The Hidden Benefit of Professionalism

Last week I attended a presentation about conflict resolution, given by a psychologist. I had been short-tempered with a business associate the day before and was embarrassed when I heard this expert’s astute observation that, when we let our moods control us, we are no longer behaving as responsive adults; we have regressed to reactive children. I know he was right because, when I was in conflict with my colleague, I felt like a brat.

The Law of Attraction says, “You attract more of what you focus on.” When you focus on behaving like a responsive adult, you attract similar behavior around you.

On the other hand, when you decide that you have somehow earned the right to behave like a reactive child, then you find yourself with more and more reasons to be a brat yourself. Pretty soon, you have run-ins with other adults also behaving childishly. It’s the Law of Attraction at work!

Whatever your job or occupation, you do not have the luxury of being in a bad mood at work—it’s unprofessional.

People always seem a bit surprised by the concept that indulging negative moods is unprofessional. Apparently, we think that (a) we can perform well even when we’re acting out a bad mood; or (b) that it’s okay to let moods impact performance. We also seem to think we cannot control our moods, which is utter nonsense.

Scientists have discovered that our brains can’t distinguish between what’s truly real and what we pretend to ourselves is real. When you act as if you are in a better mood than you are, your brain processes your pretense as if it were factual. The brain takes at face value that you’re in a good mood and responds by releasing what we jokingly refer to as “feel good” chemicals into your body. If it’s a joke, it’s one of the better ones because, once those endorphins hit your system, you no longer have to pretend; you are in a good mood.

I don’t need a scientist to convince me—I use this technique all the time. I say, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” When I’m down, I do my best not to let it show. Before long, I discover I’m actually in the good mood I’d only been pretending!

When I deliver workshops to groups of employees, whether front-line or management, I often ask them, “What if I showed up here in a bad mood today? Would you find me worth listening to—no matter how valid the data—if I delivered my message in an unpleasant way? After all, I could justifiably say, ‘What are you complaining about? I did my job!’”

Such behavior would be unprofessional and yet, don’t you regularly observe some version of that in your organization?

It turns out that practicing good, old-fashioned professionalism can be to our advantage in an unexpected way. It often requires that we act as if we’re in control of our emotions, even when, inside, it doesn’t feel as if we are. Once we start pretending, however, our brain takes over and does the rest of the work for us. It’s a pretty amazing process.

Here is an exercise for you: for the rest of the week, behave as professionally as you know how. Make a conscious decision to be a responsive adult, rather than a reactive child.

Notice and keep a record of circumstances that in the past would have turned out badly. Instead, they turned out well because you didn’t react, you responded.

Just a few days of this will convince you that behaving professionally has many hidden benefits—not the least of which is that you are consistently in a pretty darned good mood!

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