Permission to feel

Given our social nature as humans, we have an unhelpful tendency to pass judgement over how people should feel in a given situation.

I feel a certain way. My ‘in group’ feels that way too. What’s wrong with you that you feel differently? 

In our professional roles, we need to take care to give others the permission to feel what they are feeling.

We owe it to our colleagues, to our staff and to our clients to give space for them to acknowledge the full range of their emotional response to whatever emerges.

This isn’t the same as saying “anything goes”. Acknowledging how someone feels doesn’t mean we encourage them to act in whatever way they’d like.

As professionals we’re aware of the significance of culture in a working environment. But not all of us work in a culture that’s in alignment with our own values. That can be challenging and stressful. Many of us make trade-offs in order to pursue our ambitions, whether financial, status or otherwise.

Cultural norms shouldn’t prevent us from acting in a way that honours who we are. So, no matter how myopic, toxic or obsessive a culture can be, we can choose to behave in our own way in our interactions with others. And perhaps the most useful example of that is easing up on pressure and judgement on how others are feeling.

Of course, the pandemic era has given us plenty of experience of this phenomenon. Through all the various phases people have had different emotional responses and if this difficult period has given us anything, perhaps it’s to remember that all emotions are valid.

It’s ok that you feel the way that you do. It’s ok for me too.


This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *