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How to Use Your Emotions as an Advantage at Work

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Use Your Emotions to Your Advantage

“You’re too sensitive.”

“You need a thicker skin.”

“Quit taking things so personally.” 

“Stop overreacting.” 

Do these sound like things you’ve heard before? 

If so, it’s understandable that you may have come to view your emotionality as a liability instead of the gift that it is. After decades of being told they are thin skinned, many Sensitive Strivers eventually conclude that their emotions are excessive, invalid, or wrong, when in fact they are having a genuine emotional response that feels natural to them. 

Angela, a client of mine, once summed up the pressure, saying, “Sometimes I wish I could ratchet down my own intensity. I want to project an image of being calm and in control, but on the inside, I feel anything but serene. What is wrong with me? I wish there was an off switch for feeling and caring so much about everyone and everything.”

Like Angela, many of my clients have wondered why they cry when moved by a kind gesture or agonize when a friend uses a period instead of an exclamation point in a text message (does she hate me?), not realizing their innate sensitivity is the source. 

Are You “Too Sensitive?”

From a young age, you may have been told to “snap out of it already,” “buck up,” or “just shrug it off” when you experienced disappointments like losing a race or getting a B on a test (which is equal to failure to perfectionistic Sensitive Strivers). Maybe you were told to “calm down” and “chill out” even when you experienced happiness and joy because it was more intense than that of other people. 

Now as an adult, you may still find yourself worked up (sometimes debilitatingly so) by scenarios that other people find moderately stimulating, especially when stress and expectations are high. During these times, you might want to get rid of unwanted feelings like sadness, anger, shame, or guilt like Angela did. 

But fighting your feelings doesn’t work. It’s like trying to hold a beach ball underwater. It comes back up and smacks you in the face as soon as you remove some pressure.

While your emotional reactivity might feel like a hindrance, it’s important to understand that your emotions serve a critical purpose. This can help you reframe how you respond and appreciate them as the powerful tools they are. 

The truth is that your emotions are messengers. They give us important information about our needs or actions we can take. They are signals that indicate what’s important to you. They’re a valuable source of intelligence and insight. 

How to Listen to Your Emotions

Here’s a look at some common negative emotions we tend to feel at work and new ways to look at their value. 

Anger

Anger can be a sign that a value or standard that is important to you has been violated. It indicates that you have passion to fight for something. 

Questions to ask yourself:

Frustration

Frustration can be a sign that we need to be more flexible with our approach because what we’re trying now is not working. 

Questions to ask yourself:

Inadequacy 

Inadequacy suggests that there’s a gap between your perceived skill level and the one required to be successful. 

Questions to ask yourself:

Overwhelm

Overwhelm signals your priorities are not in order that your energy is being spread too thin. It presents an opportunity to re-evaluate how you’re spending your time so you can feel more in control

Questions to ask yourself:

Loneliness

Loneliness is a call for connection. 

Questions to ask yourself:

Chances are, in the past when you felt one of these emotions, you tried to squelch it. But now that you know that’s not helpful— and can actually backfire— I want to encourage you to ask yourself better questions instead. Investigate,  “What is this emotion trying to tell me? What message is it offering?” 

Rather than thinking about your emotions as something to get rid of or control, think of them as something to understand and mine for data so you can respond to situations in more empowering ways.

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Hi, I'm Melody

I help smart, sensitive high-achievers overcome insecurity and overwhelm so they can thrive in the workplace.

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