What is emotional service

Emotional service (also emotional work or labor) is an attempt to provide comfort and a sense of happiness to another person, including by suppressing one’s own feelings and desires.

Initially, the term was considered in relation to workers in the service sector. It was introduced by the sociologist Arlie Hochschild. Those who work with clients have to smile and remain calm in any situation. Even if the visitor behaves inappropriately, you need to block anger and irritability. Flight attendants, waiters, salespeople, in addition to mental and physical efforts, are also forced to apply emotional ones, which makes the work more difficult.

as show research, smiles, friendliness and care, albeit not from a pure heart, are effective when working with clients. They feel more satisfied, and this increases the chances that they will return themselves and recommend the company to their friends. But emotional work has a downside. The employees who carry it out more often feel emotional exhaustion and burn out.

True, people who are forced to smile at work, at least get paid for it. And more recently, the term “emotional service” has also been applied to situations where it is provided for free. Here are some examples:

  • The company is discussing some trigger topic. A person has an opinion that does not coincide with the majority in the party. He feels uncomfortable because he cannot speak out and is forced to agree. But he is silent – and not at all because he is afraid. He just doesn’t want to provoke discontent, conflict, upset someone – “after all, we are sitting so well.”
  • Someone came to the anniversary of the grandmother. A distant relative sits next to him and says that our hero lives wrong, but now they will explain to him how to. A person understands that his boundaries are being violated. It is unpleasant for him, he is angry or upset to tears. But he smiles and with his comments pays tribute to the wisdom and care of the interlocutor, promises to do as he says. Because this is relatives, how can you offend her.
  • The worker hurries to the office, but then he is stopped by a tourist with a request to show him the way. Our hero knows that being late is fraught with trouble. But he still slows down so as not to look rude.
  • The man had a hard day. There is a disaster at work, my grandmother got sick, everything is bad. All he wants to do is lie under the covers and howl from impotence. But the partner returns home in sadness. He was almost at the entrance when the car doused him with water from a puddle. So he is very, very upset. And the hero pushes his emotions and goes to console his loved one, because it’s so hard for him to hang his problems on him.

These are not all such situations. One thing unites them: a person feels bad, he feels unhappy, but continues to emotionally serve the interlocutor.

What is the difference between emotional service and politeness and care

This begs the question: so what? Showing the way, comforting a partner is quite normal, and sometimes you have to do it. But there is a nuance. Courtesy and care do not necessarily come with self-violence. You can do all this with pleasure, or at least with more or less neutral feelings, without the feat “everything for the sake of making the other person comfortable.” You helped a man on the street, he thanked, smiled, you are pleased. You reassured a loved one, after which both of you are satisfied with what is happening.

Of course, life is difficult. And sometimes you have to step over yourself, because someone next to you is worse. It works when there is balance in the relationship. Today one helps the other, tomorrow the other.

If the game is played in one goal, it does not work like that. Because we have a happy person (who, by the way, sometimes may not even demand sacrifices for himself and be unaware of them) and his tired and burned out partner.

Here is how the creator of the term “emotional labor” explains the difference using an example.

Arlie Hochschild

Professor of sociology.

Distinctions must be made regarding the purpose of your task. Suppose you need to please your mother-in-law, for which you are going to visit her. Getting into a taxi, ringing the doorbell is not emotional labor. But if a woman is extremely disapproving of you, you feel it again in the first five minutes and you have to defend your self-esteem from supposed insults – this is emotional work.

How Emotional Service Habits Are Formed

Emotional service usually begins to get used to from childhood. At risk are those who are raised as “good” boys and girls, comfortable.

Suppose Aunt Masha, who came to visit, wants to hug little Vanechka. He doesn’t feel comfortable when touched. But my mother whispers: “Go, otherwise you will be offended.” And the boy endures hugs in order to please his relative, although he feels bad at that moment.

