Self-Regulation and Coregulation in the Workplace
You’ve probably heard of emotional regulation or self-regulation – the ability to exert control over one’s own emotional state. Self-regulation might involve rethinking or reappraising challenging situations to reduce anger or anxiety, masking disappointment or sadness, or focusing on reasons to feel happy or calm. Adults are expected to behave in a manner that is socially acceptable, so the ability to manage one’s own emotions is very important. People with poor emotional regulation may find themselves saying or doing things they later regret, which can have a negative impact on both personal wellbeing and social relationships. While regulating your own emotions appropriately is essential for healthy functioning, regulating the emotions of others can be just as important in building strong, positive relationships.
What is Coregulation?
Put simply, coregulation is all about how your mode of communication – whether that be your words, tone of voice, expression, or body language – affects the people around you, and how their mode of communication affects you. Healthy coregulation happens when two or more people who are self-regulating well are able to respond instead of reacting to one another.
More technically, Coregulation refers to the process whereby one person’s nervous system calms another and produces a positive feedback loop that is soothing for both. It is an interactive and dynamic process of mutual emotional regulation, where two individuals seek to help each other actively in order to manage their emotional expressions and states. This process is reciprocal in nature, where one person attempts to suppress or enhance their personal emotion based on the reactions of another person, who also seeks to suppress or enhance their personal emotion (Troth et al., 2018).
Why is Coregulation Important in the Workplace?
Coregulation becomes more important as relationships become closer. You are much more likely to be affected by the words or body language of a friend than you are of a total stranger. Consequently, healthy coregulation is essential in the workplace where employees spend eight or more hours a day together, five days a week, most days of the year.
Research has demonstrated how close affective workplace relationships emerge in the context of teams working under pressure to meet deadlines or when colleagues work together for significant periods of time (McAllister, 1995; Troth et al., 2018). Regulating emotions at the individual level (self-regulation) has been linked to better-quality communication, physiological health, psychological well-being and work performance (Lawrence et al., 2011). Regulating emotions at the interpersonal level (coregulation) is associated with higher customer service quality and better negotiation outcomes (Cȏté et al., 2013), positive client affect, higher perceptions of trust and friendship, and more positive perceptions of friendship with colleagues (Niven et al., 2012). Employees need to regulate their own emotions as well as the emotions of others to enhance the quality of interactions with their colleagues and achieve important outcomes for the organisations in which they work (Troth et al., 2018).
Tips to Improve Your Relationships!
It is clear that coregulation has many benefits in both personal and professional relationships. And it doesn’t matter whether you are face-to-face or connecting remotely using technology or via pen and paper. Being aware of how your own emotions and behaviours affect others is the first step towards conscious coregulation.
Conscious coregulation tips in the workplace:
- Notice – Stop what you’re doing. Become aware of your own body. Notice how you are feeling, how you are portraying yourself, and how that is affecting the way you are approaching others.
- Pause – Pausing allows for slower, more deliberate decision-making. Take a moment to pause, breathe, and clear your thoughts. Focus on responding rather than reacting.
- Perspective – Take a step back. Picture what the interaction looks like from outside of yourself. Pay attention to the dynamic between the other party and yourself and consider what message you are sending to them.
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