Last week, I talked about the importance of acknowledging emotion in your business. If you missed the article, go ahead and catch up on the argument now. You need to buy into the idea that emotions have value before we can take it to the next level.

While you’ve (hopefully) acknowledged that emotional responses indicate the need for a change in the way you’re running your practice or living your life, we haven’t yet addressed what to do with the emotions themselves? Now that you’re on the path of awareness, you will become increasingly more sensitive to when an emotional response arises. How do you handle it?

There are three main approaches to managing emotions:

1. Suppress it

I’ll be honest, this is how most accountants we work with choose, consciously or unconsciously, to deal with their emotions. Suppression is the lowest level of dealing with emotion, and it can show up in several different ways.

Let’s choose a real-world example: A client has called and chewed you out because he ended up owing on his tax return instead of getting the refund he expected. Because of your newfound awareness, you notice that this phone call makes you angry! You anticipated this outcome and even tried to suggest some potential solutions for your client, but he wasn’t willing to listen. So what do you do?

If you’re suppressing, your response would probably be to say nothing. You might apologize, hang up the phone, and try to forget about the whole situation. You would not allow yourself to actually experience the emotion of anger, instead of burying it underneath a big pile of work. 

It’s also common with suppression to try to talk yourself out of the feeling: It’s no big deal. I shouldn’t feel this way. This isn’t really getting to me. But it is getting to you, on a deep, subconscious level. You’re just choosing not to acknowledge it.

When you suppress your feelings, you ignore the warning signs that this situation is out of alignment with what you want in your practice. Your emotions stay stuck and continue to fester. You may even end up blaming yourself for being weak, distractible, or easily angered. 

I’m certainly not suggesting that when a client yells at you, you should yell back. That’s not good professional etiquette, although it would probably feel pretty nice every now and then. But having the urge to yell back is an important feeling that you shouldn’t ignore. If you were to yell back, for example, you’d be choosing to…

2. Express it

This is one level up from suppression. Expressing an emotion means you acknowledge it and let it out, although not necessarily in the most productive way. Expression gives you some level of emotional release, and it usually involves talking about the situation to another person. You might find yourself gossiping with your colleagues, venting to your spouse after work, or ranting on social media about all the incompetent idiots in the world…oops. 

If you’re thinking about your own Facebook feed right now, or the conversations you have with colleagues, it’s easy to see how expression can be dangerous and, ultimately, not that helpful. It’s very easy for expression to reinforce the problems, stories, and belief systems you have that keep causing negative emotions to show up. That’s right: negative emotions are a by-product of your own stories and beliefs. But when you are telling your spouse about your day, you aren’t looking for them to challenge your belief systems. You want them to support you and say you were right and your client was wrong. While that support is valuable in some circumstances, it doesn’t develop the mindset shifts that are necessary to help you grow. In order to fully resolve the emotion, you need to…

3. Release it

Releasing is the highest level of emotional response. It allows you to experience an emotion fully, learn any appropriate lessons from what that emotion is telling you, and then let it go and move on with your life.

If you were going to release the emotion surrounding the call with your client, the first thing you’d do is notice your emotional response. Next, you’d think about what that response might be telling you and the action you might need to take in order to resolve the situation in the future. Finally, you’d move through the emotion itself, allowing yourself to feel it and then choosing to release it without any lingering resentment. While you may not have any control over the tax laws or your clients’ actions, you may recognize that taking a few minutes to frame the conversation for next time might save you both a headache.

Here’s the truth: when you hold on to an emotion, the only person who suffers from that is…you. The client who yelled at you doesn’t experience the repercussions of holding on to your response (he’s clearly got some issues of his own to work out, but that’s another story). You are the one who has to live with the anger, anxiety, or fear.

Ironically, when you start to acknowledge and release your emotions, you start to find that you can make decisions that are more logical. If you are only suppressing or expressing your emotions, then they are still stuck inside of you, dictating the choices that you make. Once you release your emotions, they cease to have the power to drive your actions. Not only will you handle difficult situations more easily, you’ll start to find that you gain clarity around what your business needs in order to achieve greater success.

Would you like to learn more strategies for managing your emotions and your business in order to unleash your full potential? If so, click here to schedule a free one-on-one strategy call to learn how to take your business and your life to the next level.

Take Action:  Identify a situation in your business that causes an emotional response for you.

Welcome that experience in without trying to resolve it or adding any logic. Just feel the pure emotion and notice what comes up. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it serve me to feel this way, or would I like to be free of this emotion?
  • Is this the way I want to live and experience this situation?
  • If not, am I willing to let go of this emotion?
  • Is there a lesson I’ve learned, action I need to take, or decision I need to make that will free me from feeling this way again?