Dealing With Yourself: How to Beat Unproductive Emotions

Frustrations come with being a part of a startup team, it’s just one more piece of the game. May it be because you are working remotely and can’t seem to get together for a meeting, you’re left out of a project you feel should be involved in, or whatever else; from time to time, something is going to happen that is going to make your blood boil.

But here’s the thing. You can’t let it. If you let yourself get angry, if you lash out as either team leader or member of the group, it can do nothing but harm. You’ll alienate the others on your team, and you may even box yourself out of whatever you were trying to achieve in the first place. That meeting? Not happening. That project? You’re off it.

People may forgive your outburst, but why bother even taking that risk? Take control of those unproductive emotions, head them off before they become too much, and deal with yourself before others have to deal with you.

This is harder than it sounds. Emotions happen. Everyone deals with them and it’s not a bad thing in and of itself. What’s usually bad is the way people choose to deal with them, which is to say ‘unproductively’. Startups and the business around them are cutthroat. Unproductive emotions are a waste of valuable time and energy.


So what can you do about it? HBR shared their own take on this issue recently, and their first piece of advice was when you get angry, don’t engage. If you’re shutout of a meeting and it frustrates the hell out of you, don’t send an aggressive message, a passive aggressive message, or any message at all. Don’t communicate with anyone when you’re angry.  It almost never ends well.

Instead, take all that frustration and channel it into your work. If you think people aren’t seeing your work for what it’s worth, show them just how wrong they are. Do the best work you can. There’s nothing wrong with competitive energy as long as it’s being channeled into good work.

If there’s too much anger to even get that work done, take a break. Step outside, get some air, and reevaluate. Any move is better than engaging and trying to force an issue while emotions are getting in the way. There’s nothing quite so hard as effective communication, don’t try to muddy those waters further when you’re not in the best state of mind that you can be.

Sometimes it isn’t just anger that kills your productivity. There are a whole host of other emotions that can cause as much or more trouble for you. Anxiety is a big one and we’re not going to be able to tackle every piece of it here, but if you’re feeling worried about how your latest task is going to turn out, there are a few solid rules of thumb.

The first step is always to identify exactly what it is you’re so worried about. An exercise as simple as evaluating the problem and giving it some full thought might be enough to convince yourself that it’s not as big and scary as you initially thought. Humans are really good at blowing things out of proportion. Don’t buy into it. No one decision will be the end of the world for you. If you keep chugging, there will always be another opportunity around the corner.

While it’s true that if you’re feeling really stressed or anxious, you should take some time to yourself, a common mistake people make is getting too stuck in their own heads.

Often, dwelling on the source of your anxiety and isolating yourself just leads to a never-ending spiral of negative emotions. Look outside to deal with yourself. It can be just as simple as talking to your teammates. A good conversation can be all the medicine you need. Engage with your workplace, externalize all that pent up energy, and once you’re feeling better, get the work done.

Don’t let negative emotions rule you. If you can frame everything positively and find an outlet to channel all that energy, you’ll be more productive than ever.

— ZK

Ed Lynes13p5Comment