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I cried at work–now what?

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in Business Etiquette,Workplace Communication

Uh-oh. You cried at work. Perhaps it was because you are dealing with a personal issue. Or maybe your supervisors’ insensitive comments affected you to your core. Or perhaps you simply became so overwhelmed or frustrated that you couldn’t fight back the tears.

Whatever the reason, you let your emotions get the better of you. You don’t want to let one emotional outburst make you look weak or unprofessional, so follow this advice to rebound:

Be honest about your crying. When your voice is trembling and the tears are flowing down your cheeks, saying “I’m fine” won’t be very convincing. Instead explain your emotions. Saying something like “I cry when I am angry. I always have,” or, “We just admitted my mother into a nursing home, and I am having a hard time with it,” offers other people some context so that they can understand where you are coming from.

Don’t apologize. If you make a habit of crying at work, you may need to apologize for another emotional outburst (and figure out why you are so emotional). However, if this is your first time, don’t say you are sorry. Having emotions is human nature.

Take a break if you need one. If you can calm yourself enough to continue the discussion, do so. However, if you find yourself growing more and more upset or you are incapable of collecting yourself, ask to be excused. Then go to a quiet place and calm down. Once you have regained your composure, meet with the other person to finish your discussion.

Forget about it. While you may be embarrassed and regret losing your cool, don’t dwell on the incident. Chances are the people who witnessed it are generally concerned and empathize with you. Others won’t think twice about your little breakdown because they are too caught up in their own lives. Get back to work and prove to everyone that you’re capable, stable and totally in control.

— Adapted from “Crying at Work: It Happens. How to Deal,” Katherine Reynolds Lewis, Fortune, www.fortune.com.

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