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Letters from Zeynep: Business & Emotion


Letters from Zeynep

March 16 · Issue #6 · View online
Weekly letters that nurture you to find everyday wellness.

Dear friend,
I was at a Lean In event in Paris on Women’s Day. The presenter, a successful woman who had played “the male game” (in her words), and had spent a lot of her time “fighting for her corner” (also in her words), ended her speech with an advice I felt conflicted about.
“You can feel apologetic but don’t be apologetic,” she said, referring to the imposter syndrome. “Park the feeling.”
I started bubbling up inside. “Park the feeling?” I thought. “Like put it aside and ignore it?”
Her advice had a solid basis.
“How you feel is unimportant to business success,” she explained. “If you focus on definable and measurable business metrics, you will develop your business, and you will feel better because of it.”
Neuroscience supports this view. We might wait too long if we wait to feel motivated or confident enough to do things. The motivation and confidence comes after we do the thing. In other words, we will feel we are imposters until we don’t feel that way anymore.
So why was I bubbling with emotion?
I was bubbling because I had parked too many emotions during my 7 years in the business world. I had parked my sadness when someone was unfair or rude to me; I had cried in bathroom stalls so that no one sees my tears; I had concluded I was too weak, insecure, young or traumatized to be in the business world.
I had parked my anger when someone was out of line; I had been silent because if I talked I would talk with anger; I had written long emails I never sent because colleagues who read it had told me it was too emotional.
For 7 years, I had taken emotions out of my work, and now those emotions were boiling up inside of me at the slightest hint of parking them.
The direction of her advice was right: We often want to do things (ask for a raise) even if we have negative emotional experiences around it (imposter syndrome). But the application was very wrong. We never want to park, ignore, forget feelings.
Why? Because emotions show, even if we park them. Because the emotional brain was developed thousands of years before the rational brain, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
But more importantly, we don’t want to park emotions because emotions make us more intelligent. They tell us what matters and what doesn’t. They are crucial to business success.
Sadness tells us our needs are not met, frustration tells us we’re wasting time going around in circles, disappointment tells us trust is broken. How can you have a successful business if you’re not meeting needs, wasting time or breaking trust?
When you ignore and hide emotions, you are not only shutting the door on yourself. You are also shutting the door on that other person who needs to see your sadness, anger or frustration to understand that they are in the wrong.
What stops us from allowing emotions to come into play at work is this fear that we will act on emotions. But acting with emotions is possible, and it is a very teachable skill.
So, at that Women’s Day event last Friday, I found myself wondering:
What if the only important difference between men and women is that women are allowed emotions and are taught how to express them, whereas men aren’t? What if this means that in the world of business, which is run by men, our leaders don’t allow or express emotions?
What if men need help in naming, feeling and expressing their emotions? What would happen if we gave business leaders mindfulness and compassionate communication training, instead of, or along with, gender bias training?
Call me a dreamer, but I’m dreaming for a business world that talks about emotions before thoughts, emotions before goals, and emotions before frameworks.
I’m not dreaming of this because I’m boiling up inside, although that, I have to say, is a contributing factor. I’m dreaming of this because business with emotions would make more intelligent companies, achieve better results, feel healthier, and allow more women to enter the game.
And now we have to put emotions aside... Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash.
And now we have to put emotions aside... Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash.
From the blog
Love poems. Three poems, Bound, Connection and Confused, on wondering how men express their emotions, and if they feel isolated at times.  
Love scene. Friendships can get complicated, when sexual attraction comes in. This is a short story (fiction) on meeting that friend with which things got complicated, and his new girlfriend.
From the library
Awakening Together. Mindfulness communities are quite racist, sexist, gender and sexuality normative. Are you surprised? I was too. This book tells the story of the most diverse mindfulness center in the world. It is a great read for anyone who’s trying to crack diversity. As you read, simply replace “mindfulness community” with “company”, “startup” or “school”.
Radical Acceptance. If you constantly feel like you are not enough, this book will help you feel you are not alone. You will see how knowing we are enough has nothing to do with trying harder, and you will soften as you read.
What else?
No hard feelings. Brexit explained by a 6 year old. The most adorable thing.
Hold your breath. The backstage before a ballet at the MET. The coolest thing my inner artist watched lately.
Animals & emotion. It is quite egocentric of us to believe that we are the only living creatures with such a wide emotional range. But animals feel too.
Success. Short reminders from a therapist: Believe in yourself, make things you hate doing more enjoyable, take daily action, eliminate “should”, “try”, and “maybe” from your vocabulary.
Money. Very light videos (video1 and video2) on money beliefs: Someone else will do it for me, I’m not good with money, I’m a spender, people with money are greedy, and more.
Tech for bad. Real talk on regulating Big Tech. Wondering when Mark Zuckerberg will leave.
Startup spill. Startup practices spill into other industries sometimes. The most interesting spill I saw lately: Subscription model drugs to lower prices in Big Pharma.
Thank you for reading! If you have any ideas or suggestions for making these letters better, I’d love to know.
With love and light,
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Paris, France