4 Steps to Handle the Emotion You Don’t Want

At 4.30am when I woke up with pre-performance nerves, it seemed like a good idea.

To start by telling a personal story about my son. A story I’ve told a million times. An easy story to tell. 

What unfolded was not quite what I had expected. When the moment came and I was mid-telling of this little introductory story, I felt so emotional. It was difficult to get through it.

It’s like the confrontational conversation with my boss.

I remember she called me in to her office to tell me that she was worried about my performance. My direct reports were a little too friendly and not getting all their projects finished. It was my fault, she said, I was not on the ball.

It sounds like I conversation I could handle well, but I was paralyzed by the criticism and the emotions I felt as she spoke. I wanted to run away and I felt like crying.

As I prepared for this conversation, I knew exactly what to say. When I thought about it afterwards, there were a million things I should have said.

In the moment, in both situations, the telling out of a story can be more challenging than we anticipate.

And often we don’t plan for the emotional reaction, though it is our natural response, it surprises us every time!

Here are some tips in handling that emotional story in a more empowered way:

  1. Plan to feel emotional – think about what emotion the situation could and does bring up for us. Work out what that means and why the story may be a trigger for other issues. Once you’ve anticipated the emotional fall-out, it’s effect may be lessened.
  2. Don’t fight it – your feelings about any situation are just that – you’re feelings, it’s okay, you don’t have to change them, you don’t have to be different. It is not a weakness, it’s actually a strength! Thank your emotional response for keeping you human and reminding you what is important in your life.
  3. Use the emotion – no, I don’t mean as manipulation, I mean as a way to access what you need to do to heal the situation. Listen to the lessons that the emotional response bring and take action.
  4. Don’t try to suppress or control your reaction – it’s a bad strategy to try and hold back your feelings, simply because it doesn’t work! What you try to ignore will grow and then become overwhelming. Instead, envision yourself as a space that can expand to contain the emotion. With that expansion you can express the emotion in a gentle and manageable way. If it’s held tight and contained, it will ultimately EXPLODE (and that can cause much more damage!).

You know, as the youngest child in my family, I was always teased for being so emotional. To this day my siblings laugh at how easy I cry. I’m talking ‘Little House on the Prairie’ crying and of course every movie you can imagine!

It’s only as an adult, a storyteller and a story coach that I understand the power of my emotions and my sensitivity. It’s not always an easy path to be this emotional, but it’s a rich one.

What gets you emotional? How do you handle it?
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