Conversations about performance or behaviour have many starting points but all have an underlying emotional tone. It’s the reason so many of us avoid these conversations altogether or, when we do face up to them, we handle them badly.
– I’m frustrated: you keep getting this wrong.
– I’m disappointed: you’re capable of so much better.
– I was embarrassed by the way you spoke to me.
Most of us only have two ways of dealing with our emotions. One is to try to control them completely by denying and suppressing them. This can work, sometimes for years, but we are always at risk that one day they will explode and take over. Emotional outbursts seldom help in creating conversations in which real problems can be confronted and solutions negotiated and agreed.
One of the most important aspects of becoming emotionally intelligent is to develop skill and self discipline in managing your emotions and communicating them effectively.
When you shut out emotions completely in your interactions with others, you typically describe a situation or a problem and then either tell the other person how you think it should be resolved, or perhaps ask them what they are going to do about it. These conversations are not very effective because when you don’t clearly say how strongly you feel about something, there is little motivation for the other person to take you seriously or change their behaviour.
When you control your emotions to the point of denying them completely you deprive yourself of a very powerful influencing mechanism. You also make it more likely that you will find yourself in situations in which you are unhappy or uncomfortable; but where you are unable to create any change.
When you don’t communicate about how you feel, clearly and strongly, in circumstances that are unhappy for you, over time your negative emotions build up. Finally, when your tolerance and patience and with them your self control, run out, your pent up feelings of frustration and anger take over and you explode. Feelings are hurt and relationships are damaged, but the problems go unresolved. When you don’t have any effective way of dealing with bad situations you are often left with no choice but to cope as best you can.
Keeping feelings completely out of conversations, or letting them take over in emotional outbursts, is both impractical and ineffective. Learning to expressing how you feel in an emotionally intelligent way reduces your stress and makes it more likely you will find lasting solutions to problems.
Maureen Collins has a B.Sc. degree in Psychology from Edinburgh University and over 25 years of management and consulting experience in the corporate world. She specialises in communication skills in various contexts: leading and managing, teambuilding, handling change, and performance management. Her consulting practice, Straight Talk, trains people in the skills to handle difficult conversations, on difficult topics, with difficult people.
Read more on http://www.straight-talk.co.za
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