I was running a public program recently where we were discussing why conversations can be so difficult. My new friend and participant, Tony Lee, was sharing how we need to be careful of the ‘emotional transfer’. The emotional reaction that we have to others when in a challenging conversation. What a great way to describe when we take emotions on board from others.
It was Freud that first described this concept of transference as the unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. In simple speak, it’s when you mirror the other person’s emotional state. They are angry at you, so you become angry. They are upset, so too are you. They are frustrated which causes you to become frustrated. Or do they cause it?
It’s easy to say ‘I wouldn’t be grumpy if you didn’t grump around in the first place’ or ‘I’ll be happy when you are’. But the truth is that we chose to take these emotions on board. As hard as that is to hear. If we continue to make our emotions a reaction to someone else’s we never have to take responsibility for our own. Ouch!
This is good news. I can now think about what I will, and will not, allow to be transferred from others.
It’s like when someone with the flu sneezes on you and you body takes that germ on board. But… with emotions we have a choice to take it on board or not. Making the decision consciously is the start.
We all know it is not easy to do. Recognising that this is possible and when it occurs is the start. The ‘Board of Directors’ in our head that influence our thinking patterns can play a significant role too.
So next time someone makes you mad, sad or annoyed. Ask yourself. Have they done this to me or have I chosen to accept the ‘emotional transfer’? Someone has to stop the transfer. Why can’t it be you?
If you want to learn how to own your stuff and have remarkable conversations register for Georgia’s public workshops being run in Melbourne and Sydney in September.