I am sharing this personal story today because I am sure I am not the only one who does this to themselves, and ends up feeling angry and upset, even though it was my actions that triggered these negative emotions!
How a good thing can leave us feeling bad
Today I had the opportunity to go to a meeting. I knew I wasn’t essential to the meeting, and that I already had a lot of work to do, so I declined. I thought I had made a good decision, because it was an opportunity for others to bond at the meeting and strengthen their relationships without me being a part of it.
Initially, all was good. But…my brain then started to send me negative messages about missing out! For a start, the meeting went on longer than expected so one of the participants rescheduled their afternoon meeting with me, which left me feeling like I was a low priority and my needs didn’t really matter.
After the meeting, everyone went out for food and to carry on socialising, which I missed out on. This triggered emotions of envy and anger at feeling I was doing work when others were not.
Why do I feel bad?
None of these emotions make me sound like a nice person, but they are an honest and very typical brain reaction to “social exclusion” – we all have a strong need to be included, even when our presence isn’t really necessary.
Social inclusion minimises risk – by being connected to others we gain the advantage of their support and help. We gain a boost from their ideas and their contributions when we are struggling to do something for ourselves.
Not feeling included triggers a threat response in our brains. This means we are automatically driven to avoid something that will disadvantage us or cause us harm
Finding ways to feel positive
When I got the message that the person wasn’t coming to my afternoon meeting, I stomped around my office, and I could feel the anger bubbling away.
I also knew that this could badly affect our ability to get on in the future. My priority when feeling bad like this is to “snap out of it” but that is easier said than done.
Here are the things I did to overcome my negativity:
1. Celebrate – clearly, the people at the meeting were doing exactly as I had hoped, they were building a strong relationship that went beyond the immediate project they are working on. This means in the future there will be freer exchange of information and ideas, and we will all benefit from a pleasant working environment
2. Thank – I have written before about the benefits of sending happy emails, so I sent a congratulatory note to the team, letting them know that I was delighted they were having lunch together and enjoying each others company.
3. Congratulate – because I was not at what turned out to be a lengthy meeting and lunch, I was able to get through a lot of my own work, which will reduce my stress for the rest of the week.
What happened next?
I cannot lie, I was still feeling a little unhappy the next day, so instead of relying on my own thoughts about the benefits of missing the meeting and lunch, I asked those who went.
Hearing how much they enjoyed the informal socialising and how much they found they had in common made me feel good.
Sometimes, the positives have to come from others, but it helps if we can do the ground work for ourselves first.
Have a look at previous articles in this series for more inspiration.