4 Ways to Get the Most from Sadness
Any leader who is upbeat all the time, in my opinion, is out of touch or faking it.
Real leaders have real feelings.
You might see the good in failure. But you don’t have to feel good about it.
Sad is useful:
You can’t lead and be happy with the status quo.
Sad feelings indicate you don’t like something. Do you really like loss, falling short, or disappointing a client. It may be a learning experience? It’s still painful.
Sadness at poor performance indicates you don’t like performing poorly. I’m not talking about drowning in self-pity.
You don’t want to work with anyone who is happy with poor performance.
#1. Improvement often begins with sadness.
#2. Sadness motivates. Happy people tend to be less motivated than sad people. (Reported by University of California Berkeley)
#3. Sadness expands your capacity to serve and relate to others. The solution you find by pressing through sadness opens your heart and often helps others.
4 ways to get the most from sadness:
#1. Don’t rush to escape sadness. Accept it. In order to process sadness, you must first accept it. Those who try to suppress thoughts report dreaming about them. (Reported in Scientific American)
#2. Bring up sadness when you see it. Effective teams have social sensitivity. They notice when something feels wrong and they discuss it. (Reported in NY Times Magazine)
#3. A little dab’ll do ya. Don’t indiscriminately spew your sadness on everyone. Manage your influence. Let your team see a bit of your distress, but share the full brunt of your sadness with trusted friends in private.
#4. Understand and accept current realities. If you screwed up, accept that it happened. Dig into why. More importantly, determine what you’ll do better next time.
You might feel sad that you fell short, but be glad for opportunities to learn and grow.
How might leaders respond to sadness in leaderly ways?
Note: This post isn’t about depression or the feelings we experience during intense loss.
Interesting topic, Dan. I think explaining your sadness when you feel it is always good advice, and sooner rather than later. Because the longer you work with people, the more in tuned they are with your moods. Your split-second disappointment or distress is not lost on long-term colleagues.
I think we all need to get closer to saying what we feel when we feel it, all the time. And saying, “That surprised me” or “I’m must admit that I’m disappointed by your/their response” builds trust and demonstrates a level of integrity that I believe has always been missing from today’s workplace.
It’s interesting too, because in the workplace there has always been welcome room for jubilation and distress, and anger (which, at its core is only a reaction to another emotion.) But not sorrow or disappointment. I am so glad we’re finally going there! Thank you for taking us today.
Thanks Stephanie. Like you, I find kind candor and courageous transparency works. Just say it. As you suggest, say, “That surprises me.”
One thing that makes this work is maintaining a forward focus. Beware of getting bogged down in sadness. Don’t sink into a vortex of disappointment.
Leaders can look the darkness in the eye. Acknowledge it. Learn from it. And improve.
The posturing and pretending you might see is a waste of energy.
Thanks for the good word
Practical and helpful, Dan. l also appreciated your qualification at the end that you aren’t dealing with major depression or sadness due to big loss. I am just launching a blog on depression & faith: penetratingthedarkness.com. But I will deal with more serious depression and related issues and misconceptions many believers have. Keep on serving strong, Terry Powell
Hey Terry. I’m so glad you noticed the note at the end. I’m always concerned that a post like this might trivialize some of the deeper issues that people face. Best wishes with your new blog.
Happiness is the aberration, “dig into why.”
Thanks Rurbane. I’m not sure, but I think you’re suggesting that purpose (why) and happiness are connected. Specifically, happiness follows purpose.
Those who seek happiness directly are less happy than those who strive to make a difference for others.
Precisely, “Form follows … Function.” Happiness follows achievement (of purpose), not simply doing something (that you think you ought to). Sadness follows when you put your energies into a life-sucking black hole, and find that you’ve crossed the irretrievable event horizon.
Both (happiness and sadness) are side effects of the practical distinction between achieving and doing.
Accepting the fact somethings we have no direct control over, sadness caused by others happens to all of us at one point or another.
How we deal with the sadness in realtime can be difficult, we need an outlet to share the moment and trudge through.
Keeping sadness inside will tear you apart until to find a way to address the situation. Let it out and strive for a better moment, place to be, think of a happier time and reboot yourself if you have no outlet.
Thanks Tim. Your comment makes me value a friend who can listen to sadness without trying to fix us. It also challenges me to be that kind of friend to others.
Altogether a new post with meaningful thinking!
Leaders go through the sad moments when things are not working per expectations. They usually are silent during this time and detach themselves with group meets. They look for the root causes of temporary setbacks, regret privately and console their hearts to come out of this phase fast. Some of them go for long walks alone, listen to their favorite music, play with children or pet animals, visit the temple/church to get the needed mental peace.
Liked your positive conclusion: ‘You might feel sad that you fell short, but be glad for opportunities to learn and grow.’
Dear Dr. Asher,
I must say that you added some interesting ideas. It’s true that we tend to isolate when we’re sad. Your practical suggestions of taking a walk, playing with children, or visiting temple/church are so useful.
Glad you stopped in.
Just as sadness motivates, so does anger. Anger often gives us the energy we need to deal with issues. Anger (and sadness) are not “bad” emotions–they just are true feelings–it’s what we do with them that can be good or bad.
Hey Martha, I couldn’t agree more. Anger is misunderstood. I’m not talking about outbursts of temper or abuse. I’m talking about frustration over something that isn’t going as expected.
Anger is great at telling us what we don’t like. Anger is energy. The thing that makes anger useful is asking ourselves, “What do I want?”
I don’t think there’s any such thing as useful anger. When it’s useful, it’s manipulative. Anger just shows up, and when it does–I agree–you need to analyze the root cause and explain that. As quickly as possible.
Our people (at least my team does) know the difference between real and useful anger, sadness, frustration, etc. They know us, and we should want it that way.
Expressing frustration and disappointment is different from anger. Disappointment, frustration, confusion and fear turn into anger in a hot second…less than a second, actually. And real anger can spiral and spread like wildfire. I’ve found that recognizing the amygdala hijack when it happens and asking the question, “What’s the base emotion here” is the best thing I can do to keep the channels open.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve expressed or observed someone else express anger, only to find out that there was confusion or misconceptions before and/or after the “fire.” Unless you “stop, drop and roll”, you can’t analyze the anger, from the giving or the receiving end. And you may have alienated more than one team member with that one incident of anger.
Did I miss a post on this, Dan! 🙂
Your distinctions among the instinctual reactions (often mistaken for anger/rage itself) to adversive stimuli are spot on …
don’t forget the ever powerfully provocative “Disgust” …
I need to steal your advice of “stop/drop&roll” … effectively “freeze!/don’t fight & smother the flame (give it no more fuel) … until you can mutually identify the real issue (query the assumptions underlying the reaction(s)).
Very practical relationship advice … Thx.
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