Regret is our most common negative emotion, says author Daniel Pink. And he knows it: He has spent the last few years studying repentance and soliciting answers from a national and international study on human repentance. The results – as well as many other investigations – were included in his latest book, The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward.
Pink emphasizes that, although regrets are uncomfortable, they should not be ignored, even at work. «They are also our most transformative (negative emotions), in the sense that if we treat them properly, they can help us in a whole host of areas, especially in business.it states. «They can help us make better decisions. They can help us to be better negotiators, to solve problems better and to be better strategists if we treat them well.
The author told Inc.’s What I Know podcast that you have to turn the pain of addressing regret into learning.
A first step may be to simply recognize it personally. Or go a step further, he suggests, and reveal it to friends or colleagues: «Revealing our regrets is a form of relief. Negative emotions are often blurry, amorphous and abstract. And when we turn them into words, that makes them more concrete and less scary.
For leaders, the benefit can go beyond personal improvement. It can also help your teams – no joke – like you more.
Pink explains that there is a widespread perception that when we share negative information about ourselves (our failures, our bad habits, our vulnerabilities), people like us less. But it is something that 30 years of research has disproved.
“I think there is something healthy about leaders talking about their regrets with their team, and then talking about what they have learned from that regret, the lesson they draw from that regret, and how they are going to apply it in the future.”.
Doing so will not only help you engage in a useful conversation, but you will also be able to improve communication in the future because you have demonstrated your vulnerability as a leader. That’s a lot of positive potential from a big, thick, amorphous emotion.