Chapter 6 | Section 6.2 | Personal Compartmentalization
True, SaraBeth at work uses a fake voice on the phone in the cube next to yours when she says hello and she rarely contributes anything other than objections when you are trying to solve problems… but she has some endearing qualities. You know you don’t have to put up with her bullshit for more than 9 hours at a time and for your efforts someone is going to cut you a check every two weeks you manage to not throw her computer or phone through a window.
Your personal life… it isn’t so structured. Your personal life can draw on emotion well beyond what most people’s work lives produce. It’s our emotions that create confusion in our heads that then allow things like aggravation and depression to leak in and start poisoning our thought processes. To further cloud my already cryptic description of emotions, I’ll now state that they are incredibly important and we shouldn’t ignore them at all. Even though I think we shouldn’t ignore them though, it doesn’t mean we let them rule the day. It means we should focus on what is causing them and try to understand them, and then in some cases subtract them out of the decision making process but keep the factors that are causing our emotions in the decision making process.
Before we deal with how to handle emotions in the compartmentalization process, let’s start with an example of a common occurrence in most family households:
- Dad has had a long day
- He gets off work an hour late due to various things that blew up.
- He receives a phone call from hisyoungest sister explaining she is quitting her soccer team because she hates the coach.
- He walks into the house and her biggest pet peeve is in full display as the kids shoes are all over the place instead of by the front door.
- Mom comes around the corner
- Mom has taken care of the kids for an hour longer than expected on her own, wrestled the kids, attempted to throw together dinner, and let the older kids play outside while she was feeding the youngest.
- The best and arguably only good part of Dad’s day was going to start when he walked through the door. But now he can’t take it, one more thing on top of the rest of his crappy day has gone wrong and his first comment to his wife is “Is it impossible to get the kids to put their shoes by the door”?
- The results
- Mom is pissed off. She already dropped part of the list of things she wanted to do in order to pick up the single parent slack for an hour longer than anticipated.
- Kids are quiet and standing still instead of running up for a welcome home hug that could have done all parties wonders.
- Dad doesn’t have anyone to warm up his evening as he’s taken out his frustrations on the people he cares most about.
The only thing missing is compartmentalization. Dad hung up the phone with his sister moments before he pulled in the drive. He could have taken that last couple minutes of alone time and invested it in recapping his business day for where he wanted to start tomorrow and deciding when he’d call his sister back and how he’d approach that etc. Then cleared his head before he got out of his vehicle to walk inside and started looking forward to the chaos he was about to walk into and the beautiful disarray little people can create. Yeah, the shoes are his pet peeve, but he could just as easily walk in and ask for that to be adjusted. Or give everyone a hug and then ask the kids to put the shoes up. Maybe give them some trouble about how they just do it to pick on old Dad, and act like it was the first thing that anyone in that household had done that day that caused him any stress. He should be 5 more times of a kid not listening or a couple more failures to share toys away from laying the law down.
You’re coming home from what you’re convinced is entire departments of people that intentionally refuse to learn how to do their jobs efficiently (or so it feels sometimes). To a group of people that literally want to talk to you and treat you like your time is the most valuable thing on earth and tell you about their days. Too often we let the stresses of our day add up to aggression toward other individuals. If we compartmentalize work and become capable of “shutting it off” at home… then we don’t end up passing our days taxes onto someone else and often times our own families. And similarly, if we compartmentalize the various parts of our personal life then we don’t cause undue stress on the other people involved and/or ourselves as we try to evaluate the different pieces. Have you ever argued with your spouse and then noticed how short you were with a child or family member shortly afterward? Stop and think about the person you are getting ready to communicate before you start the conversation with them. If they haven’t done anything to deserve short responses, then don’t treat them like they do.
Let’s discuss how to feel emotions but leverage them as data instead versus factoring them into your decisions before understanding them. Feelings shouldn’t be masked from yourself and rarely need to be avoided. That being said though, they should almost always be evaluated before you react to them.
If you lose your job in a layoff sadness and anger tend to crop up, you start thinking about what all needs to change in your life… LOTS OF WRITING LEFT!!!!!!!!!!!!