Monday, April 6, 2020

Luxury beliefs: “Emotional labour”

When I first started hearing and reading the term “emotional labour” my reaction was that the people who complained about doing emotional labour it were probably the ones least-qualified to do it. I should begin, then, by saying that it has an almost respectable pedigree. But you have to do a little excavation to get back to what it originally meant to find it because it was hijacked.

By the time the term made it's way into public discourse it had come to mean taking the time to understand and respond to other people's emotions. Which is just another way of saying being a decent human. And it should go without saying, but it doesn't, that if you think of being a decent human being as labour, then you aren't one. Anyway, the usual whiners latched onto it and that is all you need to know. The correct response is to tune out.

But the original concept is interesting. It means managing your emotions in order to function in a particular setting. The first setting was at the office but it later got expanded to mean any particular setting.

It's not a new idea; it goes all the way back to ancient Greece.

The really important thing to note about emotional labour, however, is that it's good for you. Managing your feelings is good for you. Complaining about all the “emotional labour” you do is bad for you.

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