The Importance of Staying Professional After an Emotional Outburst

You’re a professional, right? Yep, that’s what I thought. Me too. One of the hallmarks of professionalism is emotional restraint; I pride myself on my ability to zip my lips when needed. But once in awhile, I experience a momentary lapse—times when exasperation or sarcasm gets the best of me and I say something I wish I could take back*. Let’s face it, we professionals are human; if only there was an “undo” button on our mouths.

Rebuild Your Professionalism with a “Recovery Plan”

Just as companies are encouraged to have Disaster Recovery Plans, so too, should professionals. There’s no “Ctrl+Z” command on a verbal exchange, but it is possible to reconcile with a colleague who’s the unwitting recipient of your less-than-tactful reply. At a loss for how to gracefully recover? Here are a few phrases that you might find useful if you have just dished out something you wish you could retract.

  1. “I’m sorry.”
  2. “That did not come out the way I intended. Let me try it again…”
  3. “May I have a do-over?”
  4. “That was uncalled for and I apologize.”
  5. “That sounded way better in my head than it did out loud.”
  6. “Wow, that was a snarky comment! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.”
  7. “I’m really frustrated and I took it out on you. That’s not fair and I apologize.”

Above all, you must convey your message with a tone of sincerity. Otherwise, you’ll just dig yourself a deeper hole and further erode the trust you’re trying to re-build. Keep this in mind as well: you can only use these phrases so many times before they ring hollow. Stephen Covey is well-known for promoting the concept of the emotional bank account. If you make too many “withdrawals” from a co-worker’s emotional bank account, eventually, you’ll become overdrawn no matter how sincere your apology is.

In the professional world, maintaining emotional restraint is crucial. However, even the most composed individuals may occasionally experience a slip of the tongue. It is important to acknowledge our mistakes and take responsibility for our words. By promptly and sincerely apologizing, we can begin the process of rebuilding trust and fostering positive relationships with our colleagues. Remember, as professionals, we must strive to handle our emotions in a manner that promotes a healthy work environment. So, let’s aim for self-awareness, emotional resilience, and continuous growth, ensuring that our professional conduct remains unblemished by regrettable outbursts.

*I’m not talking about tirades, emotional meltdowns or any form of workplace bullying. Those behaviors have no place in a work setting.

Updated 2023

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