Emotions – friend or foe

If I could pick catchphrases to define my life so far, “you are too emotional” would definitely be one of them. Being passionate and intense comes in very handy when I am asked to create, innovate, connect dots. The same intensity is many times a hurdle in my being a successful communicator.  I know I can get scary or hard to bear.

Communication without emotion is dry and incomplete. Communication with too much emotion may miss the mark and not reach its purpose. It may push away. So how do we find the sweet spot?

Resources worth exploring

In  her book Emotional Agility, Psychologist Susan David characterises emotions as data, not directives. In other words, she invites us to observe the emotion, the fact that we are feeling it and become curious about what that says about our values, how they are connected with the situation at hand.  As we do that we will understand what kind of flags our mind is putting up in the moment and potentially even what they mean.

” Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility. “(from the TED website)

A great resource is also Susan David’s podcast talk with Dr. Brene Brown. It is not until I heard Susan David talk about toxic positivity that I understood the unattainable goal I was setting for myself when I was pushed to “think positive”, “get over it”, “just stop thinking about it.” It is worth listening and taking notes.

Five tips to better handle communicating while you are feeling emotional

Here is the situation:

You have just learned that one of your team members has made the same mistake for the third time in a row and that it has jeopardised a project that was quite important. You are on your way to having a difficult conversation and your emotions are really hijacking your intention of conducting yourself with calm and assertively. You are upset, feel ignored in your previous comments and like your team member is not taking things seriously.  You realize that you are charged and you are not in the best shape to have this conversation. At the same time, you have to have the conversation today as tomorrow you are leaving on a trip that would place too much time between the occurrence and the feedback.

Here are a few tips that you can employ to get yourself in a position of having a difficult but constructive conversation:

1. Don’t go directly into the meeting. Take a detour. Go in the bathroom for some breathing (just a minute or two of belly breathing will change the part of your brain that is leading the conversation). Or go outside and walk breathing in the fresh air. Even better.

2. Go into the meeting prepared: pen, paper, ears and eyes.  What I mean to say is go into the meeting prepared to listen and not with your mind already made up (in that case, why have a meeting at all?). We have one mouth, two eyes and two ears and we must use them proportionally. Observe your team member in the talk, listen and take notes. You will be better for it, I promise!

3. As you participate in the conversation, try this exercise: each time you feel compelled to judge (“you are so careless!”), replace that with a question (“what do you think was the source of this mistake?”). And … you guessed it … listen some more. And take notes.

4. As you are preparing to speak, pace yourself. Strong emotions push us many times to speak as if we are running the races.  Slow down, be thoughtful about what you say, use I sentences only (remember you never really know what the other one is thinking of feeling) and talk about your feelings in reference to their actions: when you don’t follow our agreement, I lose trust in you.

5. Don’t leave the meeting without a common agreement.  Follow up with a note or an email thanking your team member for their time and clarifying the agreement.

Good luck! Not easy but definitely worth your effort!

Photo by Memento Media on Unsplash

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