Why we need to accept anxiety as part of the human condition - Nicholas Janni
This in turn heightens energy and connectedness, which provide the foundation for higher levels of perception, vision, insight and innovation.
The way we relate to — or, more often, do not relate to — our emotions is one of the biggest sources of fragmentation and disconnectedness in our often chronically imbalanced corporate cultures, in which doing eclipses being, left brain dominates right brain, and sensing, feeling, intuiting and the transpersonal are relegated to the outer fringes of life. In such cultures people are unknowingly functioning with at most 20 per cent of their full capacity. Even though everyone experiences moments of what psychology calls flow, such moments are very much the exception, and people revert very quickly to the accepted norms.
Yet, this challenge presents a ripe opportunity for change. By facing it, leaders can cross a prime transformational gateway towards bringing deeper presence and coherence to themselves and their organisations.
We have to completely let go of notions of ‘positive’ or 'negative’ and learn together to find the way to acknowledge emotions without the need to over explain or make any attempt to change them. In this time of profound disruption and instability, how could anyone not be experiencing degrees of anxiety these days? Anxiety that may be related to personal or professional security, overwhelmed health care services, the perilous social and economic state of one’s country, right through to climate catastrophe and war.
All that is needed is to be simply human, and to acknowledge together our humanity. Suppose that during an important meeting, a leader is mature enough to pause and say words to the effect of “I notice what a high level of stress and tension there is in the room. I feel it in myself these days. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge together how normal this is”.
In that moment there is a huge sigh of relief, literally and metaphorically. And, guaranteed, everyone’s critical thinking faculties start functioning at a much higher level because they are no longer sitting in tension, they're trying not to feel their anxiety.
I hear of more and more high performing teams who begin meetings with each person briefly and authentically articulating how they are feeling. This in itself takes practice, as many adults are unable to do this without telling you what they are thinking. Authentic means exactly that, unconditionally. If someone says they are exhausted, or didn’t want to come to the meeting, that is welcomed as much as the ‘super positive person’. This requires an emotionally mature leader, and a mature team.
The result? Everyone feels very present and connected to each other after this short round, and, almost always, the person who was very tired or didn’t want to be there is energised and engaged. This is real Emotional Intelligence.
Accepting anxiety as a completely natural part of our human condition is an essential step in creating cultures of aliveness and connection.
Nicholas Janni is the co-founder of Matrix Leadership Development and the author of Leader as Healer: A New Paradigm for 21st-century Leadership.