no apparent reason. The first few moments of the morning can be one of the most powerful, whatever mood we climb out of bed in tends to cling to us all day. That’s why it can be incredibly powerful to have a morning ritual as a means to cleanse the emotional palette. Effective rituals vary but the following can be highly effective:

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Journaling: Putting our thoughts out of our head and onto paper can be incredibly cathartic and stream of consciousness writing can be one of the most powerful ways to journal. Simply write out your thoughts as they stream through you, without review or judgement. Even if you have nothing to say, simply write ‘I have nothing to say’ over and over again until another insight appears or simply until the page is filled. Once you’ve filled your set number of pages, don’t review. This isn’t a diary, it’s a tool to purge negative emotions.

Meditation: Quieting the mind through the breath is quite simply one of the most powerful tools we have to release negative emotion, yet it is no easy endeavor. Find a quiet spot and sit quietly for ten to fifteen minutes, focusing on your breath or on a mantra (I find inhaling ‘Let’ and exhaling ‘Go’ to be simple yet effective). When we create a meditation practice, our monkey mind learns to settle and we become more in tune with ourselves which in turn leads to mindfulness. Being mindful creates more space between our thoughts so that we can actually start to become aware when negative emotions creep in, giving us the opportunity to nip it in the bud before the emotion snowballs and takes over your day or your week.

3. Exorcise Through Exercise

As human beings we are designed to move. Exercise is incredibly good for us not only from a physical perspective but from a mental perspective. The hormones that are released when our hearts are pumping and our bodies moving can quite literally change our mindset. The very act of going for a walk, a run or attacking a set of weights forces the mind to focus on the task at hand. Next time you are enraged by something, instead of reaching for a bag of chips or numbing out in front of the TV, get physical. Even if it means dancing around your room like a maniac to some gangster rap music (a personal favorite of mine), you’ll feel a heck of a lot better and possibly have a laugh at just how ridiculous you look.

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4. Change Your Perspective

There’s a well-known quote which states “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. Put simply, perspective is everything. Next time you find yourself faced with negative emotions, before you leap down the rabbit hole of rationality and start assigning blame or creating a story around the situation, take a deep breath and ask yourself ‘How can I see this situation differently?’. There are quite literally two sides to every story and then there’s the truth. Even if the other person is clearly in the wrong try to see things from their perspective. Perhaps you need to run through steps 1-3 above before you feel ready, but seeing things from a different perspective can invite a sense of compassion.

If you get into a fight with a friend, try to look at the situation anew. She might be going through a tough time and taking it out on you, not fair but understandable. Even if it’s impossible for you to see the situation any differently, understand that harboring negative emotion only damages you. Learn to let it go, you don’t have to forget what happened but you can try to forgive and move on with your life.

5. Compartmentalize

Emotions are somewhat akin to snowballs. The longer they are allowed to roll on, the bigger they become. Next time you find yourself in the midst of a negative emotional state, try compartmentalizing it. You might be annoyed at the fact that your babysitter cancelled on you at the last minute, but projecting your frustrations onto your husband who in turn projects his frustrations onto the kids serves only one purpose. The whole family gets dragged into the boiling cauldron of negative emotion because the situation snowballed. Instead, get really clear on why you are annoyed or anxious and ring fence it. Don’t let your sadness that you didn’t get that job bleed over into an avalanche of awfulness. Deal with it, dust yourself off and move on. Life can be hard and we all run into situations we don’t like, the key is not to let the negative aspects detract from the positive parts of your life.

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Featured photo credit: Photo by: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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