Emotion and emotional expression are crucial in our daily lives. Emotions, according to evolutionary psychologists, serve a primal function in assisting us in navigating and adapting to our ever-changing environment. Emotions influence our attitudes, moods, and behaviours, and in many cases, they can effect and even determine our success.

According to researchers, there are at least six universal emotions: fear, disgust, anger, sadness, surprise, and happiness. Positive emotions have been extensively researched and demonstrated to promote inner strength and resiliency.

Positive emotions are thought to be ideal for effective brainstorming in the workplace because they help workers generate new ideas. Furthermore, positive emotions strengthen social bonds by assisting us in developing relationships with others.

There is no doubt that positivity has power. Some researchers, however, argue that other emotions are just as important and should be carefully considered when attempting to achieve specific outcomes. Dr. David Caruso of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence shares his insight into how a narrow focus on positive emotions can limit our ability to authentically connect with others in his book The Emotionally Intelligent Manager. Fear, sadness, or frustration, according to emotion theorists, serve a functional purpose: they convey specific needs that stimulate corrective action. While some may try to ignore these so-called “negative emotions,” people with high emotional intelligence understand that all emotions contain important information, which they can use to their advantage.

Emotional intelligence is defined as a person’s ability to recognise, comprehend, and manage emotions. People with high emotional intelligence can effectively integrate their emotions and reasoning to achieve desired results. Indeed, research has consistently found positive associations between emotional intelligence and workplace performance, making it a highly sought-after skill in the workplace.

Emotionally intelligent people quickly learn to identify negative emotions and use them to their advantage. Here today, I’m sharing 9 different ways to use negative emotions to your advantage.

Have Greater Self-Awareness:

Negative emotions protect us by alerting us to potential threats and indicating when it is time to change what we are doing or thinking. Because negative emotions are usually more intensely felt, they often require special attention. Emotionally intelligent people use what they learn from their negative emotional experiences to increase their self-awareness. This enables them to more accurately identify how they are feeling in future situations and strategically assess whether those emotions will best serve them in that situation.
Self-awareness is an important component of success because it improves our judgment and allows us to identify opportunities for professional and personal growth. Indeed, many psychologists believe that the most self-aware go on to be better leaders.

Pay Greater Attention to Detail:

According to researchers, if you need to review a document for errors, cultivating a slightly negative mood may be beneficial. Negative emotions have been found to be beneficial when performing tasks that necessitate greater attention to detail. Sadness promotes slower, more systematic cognitive processing. As a result, when people are sad, they rely less on quick conclusions and pay more attention to subtle details that may be important. Negative emotions are useful for alerting us when situations are novel or difficult, and when more focus is required to produce an effective response.

Take Responsibility for How you Feel:

This teaches you that only you can save yourself. The reality is that many people “think” they know this, but continue to complain about people and circumstances and all the reasons why everything else but them caused their emotions. The truth is that you react to your surroundings; your surroundings do not necessarily create your emotional state. Accept responsibility for your emotions and, as a result, take the first step toward truly owning, using, and appreciating them.

What You Want Most Is On The Other Side Of What You’re Afraid Of — Focus On That Instead:

Allow your emotions to teach you one of the more important things about yourself: what you truly desire. Failure is not feeling bad; it is failing to recognise when you are not on track toward your goals. When you examine your emotions from the inside out, you will notice that at their core is most likely love in some form. If nothing else, know that negative emotions pass, but only when you recognise the cue they’re trying to give you — not that the world is a mess and your life is terrible and all hell is about to break loose, but that the love you desire is being blocked by the life you fear. Pay attention to it. Take something away from it. Take appropriate action.

Solve Problems:

Anxiety is a useful emotion to have when quick solutions to complex problems are required. Anxiety and fear activate the fight-or-flight response in the body, which can aid in problem-solving mechanisms. The fight-or-flight response allows the body to metabolise a large amount of energy in a short period of time. This helps the body prepare to react quickly in potentially dangerous or uncomfortable situations. Anger can also help you solve problems because it has been linked to better performance in negotiations, especially when they are confrontational. Be careful with anger, it creates a filter on reality that can be problematic and inaccurate, but harness it when you need it – many athletes find that anger helps them mobilise strength and endurance when they need it, for example.

Don’t Stuff your Feelings:

Work may not always be the best place to express your deepest feelings. Your coworkers and clients can probably do without you blowing up or crying on the job. But that doesn’t mean stuffing your feelings down is always a good idea. In fact, ignoring the emotional consequences of a workplace conflict or problem is likely to have the opposite effect.

For one thing, unspoken stress can have a variety of negative effects on your mental and physical health. And these effects are bound to interfere with your ability to think clearly and work effectively over time. Furthermore, you may believe that suppressing your emotions is beneficial to your work. Avoiding negative emotions, on the other hand, is a waste of time. You’re still expending mental energy, albeit in a negative manner.

