Years ago, I made the following assertion that really pissed off many of my peers.
I asserted that stress is merely another name for fear.
In the world of Ivy League schools and elite consulting firms, it was perfectly acceptable to admit you were feeling stressed, but very taboo to admit you’re scared.
Yet when you really think about it, they are actually the exact same thing.
Are you feeling stressed about a video presentation you’re about to give?
Most likely, you’re “afraid” of the consequences of a poor performance.
Back when air travel was still practical, if you were running late for a flight, you may have felt “stressed out” about catching the flight.
Because you were “afraid” of being late to your sister’s wedding and “afraid” of disappointing her.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with feeling fear (ahem… I mean “stress”).
Emotions are an essential part of being human.
They can be incredibly useful in helping you make better decisions.
As such, it’s perfectly fine to feel scared.
What’s problematic, however, is when you’re feeling scared but don’t realize it.
If you’re feeling scared about your finances but don’t realize you’re feeling scared, you’re far more likely to use harsh words with your spouse — channeling that unrecognized emotional energy on to him or her.
If you’re feeling scared about losing your job but don’t recognize that you’re feeling that fear, you’re more likely to be a demanding bosshole with your staff and prompt the employees whom you want to keep to consider looking for work elsewhere.
If you’re feeling scared about being laid off but don’t recognize that you’re scared, you’re more likely to be paralyzed by unrecognized fear, deliver poor quality work, and provide your boss with a legitimate reason to fire you.
The key to managing fear (and I use the word “managing” loosely) is to acknowledge it.
Fear left unacknowledged accumulates.
Accumulated fear left unacknowledged must be expressed somehow… and often, it gets expressed by prompting you to do really stupid things that you’ll regret later.
The first law of emotional thermodynamics states that emotional energy cannot be created nor destroyed. It can only be transformed from one form to another.
The only question is: Do you want to be in charge of where and how you channel your fears, or do you want your fears to get the best of you and decide for themselves how they will be expressed?
In times of crisis when emotions run very high, it’s important to have high emotional self-awareness and emotional self-management. These are the building blocks of something known as emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence begins with recognizing your own feelings and incorporating that information into your decision-making process.
Emotional intelligence continues by recognizing other people’s feelings, giving you insight on how to interact with them to further both their goals and yours.
If you want to improve your emotional intelligence to benefit your relationships, I invite you to join the notification list for my program How to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to Advance Your Career. It will be released for a short time in May. To be notified when it’s available, submit the form below.
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