This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Dare to Lead" by Brené Brown. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What is the danger in suppressing your emotions? How do you know you are bottling up your feelings?
Suppressing your emotions will cause them to manifest in ways that are not aligned with who you are. Your bottled-up feelings will make you manifest behaviors that are contradictory to your values. You will know you have suppressed feelings when you start avoiding engagement with others or start replacing hurt with anger.
Read on to learn more about the dangers of suppressing your emotions.
The Danger of Suppressing Your Emotions
If you are suppressing your emotions, you risk having them manifest in ways that are not aligned with who you are. There are six common signs that you are suppressing your emotions; 1) blowing up, 2) replacing hurt with anger, 3) numbing, 4) bottling up, 5) over-positivity, and 6) refusal to engage.
- Blowing up: Instead of engaging with negative emotions, you keep them bottled up. They build up pressure until a failure triggers you to completely blow up. This destroys the trust of those around you, who are left wondering if you’ll take out the next failure on them, or if you can be trusted with risky ideas.
- Replacing hurt with anger: Because it’s much easier to acknowledge external anger than internal hurt, you react to failure with anger, blame, and excuses aimed at those around you.
- Numbing: You let your negative emotions drive you to anything that soothes or lets you forget them, such as food, alcohol, or gambling. This is dangerous not only because it can lead to addiction, but also because you can’t choose which emotions you numb—you’ll end up numbing all of them, even the positive ones.
- Bottling up: Instead of engaging with your negative emotions, you push them down and let them amass. While this might work in the short term, in the long term this will manifest as anxiety and depression, physical pain, breakdowns, or insomnia.
- Over-positivity: You are suppressing your emotions by putting on a show of positivity: “I feel great, everything is fine!” This chips away at trust—if you’re “never” angry, upset, or sad, your team members don’t feel that you’re sincere, and they fear that the cheery façade will blow off at any moment.
- Refusal to engage: You are suppressing your emotions by refusing to engage emotionally with others, fearing that you will get “stuck.” Once you engage, you can’t go back and pretend your feelings don’t matter, but you can’t move forward because it might open a bigger mess of emotions. Instead of giving you control, this thinking makes you feel powerless.
Beyond helping you avoid emotional mishandling or a knee-jerk reaction to failure, this moment of sitting with your emotions allows you to create calm, a natural remedy to the anxiety that comes with failure. Getting a handle on this anxiety in the workplace is especially important because unmitigated anxiety is contagious and quickly becomes the driving force behind your team’s behaviors. It usually shows up among team members as overperformance or underperformance. Overperformers micromanage, take over, and get too involved in others’ business, making others anxious about the quality of their own work. On the other hand, underperformers shut down or ask others to take over, adding to others’ workloads and creating anxiety about their abilities.
Brave leaders demonstrate how to slow down emotions and channel it into spreading calm instead of anxiety in stressful moments. Take time to reflect and ask questions, or purposely speak slowly and calmly during emotionally-charged conversations. Once calm has been created, you can successfully move onto the next step of failure resilience—unraveling the story you’ve created about your failure.
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- A breakdown of the four courage-building skills that make up brave leadership
- The three reasons why most people avoid vulnerability
- How to recover and move on quickly from failure