Instead of working against yourself and your entrepreneurial mission, channel that negative energy into something productive.

“We can find the motivation to discover and maximize our positives when we are most in touch with the negatives — and most distressed by them,” writes psychologist and performance coach Brett Steenbarger. “In fact, if we do not use our most negative emotional experiences for positive transformation, all we will have is pain.”

Find the Lesson:

I came across a negative review of one of my book’s a number of years ago. I normally take feedback really well, but I was already tired and irritable that day. To say the review made me feel embarrassed and angry is an understatement.

I carried my rage with me for the rest of the day. How could anyone criticise my efforts? What if potential customers came across that?

I’ll never forget how my coach at the time reacted when I shared the review with him. Instead of adding to my annoyance or acknowledging how harsh the review was, he simply asked, “What can we learn?” I now apply this lesson almost every time emotions interfere with my work. Good supervision, mentorship and reflective practice enables us to do this even more effectively.

So, what are your emotions trying to teach you? Rather than getting stuck in that negative energy, try to use it to gain insight. Pose questions to yourself such as, “What positive steps can I take from this experience?” or “How can I use this feeling to grow?”

Desiring what another person has, for example, can motivate you to improve yourself. If you’re disappointed when you don’t achieve the outcomes you require, figure out why and use that knowledge to boost your own success. Keep in mind that your emotions reveal your desires. And, if you extract the core message from the negative ones, they don’t have to be impediments to your personal or business growth.

Apply Your Energy Elsewhere:

That same afternoon, my coach and I dissected every criticism we could find, and used it all to improve the next edition of my book, my training of that topic and the user experience for my future readers and clients in any way we could.

I’d be lying if I said the anger went away immediately, but it certainly did as I shifted my focus to something more productive.

Lessons are meaningless if they are not put into practice. So, once you’ve identified the lesson you’ve learned, channel your initial dissatisfaction into higher levels of determination and productivity. Negative emotions are especially effective in stimulating creativity. Researchers studied the habits of 100 creative professionals in 2012 by having them rate their emotions at the beginning and end of each day. Those who started their days with negative emotions but ended them with positive feelings had the most creative output.

Why? These people chose to direct their negative energy toward a creative project or task. Applying negative feelings to positive growth may not feel natural at first, but you’ll be glad you didn’t waste an opportunity to learn and grow.

Don’t be So Hard on Yourself:

A positive mindset is essential for turning negativity into positivity. As you investigate what lies beneath the emotion and how to capitalise on it, try to replace unnecessary self-criticism with opportunism.

For example, suppose you frequently miss meetings or fall behind on projects. Rather than succumbing to thoughts that tell you how foolish or irresponsible you are, try to coach yourself through the feelings that arise. Rather than sabotaging you by focusing on your failures, a positive self-coach would look for opportunities to move forward with messages like “I need to improve my ability to say ‘no’ to projects that don’t fit with my mission so I don’t become overburdened.” Why is this upbeat approach so beneficial? According to CEO and leadership development expert Dane Jensen, “the self-coach responds with a list of actions” rather than a destructive list of all the ways you’ve screwed up.

Failures in your career do not have to define you. You can stay motivated even when things get tough if you give your self-coach a front-row seat during demoralising moments. A positive attitude will not come naturally at first, but you and your business will benefit in the long run.

Be Compassionate:

Compassion for oneself is the first step toward healing. Compassion implies comprehension. It entails getting down to earth with yourself and being completely present. We are taught to give to others but are rarely inspired to give to ourselves.

`Read this great article for more on this topic: How to Develop Self-Compassion.

Let your Emotions help you develop Empathy:

If the worst happens and there is no healing, truth-finding, or taking responsibility that you feel you can bear, feel your emotion completely, and then let it help you grow your sympathetic abilities. The more familiar you are with the human condition, the more sensitive and understanding you can be of those around you.

Additionally, read this article for more on this topic: 8 Scientific Ways To Increase Your Empathy.

Final Word:

Emotions are often divided into two parts: affective (feeling) and cognitive (thinking). The affective component refers to our immediate reaction to things, people, and events. The cognitive component refers to our assessment of those feelings, or what we think about them. While we have no control over the former, we do have a significant impact on the latter. Reframing our feelings about negative emotions by focusing on their positive qualities not only helps us feel better about them, but it can also help us manage them more effectively. Based on what you’ve just learned, here are three steps to help you practice acceptance and healthy management of negative emotions as they arise (and we all know they will).

  1. Recognise negative emotions and remember that they serve an important, adaptive function.
  2. Consider how you might be able to channel your negative emotions in ways that will benefit you (e.g. focus on a task that requires high vigilance or think through an important decision).
  3. Keep in mind that feeling down can make you appreciate positive moments even more. And how we evaluate our negative emotions is critical in moving us toward a more positive state.


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