No More Emotional Pollution

June 3, 2024

I don’t like working out. I will lift weights and walk on treadmills, go for a hike and even attempt to jog, but I don’t deeply enjoy it like others do.

I also have all these not so good feelings about the whole experience. Workouts bring up my heart rate and make me feel winded. No fun.

I don’t get thrilled looking at myself and comparing my body to others at the gym. No fun.

And, I don’t like to be crunchy and unbalanced and teeter totter with even small weights in my hands. No fun.

Blah, Blah, Blah.

Yet, I know working out is important for my health. And in order for me to work out I need to psych myself up and ‘bring it ‘– bring some discipline, some self-regulation, and a strong commitment – all to get myself to the gym at least 3 times a week.

This whiny-ness about things I don’t find comfortable or fun is something I know well. I can get whiny about my work too. Then unfortunately, I can ‘bring it’ – I mean bring my ’emotional pollution’ to situation. A bunch of complaints, a lack of ‘self-control’ around my choice of words, and some pouting as well. Bringing emotional pollution to a situation – I am well acquainted with doing so.

I will never forget when my longtime colleague, friend, and supervisor, Becki, said to me, “You’re going to have a feeling about what I am going to ask you to do right now. You aren’t wrong, and yet we don’t have time for the feeling. We gotta get it done.”

And right then, Becki started me on right path to be mindful and to cut out the emotional pollution when it isn’t going to serve the situation.

The communication strategy which Becki used so well – acknowledging my frustration AND then moving me forward toward my next step – is a strategy I share in my book, Stretching Your Learning Edges: Growing (Up) at Work.

I call it dealing with the Yeah, But folks in the world and doing it well. The Yeah, But Exercise is adapted from the text, Conversation Transformation: Recognize and Overcome the 6 Most Destructive Communication Patterns by Ben E. Benjamin, Ph.D., Amy Yeager, and Anita Simon, Ed.D and goes something like this:

A person on your team complains that a project wasn’t brought to his attention early enough and suggests that the group doesn’t know enough to finish it successfully. He says things like, “We could’ve done this, but we can’t because…” and “Had we done this it might have worked, but they didn’t…” Defeatist attitude with a dollop of truth is there. Yet the project is nonnegotiable, and the group needs to move ahead.

In response you might say, “You’re right that this should have been more clearly discussed with us earlier (acknowledgement #1). You also have a point that the time frame in which we are asked to do this is limited (acknowledgement #2). Also, I agree that it might not be as successful as we hoped (acknowledgement #3). And given this isn’t going off our plate in terms of our to do list, what do you think is our next best step to move ahead with this work? (question).”

The goal is to make sure the other person feels seen and acknowledged and yet know that we can’t just stop there – we need to move forward.

I appreciate that this Yeah, But strategy can be used in communication with other people in your life, yet the best way I have found it to help is to use it with myself.

“So, yes, working out won’t be enjoyable as you start. And yes, no doubt, you’ll feel a little unbalanced. And, given that you are here, and you need to exercise for your health, what would you like to do first?”

Some squats, I guess. Or if I am feeling strong, some Romanian dead lifts. See pic below. No fun. Now let’s work out anyway.

To paraphrase Harriet Lerner, “Our conversations invent us. Through our speech and our silence, we become smaller or larger selves. Through our speech… we can expand our possibilities.”

I am working on my self-talk and not emotionally polluting my mind with a lot of ‘buts’. How’s your ‘yeah but’ talk lately?

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions or need a safe space for talking something through, please feel free to email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

Cool Resources

Here are a few books that I am working through this month.