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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Kraft

The cost of lingering negative emotions - time to flip the switch

Have you ever been really angry at a co-worker? Felt threatened by a competitor or been jealous of a colleague?

Those “negative” emotions are normal and sometimes critical to draw our attention to something important. When we feel fear, immediate action might be needed, e.g., to get out of this situation. But, when those emotions stick longer, we start to feel anxious, complain about our co-workers at home; and a constant feeling of stress setting in.

The cost of lingering negative emotions

The reactive part of our brain, this “inner judge,” helps us survive dangerous situations by following deeply rooted patterns. On the flip side, we’re incapable of clear-headed, creative, or resourceful action when this inner judge is active.

We do the most harm to ourselves and others in those very early seconds, right after we feel hurt, threatened, or misunderstood.

Imagine one of your long-term employees is resigning to move on. There is no need for your reactive brain to rescue you from danger. Yet, our inner judge is already in full swing and fires a snappy remark that might harm the relationship with the person you share so much history with.

Flipping the switch

Switching from our reactive to our creative brain often takes just a little nudge. This helps us empathize with other people or come up with innovative ideas. By establishing routines that let us pause for just a few seconds, we regulate our emotions and allow a completely different region of our brain to be activated – the “inner sage.”

Let’s go back to the case of the resigning employee. Instead of risking the relationship in a rage, you might pause momentarily and listen to her reasons for leaving. By accepting the situation as a fact, you open an opportunity to address retention challenges plaguing you for some time.

Self-command in 10 seconds

We do the most harm to ourselves and others in those very early seconds, right after we feel hurt, threatened, or misunderstood. A snappy response might be quickly forgotten by us but is often burned deeply into the memory on the receiving end.

The good thing is self-command requires the most willpower in the first 10 seconds! Once you overcome the outrage in those early moments, you will find moving to your creative brain much more effortless. That little pause - and maybe a couple of weeks of mental fitness training - is all it takes to switch your brain from outrage about the resigning employee to gratitude for the long journey traveled together.

How do you flip the switch?


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