3.3.1 Constructive Emotional Expression

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3.3.1 Constructive Emotional Expression

If one of your tasks is to have team members be more direct and positive in their interactions with others, you need to provide them with the guidelines and tools that they need. Teach them and demonstrate to them how to express their emotions in constructive ways:

1. Talk it Out

As a leader, you should build and strengthen trust so that your team members can be open about their emotions with you and each other. However, make sure not to force them to share if they do not want to. Encourage your team members to listen to each other’s feelings without judging, and to keep sensitive information confidential.

2. Expressing Difficult Feelings

Instruct team members to be specific rather than general about how they feel. Using only one or two words to say how they feel is too vague. Ask to them specify the degree of the emotion that they feel to reduce the chances of being misunderstood. For example, if someone says that they are angry, this usually implies extreme anger, when, in fact, what they truly feel is only mild irritation.

If they have mixed feelings, ask them to express each feeling and explain what each feeling is about. For example:

‘I have mixed feelings about what you just did. I am thankful that you helped me, but I did not like the comment about being stupid. It was disrespectful, and I found it irritating.’

The statement above is also an example of the ‘I – statement.’ It is a helpful way to have the individual recognise and address their feelings and what caused it, without unnecessarily assigning blame to others. It allows your team members to respectfully confront someone without attacking their self-esteem. It clarifies what they feel and minimises the other person’s need to become defensive.
However, note that they should avoid doing the following:

3. Write it Down

Again, it is helpful to keep a journal to vent feelings in written form. Encourage your team members to keep a private log of their thoughts and emotions so that they can review this journal any time they wish and analyse if there are any patterns. Artwork, creative writing and songs are also healthy outlets for them to utilise. 

4. Discharge Sadness

When sadness is withheld, it can cause a heavy load on both mind and body. If you and your team members are comfortable enough to share more sensitive details with each other, you can ask the following:

You can also encourage team members suffering from depression to receive play therapy, which gives them an outlet to express their feelings through symbolic play. Writing and telling stories is also a useful therapeutic tool which can facilitate their emotions in an indirect and subtle manner.

5. Discharge Anger

Anger is the most common emotion that leads to anxiety. Anger ranges from mild irritation to extreme rage and withheld anger can cause a person to be prone to anxiety and show increasingly aggressive behaviour. More detailed information about managing anger will be discussed in the next section.