Good managers, it is often said, must keep their emotions out of any situation. But research shows that suppressing your negative emotions is likely to make things worse rather than better. When we try to suppress our emotions the amygdala, which is the brain’s emotional centre, is actually stimulated. So rather than suppressing our negative emotions we should learn to positively manage them.
Many managers find it particularly hard to remain emotionally distant in situations where they have to address the poor performance of one of their team members. These difficult conversations can be particularly emotionally fraught.
Learning how to reappraise why the difficult conversation needs to happen and why it needs to go well is the first step in managing your emotions. Let us take our example of addressing the under performer in our team. Giving this person critical feedback on their inadequate performance may seem cruel, but it is even crueler to leave them in the dark about their poor performance until the point at which it becomes impossible to for you to ignore it.
If after reappraising the "why" of the difficult situation you still find it hard tackle it, try using one of the techniques of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). In this technique you learn to recognise your current emotional state and turn this round so you can tap into a mental and physical state that will support you in having the difficult conversation. To do this, when faced with having a difficult conversation take a few seconds to think about the state of mind which will serve you best in having this discussion. Then think back and remember a time when you were fully in that state and re-live it in your head. By visualising the positive sate of mind that was previously effective you will find it easier to manage your current negative emotions.
Managing your emotions when managing difficult people and situations takes practice so we recommend that you practice using this technique in everyday situations, not just in the conversations with people or in situations you know are likely to be difficult for you to handle and which you have been dreading.