Emotions are produced by underlying thought processes. If you understand these processes, you have taken the first step towards changing your emotions.
The emotional reaction process
Your emotions aren’t actually caused by events. Imagine that you’re upset with your manager, Susan, because she gave you a mediocre performance review. Your emotional reaction is determined by the following process:
The event takes place – First, the event has to occur. Susan gives you your performance review, and you receive a lower rating than you’d been hoping for.
You interpret the event – “This is not the performance rating I was hoping for. This is a lower rating than I wanted.” At this point, you haven’t yet had an emotional reaction; you’re making a logical assessment of the facts.
You decide how you should react – Based on your interpretation, “This performance rating is too low,” you will now decide on the appropriate reaction, which could range from fear to anger. Subconsciously, you decide that anger is the appropriate emotion for this event.
The emotion is produced – You now produce the emotion of anger and begin to feel the symptoms. The entire process takes place quickly and subconsciously. Susan didn’t make you angry – you’ve interpreted the event and decided the appropriate emotional reaction is anger.
Four main emotions
Every emotion plays a role. Each of these mental states exists for a reason and brings benefits and disadvantages. The four main emotions are:
Sadness – This helps you step back from a situation and find a way to cope. It provides mourning time and an opportunity to reflect. When you’re sad, you’re more likely to re-evaluate your actions and priorities and think about the changes you need to make.
On the other hand, when you’re sad, you can become paralyzed. You can feel so bad that you’re unable to take action and change bad situations. Sadness can affect you physically and increase the likelihood of illness.
Anger – This comes from the feeling that someone is wrong or bad and should be punished. Anger helps you “attack.” It protects your self-esteem. It reinforces your beliefs and helps motivate you toward decisions.
On the downside, your anger alienates you from others. It is physically stressful. It makes you prejudiced and blind to your own faults. Anger serves a purpose, but can be very destructive to your relationships.
Happiness – This is a good feeling. It makes you want to get involved with others. You’re ready to try new things and explore challenges. Others want to be around you when you’re happy. When you are happy, you’re much less cautious.
You may not plan or take appropriate precautions. Often, when you’re happy, you feel like you can conquer the world. This can lead to unrealistic expectations, which ultimately lead to disappointment.
Fear – Fear produces the “fight or flight” urge. It can be very motivating. It makes you aware of the threats you face and helps you prepare yourself and take precautions.
Fear is instigated by uncertainty. Fear can generate a great deal of tension. It’s difficult to concentrate and be creative when you’re afraid. It creates stress. Fear is a problem when it’s unrealistic. It prevents you from concentrating on important issues.
Changing your emotions
The first step you can take toward changing your emotional reactions is recognizing how you react. By understanding your reaction, you’ll begin to distinguish between the event and your emotions. You’ll realize that other people don’t cause your feelings. The reaction comes from the underlying thought process.
For example, if a colleague deletes an important file, you may become angry. But if you examine your thought process, you may realize that you only became angry because you thought your colleague had acted deliberately – but it may have been an accident, in which case anger was not an appropriate reaction.
Feelings aren’t directly caused by events. You go through a thought process that interprets events and identifies a corresponding reaction. Your understanding of this thought process is the first step toward changing your emotional behavior.
While you’re developing your constructive thinking skills, you may face challenges at work. Therefore, you need to know how to maintain a problem-solving focus, why being a flexible thinker is important, and how you can apply constructive thinking on the job.
Maintaining problem-solving focus
Try to keep a positive attitude about the challenges you face. Once you identify problem-solving steps and start moving forward, you’ll realize that the challenges start becoming less overwhelming, and you’ll be more productive.
Don’t let side issues like office gossip and politics distract you. They will only frustrate you and hinder your performance. You shouldn’t worry about your image or what other people think – focus on your tasks and everything else will fall into place.
In addition, you should try to form relationships that bring out the best in your co-workers and customers. When you encounter a problem, focus on solving the issue rather than demeaning the other person. Build people up; don’t tear them down. If you respect other people, they’ll become allies.
Being a flexible thinker
If your behavior isn’t working, change it. It’s always best to be flexible. If you can’t get along with a customer, change your style a little. If it’s taking too long to finish a task, try changing the way you do it. Adapt to the situation instead of trying to make the situation fit. It will make your life easier. People with rigid thinking only find success in a limited array of interactions.
Applying constructive thinking
High rates of illness and absenteeism suggest that there are problems in the working environment. To build positive attitudes, a manager must clearly communicate performance expectations and criteria. Workers can’t take a positive, proactive approach to work without knowing what their targets are. When they know goals, they can get started in the right direction.
It can be a challenge to apply constructive thinking on the job. You’ll have to avoid being distracted by side issues such as office gossip or your image and focus on the task. Constructive thinking is a positive, action-oriented approach. You’ll find that this approach helps you move forward instead of fall behind.