Or they say to the child: “What are you whining about? Now dad will come home from work tired, angry” or “You talk so much, mommy’s head is about to explode. You don’t want your mommy to die, do you?” Of course, he does not want to, and the son or daughter begins to correct his behavior, if only his parents were happy.

Subsequently, such patterns are fixed in various ways, and we carry them with us into adulthood. We can’t say no. We do what we “should” and not what we want.

Women and girls are at particular risk. Gender socialization suggests that they should be more patient, caring, calm and sensitive to emotions. Therefore, they are assigned responsibility for the “weather in the house.” Allegedly, they are obliged at any cost to ensure the comfort and happiness of their household: to listen, to reconcile, to remember important events, to manage their schedule, and so on. Inspire – after all, the success of a man depends only on her. Simulate an orgasm, in the end, so that the partner does not get upset.

And this applies not only to close relationships. For example, catcalling, that is, harassment on the street, often also contains a request for emotional service. The phrase “Beauty, why are you so sad, smile!” may be a clumsy attempt to cheer up a passing girl. In fact, this is a request to show an emotion that she does not feel. And most likely she will. And from the offer to get acquainted, even if the person is disgusting to her, she will refuse as gently as possible, because for a sharp “no” they can even kill.

And jobs that involve a lot of emotional labor are usually considered typically feminine. At the same time, emotional service, as a rule, is not perceived as part of the work, as a result of which it is underestimated.

Of course, this does not mean that the problem of emotional service is purely female. “Most” does not mean “only”.

What to do to stop emotionally serving others

First, the bad news: it is unlikely that you will be able to completely stop emotional labor. There is nothing particularly terrible in this. But if all you’re doing is stepping over yourself for the comfort of others, there’s something worth doing.

listen to yourself

An emotionally serving person usually has a good understanding of what to do to make the other person feel better. But he is very poorly versed in how to achieve comfort for himself, because there is not much practice. And you have to be in the first place. So it’s time to get to know yourself.

Track your reactions when you interact with people. If you feel uncomfortable, try to evaluate what you are doing now and what you would really like. For example, you listen to your parents’ drunken guest at a family reunion and get angry. Although you can interrupt it (albeit politely), get up and leave.

Do a debriefing. What are you doing, believing that you have to, or for someone else? Which of these can be painlessly abandoned?

Start building boundaries

Personal boundaries help define the rules for how you can and cannot be treated. Accordingly, having built them, you will understand what kind of behavior towards you is unacceptable, and stop it.

Learn to refuse

Whatever you read in books as a child, the magic word is not “please” but “no.” If you learn how to use it, life will become much better. You don’t even need to have a good reason for a negative answer every time, “I don’t want to” – that’s enough. At the same time, you should be prepared that others have the right to refuse you. But a person who is used to emotionally serving others does not seem to have high expectations about this.

Start small. For example, if a taxi driver starts a strange conversation with you, you can say to him, “Excuse me, I need to collect my thoughts. Let’s drive in silence?” If your mother asks you to call your second cousin aunt and congratulate her on her 90th birthday, although you have never seen her and most likely will not meet, refuse. If someone tries to stop you while jogging and ask you for something obviously non-emergency, just move on.

Forgive yourself for failures along the way

Periodically, you will catch yourself on the fact that you have again chosen not yourself. Well, no big deal. This is not an error, but material for further work. What happened? Why did you do this? Could they have acted differently? What will you do next time in this situation? Ask yourself questions and look for answers. This is also a step towards getting to know yourself.

Accept the possible consequences

As long as you were emotionally serving those around you, you were a very comfortable person. It was calm and comfortable next to you, because you selflessly provided it. As soon as you start thinking more about yourself, it will trigger a reaction. Mostly negative. And you have to be ready for this. It may even seem that everything is gone, because instead of silence and grace in your relationship (not necessarily partnership), quarrels and skirmishes are now very common.

This is fine. You are no longer comfortable, which means that the rest will have to invest more in your communications. After a while, you will get along with each other, and everything will be fine. Well, if the relationship was based only on emotional service, then why do you need it?