The meeting ended mercifully, before any of them could charge their weapons. After the team from Diamond Square filed out of the room, Glen and Barb silently stared across the table at each other for maybe a month. Then Glen said, "I guess I blew it, huh?"
It wasn't a question, but Barb felt relieved to receive a license to be honest. "In some ways, yes. But their keeping us all in the dark for so long didn't help."
Glen was intrigued. "Say more."
Barb explained, "Your were clearly out of bounds. Clearly. But if we knew how sensitive they were about being excluded last time, you might've done things differently. Their silence helped create this mess."
Barb has noticed that in tense situations, we can be reluctant to let others know how we really feel. On the surface, we might appear to be fine — even happy — while inside, we feel low, or hurt, or even steamed.
While we steer
by our own insides,
people around us
steer by our outsidesWhile we steer by our own insides, people around us steer by our outsides. When we conceal how we feel, or when we pretend to feel what we don't, we deprive others of information they could use to adjust their behavior. When our insides and our outsides are different enough, danger is always near.
We can learn a lot about communicating feelings by paying attention to our dogs.
- Let the people around you know how you're doing
- Dogs wag their tails to make sure everyone around them knows how they feel, even when nothing much is happening.
- When you conceal your feelings, the people around you must make something up, and they often get it wrong. Why leave it to them?
- Expand your feelings vocabulary
- Dogs are very expressive. To describe their feelings, they adjust their tail-wagging frequency, tail-wagging amplitude, and even their tail curl.
- How many different smiles do you have? How many ways do you know to tell someone that you feel hurt or offended, or to ask for what you need to put things right?
- Send consistent messages
- Dogs also use facial expressions, ear position, posture, and vocalization to communicate. Usually all these messages are consistent, and when they aren't, the dog is saying, "I have many different feelings."
- When we conceal or pretend, a little bit of truth leaks out, and we confuse the people around us. When we drop the concealment and pretense, consistency is easier.
Perhaps you have a dog, or you have a friend who does. Spend some time with him or her — just you and the dog. Go for a walk together (the dog will not object). Laze around. Play. Notice how easily the dog communicates feelings. Soon, you'll be doing it too. Effortlessly. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Emotions at Work:
- Never, Ever, Kill the Messenger
- If you're a manager in a project-oriented organization, you need to know the full, unvarnished Truth.
When you kill a messenger, you deliver a message of your own: Tell me the Truth at your peril. Killing
messengers has such predictable results that you have to question any report you receive — good
news or bad.
- When You Need a Lift
- When we depend on praise, positive support or consumption to feel good, we're giving other people or
things power over us. Finding within ourselves whatever we need to feel good about ourselves is one
path to autonomy and freedom.
- Begging the Question
- Begging the question is a common, usually undetected, rhetorical fallacy. It leads to unsupported conclusions
and painful places we just can't live with. What can we do when it happens?
- It's a Wonderful Day!
- Most knowledge workers are problem solvers. We work towards goals. We anticipate problems as best we
can, and when problems appear, we solve them. But our focus on anticipating problems can become a problem
in itself — at work and in Life.
- The Injured Teammate: II
- You're a team lead, and one of the team members is suddenly very ill or has been severely injured. How
do you handle it? Here are some suggestions for breaking the news to the team.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 28: Four Overlooked Email Risks: II
- Email exchanges are notorious for exposing groups to battles that would never occur in face-to-face conversation. But email has other limitations, less-often discussed, that make managing dialog very difficult. Here's Part II of an exploration of some of those risks. Available here and by RSS on March 28.
- And on April 4: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: III
- People who behave narcissistically tend to regard themselves as special. They systematically place their own interests and welfare ahead of anyone or anything else. In this part of the series we consider how this claimed specialness affects the organization and its people. Available here and by RSS on April 4.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.