A reader writes:
Meryl – I have long been embarrassed about women showing emotion at work, but at the same time proud that we aren’t afraid to. I want to control emotions, and I’m not sure that will ever be possible for an authentic person. What do you think?
I agree – you can’t be authentic and control your emotions. But you can manage your emotions authentically. Emotional honesty doesn’t have to mean lying down on the couch and pouring your guts out. It can be simple things, like, “I’m trying something new and feeling a little foolish about stumbling.” “I’m stretching my comfort zone to do this differently, so I’m nervous about how it will come off.”
When I first committed to more emotional honesty, it came out pretty raw! Two reasons – I had no experience – didn’t have the skill. And I had a backlog of emotion, so a simple thing could stir a huge reaction. My voice would get stuck in my throat – I’d get choked up. Felt like I was five years old. Now I don’t tend to regress because I pretty much clear as I go. There are still occasions when I feel the need to control my emotions, but they’re rare – and I hate them! I like being able to flow in who I am.
It takes practice. I assure you, I haven’t always been perfectly poised when I practiced – but I did find low-stakes places where I could express emotion without being afraid of losing credibility. Phrases help a lot, too – they help you know how to communicate feeling without being too heavy.