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What differentiates emotional reactions from emotional intelligence in business

Emotional reactions in business

“My organization perceives showing emotions as a sign of ‘weakness.’ If I openly showed my emotions, it would not be good for my career. Instead, I have to be seen to be handling pressure at all times,” said an executive that I worked with.

This sparked our very interesting conversation about emotions in business.

During this discussion, my client realized that being emotional is different from sharing emotions with others.

Below, I am sharing with you a few reflections from this conversation.

Emotional reactions and emotional intelligence

When we react emotionally, we have little or no control over our emotions.

When our emotions take the lead, we stop thinking logically and our usual behavioral patterns take control of our actions. Thus, in such situations, we often act automatically, without deeper reflection or contact with others, often irresponsibly and in a harmful way. No wonder the business world generally discourages such behavior.

However, being emotional is very different from being aware of one’s emotions and sharing them with others in a non-violent way. While the first one is clearly counterproductive, the latter is a refined soft skill that can be effectively used in human-oriented leadership.

How to manage emotions in business

First, the moment we become aware of our emotions, name and accept them, they stop having a subconscious impact on our actions.

Second, realizing our emotions (especially the most difficult ones such as anger, fear, a sense of guilt or shame) can lead to powerful intuitive insights about the true nature of issues or our business relationships. That said, we don’t usually give credit to emotions in such situations, calling this phenomenon a ‘gut feeling’ or a ‘strategic insight.’

Third, and most importantly, whenever we share and discuss our emotions with others in a non-violent way, we:

  • Make a deeper contact with people and connect on a human level
  • Let go of the energy of our suppressed emotions
  • Are more likely to receive support, help, compassion and understanding
  • Create reciprocity – other people open up and share as well
  • Build more genuine relationships based on trust and understanding  

Therefore, whenever we become aware of our emotions and share them with others in a non-violent way, we can make more insightful, collective decisions.

These insightful decisions can lead, in turn, to more purposeful and collaborative action – something that most businesses desperately need these days after many decades of purely mind-oriented business strategies that more often than not, result in the emergence and purposeless execution of toxic corporate cultures.

Incorporating emotional insights in leadership

At the end of this conversation, we made another interesting observation: that there is no other way for the business world other than to acknowledge the importance of emotions and start openly discussing them in business situations.

This is because whenever we suppress our emotions and deny their existence, they powerfully influence our choices and actions anyway – only subconsciously. This means that emotions have always been present in business whether we like it or not.

So maybe these challenging times offer us a great opportunity to become more human and stop fooling ourselves that there is no place for emotions in business.

Maybe it is high time to acknowledge the important role of emotions in our lives and start using an awareness of them and their messages as the next powerful leadership tool?

Maciej Szturmowicz

Scaleup Founder, Coach, Facilitator