Emotional Leakage:
Getting Mad at Peter and Taking it Out on Paul

By Nancy Friedman, the Telephone Doctor

We’ve all seen it happen. A coworker comes into work storming angry; mouth turned down in a frown; walks through the office without saying hello to anyone; sits down at his desk and starts barking orders to his coworkers; doesn’t come out of his office; and when his phone rings he picks it up and bellows out: “Yea?”  Sad isn’t it?  Something must have happened before he got to work and he carried it right inside the building. Telephone Doctor calls this “Emotional Leakage” and we cure it all the time.

Hey, it’s no fun to get up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning. And it’s sure not fun to get a flat tire on the way to work or to argue with someone before breakfast. It’s unfortunate that some people aren’t able to shake it off and move on about their business.

Emotional leakage is getting mad at Peter and taking it out on Paul. It’s not right, not fair, and not fun. Taking a negative emotion out on someone who wasn’t involved?  How rude can you get?

If emotionally leaking on coworkers certainly isn’t fair, then emotionally leaking on customers is even worse than not fair. The customer or coworker, in most cases, wasn’t involved with whatever put you in a bad mood, so why take it out on them?  Few things are more unfair and damaging to a relationship than emotional leaking a negative experience on someone who wasn’t involved. Yet, unfortunately it happens every day: at home, in the office, on the streets, and in the stores. Sad isn’t it?

While shopping the other day, the person helping me was obviously not in a good mood at all. In fact, I think if she smiled, her face would have cracked. She gave me one-word answers and kept turning her head to see who was coming or going. (I wasn’t sure.)  Normally, I walk out on that type of service. It’s just not worth my time to be treated like that. But this time, I was in a hurry and needed the product. So I did something I don’t normally do. I asked her if every thing was all right.  Was she okay?  I tried to make it sound as though I was interested (even though I wasn’t).  But I sure didn’t want her negative emotions leaking on me any longer.

With a big sigh and a sad face, she told me she and her boyfriend had a big fight the night before and she was hoping he’d come by and apologize. "Excuse me," I said, "was I with you?"  Unbelievably she smiled and said, "Of course not."  Then I nicely told her, "If I wasn’t there, I don’t want to be part of that argument."

She started to apologize, as well she should. Then I thought about a vase I had once. I dropped it. It broke into several pieces. My husband, Dick, and I talked about whether we should take it somewhere and have a professional put it back together. Dick said, "We can do that if you’d like, but it will never be the same. You’ll always feel the cracks."

And so it is with our coworkers and customers. You can be in a bad mood: be it an argument, a flat tire, or breaking your favorite item. You can apologize, but people will still remember how you treated them, how you made them feel. And they will – for a long time, too.

So how do we cure emotional leakage?  It’s a quick 4-step process. Stop what you’re doing. Take a deep breath. Put on a phony smile (yes, you can). Regain your professional composure. And then talk with the person – in person or on the phone. Emotionally leaking on someone is never right.

Of course, there are times when we’ll get emotionally leaked on by others. Think how you feel when that happens to you and then remember to never emotionally leak on others.

Read other articles and learn more about Nancy Friedman.

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