Accountants are logical beings by nature: they spend all day working with numbers, after all. Numbers are quantifiable and measurable, factual and honest. I don’t meet too many accountants who love talking about their feelings.
Being logical certainly has its benefits. It allows you to keep your cool when dealing with a difficult client. It helps you make reasonable, rational choices about how to run your business. And it helps you put your head down and get your work down in just about any situation.
But what if I told you that even the most logical accountant in the profession is still being run by their emotions?
Are You Being Run By Your Emotions?
Think about your own practice for a moment. I guarantee that in the course of a normal day, there is an action or event that triggers an emotional response in you—probably several, in fact. You might have a flash of anger, a moment of insecurity, or an instant of panic, and then it (seemingly) passes. Common events that trigger emotional responses include dealing with difficult clients, conversations about selling and pricing, managing or resolving conflicts with staff, or even reviewing your practice’s financials.
If you’re having trouble identifying your own emotional responses, try noticing the physical responses you have throughout the day instead. Emotions manifest in both the brain and the body, and if you are chronically disconnected from your feelings, it may be easier to begin by noticing the physical sensations first. You might hear your difficult client is on the line and feel your stomach twist into a knot. Or you may notice a tightness across your chest before you begin your sales pitch to a prospective client.
You may still find it challenging to recognize these flashes of emotion from memory. In that case, go through your day as normal, and in the back of your mind, be on the lookout for emotional responses. You’ll find it much easier to notice them now.
What Does This Have To Do With My Accounting Practice?
At this point, you’ve acknowledged or are well on your way to identifying your own emotional responses. And you might be thinking, “So I’ve got emotions. What does this have to do with my accounting practice?” The answer is: everything. Engaging with your emotions can actually make you a better business owner.
Here’s the thing: without getting too deep into the science, emotions give us a vast amount of information about our circumstances. If you respond to your circumstances with positive emotion, you can safely assume things are going pretty well. On the other hand, if your circumstances bring about negative emotions, that’s a clear sign that something about the current situation isn’t quite right.
In other words, your emotions can tell you if you’re acting in alignment with what gives you purpose, joy, and fulfillment—or not. Emotional responses are guideposts that are trying to capture your attention to problem areas in your business and your life. They’re a sign that something is off or not working.
Emotions can give you valuable information, but you have to be willing to listen to and acknowledge them first.
What should you do with that information? I’d suggest you use it to make a difference, and hopefully, a better choice. Instead of living with that feeling of dread every time your client is on the line, recognize that this relationship needs to change and fix it. That might mean having a conversation with the client to set some boundaries, or it could mean letting go of that client altogether. Those actions are not necessarily easy, but once you understand the impact this relationship is having on your life, they are easier to take.
It is possible, of course, to notice your emotional responses and decide to do nothing (although the more you become aware of your emotions, the harder they are to ignore). But ultimately, pushing your emotions aside can have adverse long-term effects. You will carry on in a practice where you may feel undervalued, unappreciated, or misunderstood. The stress and anxiety of these responses can also be detrimental to your physical and mental health: stress is linked to many chronic diseases and disorders. Responding to your emotions may not be second nature or come easily—but in the end, it’s really the most logical choice you can make.
Take Action: Document what situations trigger your emotions and how the responses manifest physically in your body. Then, pick one event or circumstance that gives you a negative emotional response and do something to change the situation.