Big Girls (And Boys) Don't Cry (At Work)
Question: Is there any way to keep myself from crying in highly emotional business situations? It seems like something I should be able to keep under control, but inevitably, if there is enough emotion (criticism, guilt, envy, injustice, anger, misunderstanding) I break down and feel like the weaker sex.
Answer: As you’ve deduced, you should do everything within your power not to cry in a work situation. The sad fact is that criers are difficult to take seriously.
First, recognize that what’s being critiqued isn’t you as a person, but a subset of your traits. If it’s your organizational skills that are deemed subpar, remember that that’s a judgement on a very specific part of your work—not on your beautifully unique snowflake personality overall.
Everyone has his or her weak points, and if you want to get better at your job, you need to sit and truly listen when you’re being critiqued (active listening is difficult when in an emotional, defensive mindset). This can take some practice, especially if the criticisms are being communicated in a less than constructive way.
Channel the frustration you’re feeling into control of the situation—take a deep breath, focus on listening to what’s actually being said, and carefully craft your response. If you’re still getting misty-eyed, remember that it’s absolutely OK to excuse yourself until you’re composed.
Picturing your accuser on the toilet might also help defuse the situation. Good luck.