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Emotions and Entrepreneurship: How your ability to process difficult emotions can help you succeed in business

As humans, we are emotional creatures. Just because you’ve got your business hat on, that fact doesn’t go away. You might be thinking…but aren’t emotions, well…unprofessional? Nope! In fact, ignoring or suppressing your emotions can sabotage your business. The key is learning how to process them in a healthy way. A growing number of entrepreneurs and leaders are talking about the importance of emotional intelligence and how our ability to process difficult emotions can help you succeed in business. Here’s how.

Difficult Emotions in Business

In business, difficult emotions can arise as a result of all kinds of situations. Business is all about relationships…and that means people! Here are a few common situations that you may encounter as an entrepreneur that can trigger difficult emotions.

  • You lose a client
  • You need to let go of a client
  • A bad review or client complaint
  • A team member quits
  • You need to let go of a team member
  • A disagreement or argument with a team member or a client
  • Lack of communication or miscommunication

When confronted with any one of these challenging situations, our first reaction as humans is likely to be emotional. We might feel anger, fear, frustration, self-doubt, or sadness. I know I have! But the good news is, we can pause. We don’t have to let our emotions run the show. We can respond, rather than react, by using tools.

Mindfulness and Processing Emotions

One of the greatest tools in processing difficult emotions is mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply the act of focusing a gentle awareness on our thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness is not judgemental. It is curious. What would it be like to approach your emotions with curiosity?

Thankfully, there are some amazing tools out there to help you. Dr. Traci Parker developed a six-step guide for processing difficult emotions based on mindfulness. Here is her process:

If six steps feels too complicated, Omar Itani outlines a simple three step process in his article How to Process Difficult Emotions. They are:

  1. Validate it.

“How infuriating is it when you tell someone that you’re feeling down, sad, or angry but they totally deny and downplay what you say? You feel invalidated, don’t you? Well, it’s the same with your emotions. Validate your emotions by identifying them and fully expressing them.”

 Can I just say…I love this perspective!

  1. Sit with it and fully feel it.
  2. Process it and seek the lesson from it.

Emotions aren’t good or bad. They are an opportunity to learn about ourselves, grow, and heal. Whatever emotion that we resist or suppress today, will resurface at a later time. Processing your difficult emotions as they come up helps keep you spiritually light. You’re not carrying around all kinds of emotional baggage. That stuff is heavy!

Understanding and Regulating Emotions

Ok, now we are going to nerd out on a little science real quick. You know how I love neuroscience! It all starts with the amygdala, that pesky, prehistoric lizard part of your brain. It’s this part of your brain that reacts to a threatening external stimulus, entirely bypassing your frontal cortex (reasoning and planning) to save your life. Think fight or flight mode.

The problem is, depending on your past traumas and experiences, your amygdala might interpret losing a client, or a bad review with RED ALERT: a saber tooth tiger is about to eat you! Things can feel bigger and scarier than they actually are.

The kicker is, this emotional and nervous system response only actually lasts for 90 seconds. Wait. What?! According to Harvard neuroscientist Dr Jill Bolte Taylor, when we’re triggered by a threatening external stimulus, “there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.”

So, you have a choice. You can get hijacked all day by our lizard brain, or not. It’s science, baby. The next time you feel very triggered by something in your business, try pausing and remembering your lizard brain.

The Four Agreements

Another more spiritual perspective that has been incredibly helpful for me in dealing with difficult emotions is the book The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Agreement #2 “Don’t Take Anything Personally”

“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally. Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.”

 Agreement #3 “Don’t Make Assumptions”

“If others tell us something we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don’t understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.”

 Following these two agreements (and I know it’s easier said than done) – has the power to completely change your business. It allows you to build authentic and honest relationships with your clients based on communication. It’s revolutionary!

For instance, let’s say that you have a business contact that you regularly refer business to, but they never reciprocate. You might feel frustrated, or maybe like they don’t care, or don’t think you’re good at what you do. But if you don’t ask them, you’ll never understand why and gain the opportunity to receive referrals from them. It could be that they simply don’t know you are looking for more clients, or don’t understand your products or services, or yada yada yada…you’ll never know unless you ask.

How many opportunities have you missed because you didn’t ask? I know I have missed out in the past.

The Emotionally Empowered Entrepreneur

With these tools and information, you have the choice to respond, rather than react emotionally to any situation that arises in your business. This is power! This is professional. This allows you to be more compassionate toward yourself and others. It allows you to show up more authentically in your business and be more discerning and intentional about the decisions you make. This enables you to build a business you truly love with longevity. Now that is an empowering place for an entrepreneur to be!

Do you need support in processing difficult emotions in your business? This is something I help my coaching clients with. Book a complimentary business strategy session with me to learn more.

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