Did you know that when we label our emotions, it helps us to be less negatively influenced by them? Crazy, huh!1Torre, J. B. and Lieberman, M. D. (2018) ‘Putting Feelings Into Words: Affect Labeling as Implicit Emotion Regulation’, Emotion Review, 10(2), pp. 116–124.. When we categorise how we’re feeling, it makes us feel less uncertain about those feelings. This includes feelings such as fear, anger, anxiety or sadness.
Using labels in the workplace can be a hugely helpful method of diffusing a challenging situation or a difficult conversation.
How can you use labelling as a manager?
- “It seems like…”
- ”It sounds like…”
- ”It looks like…”
- ”It feels like…”
What is crucial about how this question is delivered is the lack of opinion or judgement. You’re not stating that they are frustrated – instead you are provoking an opportunity for them to consider if they are.
It also works for positive emotionsJust as labeling a negative emotion can reduce it’s affect on us, the reverse is true when a positive emotion is labelled. It emphasises it! For example, “it looks like you really care” or “it seems like you are really passionate about this”.
Other tips for successful labelling
- Don’t mention yourself by saying sentences like “To me it seems like…” or “I think that…”. This puts yourself in the frame when it’s supposed to be about them.
- It can be tough, but try and be patient after you’ve labelled the emotion. Instead of talking, wait. Let what you’ve said sink in and allow the other person to digest and respond.
How effective do you think this would be in your workplace? Can you envisage using this with a member of your team? If you’ve given it a go in the workplace, let us know how it went, or if you do something similar.