Written by Samantha Wall, LCSW
Edited by Joe DeNoon
This month, Francine Baffa and I read “No Hard Feelings” by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy. As someone who works in the mental health field, I know there is a time and place to bring my emotions into the workplace. While reading “No Hard Feelings”, I began reflecting on my experience with bringing my emotions to my work, and when that has benefited me, and when it did not. Francine discussed one of her favorite takeaways from the book, which was “emotions are a great asset at work and in life if you use them as data to direct behavior and to respond rather than react.” I remember many times in my first job where I reacted rather than responding, and how that made my work more difficult to manage. When I respond versus react, I can assess my feelings in the situation and then engage with a more controlled reply. When I apply the information from this book to a job like nursing, I think it is important to consider how quickly nurses need to respond. You all have to act upon a feeling and incorporate your knowledge throughout your day when you are engaging with patients. There is a balance to connecting with your emotions and feelings to make decisions throughout the day.
When we are able to incorporate our gut feelings into our practice, it can take the pressure off of making a big decision based solely on facts. Facts and knowledge do not include our feelings about a specific situation, and we all have experiences that are not based on the information we learned in class. Most people I know feel they have learned more on the job than in a classroom, myself included. When we are in a classroom, we are learning about the facts of the field we are in, but once we get into a job, many times we learn based on how certain things feel to us.
Many people say to make decisions ‘rationally’, promoting taking our emotions out of the decision. Being able to pay attention to our feelings, while acknowledging which emotions are relevant and not relevant to the situation can change the way we feel about work or about the decisions we make at work. There are also many times when our emotions, like feeling tired, can affect our decision-making at the workplace. While important to acknowledge these emotions, this is not what Liz and Mollie are discussing when talking about using emotions in the workplace. Emotions can help us make important decisions, and many of us call this our ‘gut feeling’. Noticing a difference between which feelings are gut feelings versus a feeling based on how hungry you are, how tired you are, or how frustrated you are with work that day can help you begin to create a balance in the workplace where you respond and don’t react.
Being able to apply the topics this book addresses not only to myself but to you all has made me think about how often we can use our emotions to help us make decisions. I also have been able to reflect on how much better utilizing our emotions in the workplace can help us feel about our work. When I was stuck in the cycle of reacting versus responding, I experienced such a high level of burnout. Being able to apply this concept can help us balance not only our emotions in the workplace, but increase our overall resilience. This book has so many great concepts on how to express and communicate emotions in our place of work. If you read this book, I want you to think about how you can apply it to nursing and how you can help create a better balance of emotions at work! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!