Emotions in the Workplace – Do you let your emotions run your meetings?

Managing your emotions for better meetings

When all parties leave the meeting room or negotiation table feeling as winners, you did a good job. Managing your emotions in the workplace, in meetings, and negotiations is an important prerequisite for successful meetings. If you can control your emotions, it will be easier for you to lead the negotiation or discussion to the desired goal.

Managing your emotions in the workplace is the secret to running successful meetings. Strong emotions like, for instance, anger can derail your negotiation.

Neither aggressiveness nor defensiveness has a place in business meetings. Not only will they endanger the success and produce suboptimal results, it’s also likely that people get hurt.

Then again, meeting rooms are the very place where we discuss a lot of emotionally charging topics. Whether it’s a contract that decides the fate of your company, an external consultant who explains that you’ve been doing it all wrong, or just a boring meeting.

Either way: A meeting room is not the place for an emotional outburst or meltdown.

Managing emotions in the workplace is our nature

While we all have the skill of controlling our emotions, not everyone is superb at it. A negative experience in the past or a lack of training can be the reason for that.

Luckily, this ability can be learned.

Emotional intelligence matters in negotiations and meetings. How so?

  • Self-awareness: Knowing about your triggers, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Balance and tranquility: Knowing your emotions and what stresses you.
  • Resilience: The ability to handle difficult situations and pressure.
  • Self-motivation: Recognizing incentives that motivate you to give your best.
  • Empathy: The ability to understand the emotions and motives of others.
  • Active listening: Listening with the intent and ability to understand what others think and what’s on their agenda.
  • Social competence: People with a high EQ are better team players and communicators.

How to control emotions in the workplace

Proper preparation

Often you know as soon as you see the meeting agenda that an emotionally charged topic will be discussed. Let’s say your team didn’t reach their goal, and they will grill you for it. You feel under a lot of pressure because you know if you are not giving it your all, the result of the meeting might be that you have to lay people off.

Or perhaps you are negotiating a contract that is crucial to the survival of your small business. Desperation and fear might get the better of you. And that’s understandable.

Try to anticipate which topics on the agenda might be emotional and create a contingency plan for keeping your cool.

Emotional outbursts are less likely if a meeting is tightly structured. Prepare your talking points upfront. You can also write notes with facts and information. These notes will help you refocus, and you can use them for a “timeout.”

The power of empathy

By developing the ability to understand what someone else is feeling and trying to achieve, you will be calmer when they have an emotional outburst or criticize you.

Try to see the situation from their perspective, and you will understand why they react the way they do. This knowledge will also help you turn the meeting in your favor.

Understanding someone gives you all the clues you need to influence them and defuse the situation. Letting them know you understand and emphasize can also calm the emotional person down.

Being present

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for controlling emotions in the workplace and in meetings. Don’t think about how horrible the outcome of the last meeting was, or how bad the implications would be if you don’t reach an agreement.

Successful negotiation takes time and effort from both sides and the will to understand the needs of the other party. Don’t lose track of your agenda — but while you listen to your conversation partner: Just listen!

Don’t plan what you will say next, don’t assume in the middle of the sentence you know what he is about to say.

Not only the spoken words: Facial expression, body language, the tone of voice (particularly if the tone changes or is not in sync with the spoken words) provide a lot of information too. Often more.

Take a timeout

It might not always be possible to leave the meeting room, but there are alternatives: A superb strategy for dealing with strong emotions at the workplace and during meetings is to just take a break and cool down.

The business meeting version of that could be that you nibble on a chocolate cookie and explore it with all of your senses. More common is to take a few deep breaths and count down to 10.

Perhaps another trick will work for you. Personally, it has never calmed me down the slightest bit to count to 10. I find it rather aggravating. What works best for me is to look away for a few seconds and focus on something beautiful. You find something beautiful wherever you are. Even in the dullest meeting room.

Another trick that works perfectly for me is to think about the book The Little Prince. The scene where he met the king who thought he is so important helps me to put things back in perspective.

If you fail to control your emotions

No matter how high your EQ is: Occasional slips happen to all of us. The best thing you can do is to apologize as soon as you notice it. A simple apology can defuse many tense situations.

Not only does it reduce the danger of ending up in a deadlock situation, it also makes the other person feel better. Perhaps your apology is all they needed to hear at that moment.

You can also apologize if another person had an emotional meltdown or outburst. After all, had you been more empathetic, the situation might not have occurred.

Keeping your desperation in check

Impatience and desperation are other examples of emotions you should control in business meetings.

It is not about being cold or having a poker face, but about making conscious intellectual decisions. Desperation could lead to concessions you will later regret. Your conversation partner might try to take advantage of you if he senses your desperation.

Taking notes

Taking notes is another efficient method that enables you to stay in control of your emotions. It helps you to intellectualize things and is yet another way to take a short timeout.

Just make sure you don’t scribble forms or something like this. Not only can those be telling and reveal your true emotions, it also gives your conversation partners the feeling you don’t focus on the conversation.

Last words

It’s more difficult to control emotions in the workplace and in meetings when someone gets defensive. Even if someone clearly did something wrong, don’t blame them during the meeting.

If something cannot be solved in an hour, it is either a topic for over one meeting or people are repeating themselves. — Hendrik Meier-Lüderssen (former boss of mine)

If the negotiation spreads over several days or even weeks, it’s important to take yourself back from time to time and reflect where you are at. This should be done together with your negotiation or conversation partners. I’ve not been to many meetings where people didn’t go in circles.

Wer schreibt der bleibt (who writes is who stays)

…is ancient German wisdom that has helped me during my times in the Corporate world.

A written summary after every meeting that reflects your understanding of what has been said and the points you agreed on is of advantage for all parties involved.

If nobody has objections, it helps to advance the process and stop running in circles. If someone has objections or disagrees with your summary, it leads you to understand which problems you have to tackle, and you can prepare for that.

By being perceived as a likable and reasonable conversation partner, you will have an easier time to achieve your desired results in meetings and negotiations.

Use these tips to control your emotions in the workplace!

You might also find the essay of Science Direct of interest, The cognitive control of emotion