Emotional labor is as exhausting as the physical one
‘Humans are social animals’ – you must have heard this line quite often. Yes, we humans are social animals, and you bet, it is not easy to be that. Haven’t we all experienced it at some point of time in life? That feeling when the animal inside us wants to make clear choices but the ‘social’ part inside us doesn’t let it do so, and we are stuck in between.

We all feel it – while counseling a difficult junior, while being at the receiving end of a verbal tirade by a difficult boss, while pacifying an angry customer, while discussing with a stubborn vendor, while trying to reason out with a melodramatic relative, during an episode of road rage etc. And how does it feel? Well! In one word – ‘draining’.

Well, before we discuss it in some details, watch this video to get the gist of what we are discussing, why it is important, and how it has relevance in professional as well as personal context…

Well! Did you hear what the boss said – “The patience to bear a shouting customer is still easier of the lot”. Is it? Well, it isn’t. The rationale behind the point is rooted in neuroscience. If we look at our brain, we will find that while most animals have two major layers in their brain – that of survival centers and emotional centers – human brain has a third well-developed upper layer which is the center of intelligence, and controls the impulses of both the lower layers.

Now, whenever an animal goes through a hostile situation, they either run away or aggress. This is called ‘flight or fight’ response. Even in humans, similar impulses emerge from those two lower layers. However that upper brain doesn’t let us react in that manner. And this balancing is not at all easy, as the tussle inside us is by no means less tough than the struggle outside us.

This effort to ‘stay and bear’ in spite of the impulses for ‘fight or flight’ is called emotional labor. It is an integral part of many job-profiles in many industries, and deserves due empathy and consideration, in absence of which, there will be an impact on people’s morale. That’s why we need colleagues and leaders with social & emotional intelligence.

Only an insight into the ‘structure and functioning of human brain’ combined with psychological concepts can help you learn emotional & social intelligence – the skill of managing self and connecting with others. Yes, it is a skill that can be learnt, practiced and mastered. However, it all begins with some important realizations like…‘Emotional labor is as exhausting as the physical one’.


Dr. Sandeep Atre

‘Emotional & Social Intelligence’ Expert

Founder – Socialigence

Note: Socialigence (www.socialigence.net) offers self-paced video-based online course on ‘Social & Emotional Intelligence’ with content that has relevance across the globe, and delivery specifically customized according to the work-scenarios in India.