You’re Emotional, Too

Are you emotional? If you are reading this you probably are. Are you *too* emotional? That depends. This statement infers that a judgment is being made. The person who would make that statement would be responding to an emoting person. I have been in situations where one person tells another that they are being “too emotional.” I have been in other situations where people have complained to me about others that they are “too emotional.” I have myself experienced the other side of this coin where someone said something that was hurtful and when I asked them about it later they said I was being “Too Sensitive.” Too Emotional? Too Sensitive? What is going on here?

Emotional reactions vary from person to person. Certainly there are positive emotions and negative emotional reactions. Most people welcome the positive and shun the negative, while a few of us prefer the negative emotions to the positive. Emotional reactions differ, too. To any given provocation, some of us may react with anger, some by going silent, some by objecting to whatever is being proposed, some by finding fault, some by reacting with a personal counter attack. Given the broad set of responses and tolerance to responses, it is easy to see how a situation can arise when the “Too Emotional” judgment is made.

Because of this wide variation, you have to look at the individuals involved when there is a mismatch between the person emoting and the person receiving the emotion. For instance, to a person who is uncomfortable with any negative emotional reaction, even the mildest display of negative emotion may illicit the “You’re Too Emotional” response. And, to a person accustomed to sparring with emotional jabs, any reaction to a jab will illicit the “You’re Too Sensitive” response. I know now that this was the case in my particular incident.

Here is the kicker for me. Earlier in my career I did a lot of engineering design work. Frankly, I found that emotions in the workplace were a distraction. Anything that pulled me out of my state of “flow” I considered bad. Since then I have had a change of heart. Reflecting on the more innovative and creative teams I have worked with, I notice that there is a high level of emotional provocation and response between team members. Those of us with grayer hair may look on that as emotional immaturity. Yet, it is this mix of emotional provocation and reaction that is one of the ingredients that constitutes fertile ground for fostering creative ideas and innovation.

There is one place in town where all the non-emotional people gather – the cemetery. For those of us who have not joined that crowd, we will continue to emote and be reacted to, and we will continue to react to others emotional provocations. It behooves us all to learn firstly how each of us responds emotionally, and how that response will affect others. Also, it helps to understand how others respond and how that affects us. Finally, we will want to acknowledge that there may be a good time and place for a high degree of emotional interaction in the workplace, when that helps spark creative and innovative thinking.

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2 thoughts on “You’re Emotional, Too”

  1. Loved reading your blog, Matt! After years of being told by people at work who have a preference for analytical thinking and low emotional engagement “You’re overreacting.” and “You’re taking this too personally.” I started saying “You’re under-reacting.” and “You’re taking this way too impersonally.” Come to find out that a great deal of corporate cultural change is enabled only when we acknowledge the emotional aspect of our work and our relationships with others. And with “employee engagement” being all the rage these days, I feel it’s finally clear that people who are emotionally committed to the work are more productive. Naturally people who their passion and commitment in different ways, and we all need to be careful not to judge “different” as “deficient”. Different is just different, unless you are part of a dominant group that decides what “should” be for everyone – – – in which case I don’t care to work in that environment. Nor do many highly talented people.

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