There are many layers to the work we do. Some of it is easy, some very difficult. Emotional work is the hardest of all. It’s the work we do where we feel like we are taking a risk. It’s the work of caring. Of putting someone else first. Of trying something new. Of having an educated hunch and the willingness to see if this is an idea that other people want. Emotional work is the work of connecting, even when there’s no time. Of asking difficult questions. Of putting yourself in your member’s shoes. Of parsing through feedback to find the important bits. Emotional work can change minds and help people see opportunities where they only felt despair, anger, or worry.
Emotional work is not routine work, or process work, or the work we do automatically every day. We know we are doing emotional work when the slightly panicky voice in our minds reminds us that this might not be successful. (If your panicky voice is like mine, it will further insist there is a chance that if this doesn’t work, I might lose my job, then the house, and end up living in an old jalopy of a van down by the river.)
Perhaps the panicky voice is not actually a warning to be heeded. Instead, whenever the voice starts to whisper, this is a sign that you are doing the most important work we can do, which is emotional work.