“How do you find the time to manage all of this social media stuff?” That’s one of the most common questions I’m asked whenever I present. And sometimes, I get the sense that people are hoping that it’s so complicated and time-consuming that they’ll have a great excuse NOT to do it. Not to learn [...]
Managing people's emotions effectively at work
Emotions affect our working lives much more than we care to admit. You can probably think of many times when your emotions have had a strong influence on your ability to work, think and interact with other people. How you manage certain emotions often has a critical impact on whether a client walks away dissatisfied or if employees will co-operate with you.
How do you manage people's emotions?
Many people think they have to do some-thing about someone's emotions and this is a common reason why people avoid them in the first place. But just listening and commenting on what you think the other person is feeling can often have a dramatic effect without the need for taking action.
In the case of dissatisfied customers, they usually want an acknowledgement of their frustration. For example, try saying ''I can see that you are very angry and frustrated with our lack of response to your calls. It's our mistake and I apologise on behalf of the company''. In The Mediator's Handbook, Charlton and Dewdney write that in customer service handling contexts, 70 per cent of complainants wanted an apology and the acknowledgement that they had received unsatisfactory service. They found that the complaint died once an acknowl-edgement was received.
What are some practical tips?
- Actually name emotions. Saying ''I understand'' or ''I see'' doesn't commu-nicate enough to people. Responses like ''You seem pleased by the survey results'' or ''You look upset about this decision'' name the emotion and are more likely to communicate that you see things from their perspective.
- Sometimes asking ''How do you feel?'' is not enough especially when people say they're fine and you know they're not. Try naming what you think the person is feeling, for example ''Jo, I'm aware that this role is not your first choice and I imagine you might be feeling disappointed and angry''. Even if they still deny it, you have probably helped them to let go of their feelings a little.
- Use neutral language. One word can often inflame a discussion if it is potentially loaded or judgemental.
- Acknowledge strong emotions at the beginning of your discussion. Meetings usually take half the time if the emotions driving the conversation are acknowledged from the outset.
- Try not to take people's emotions personally. You'll only escalate the situation.
- Don't attempt to convince people that they shouldn''t feel what they feel or overlook emotions in the hope they'll go away. They won't and will only come back later in a more potentially destructive way.
- Pick up on non-verbals, for example, ''Chris, you look confused''.
- Match your response to their level of feeling. If someone is really furious about a situation, saying ''You seem a little annoyed'' will enrage them even more!
- People often feel several conflicting emotions at once. It's tempting to act on what has been said without realising that they may just have needed to let off steam.
- Don't go straight into problem-solving when people express emotions. Just listening and asking exploratory questions can often be enough for people to work things out for themselves, for example, ''You seem to dislike doing this. What is it that you particularly don't enjoy?''
- Emotions can be ''carried'' by people on behalf of others. For example, if you have two angry team members, they may be expressing anger on behalf of the team and you may need to explore this.
- Acknowledging people's emotions doesn't necessarily mean that you think they're right. It also doesn''t mean that you have to be a counsellor. It's appropriate to refer them to a professional if their emotions continually influence their ability to work effectively.
Why is it important for me to understand my emotions?
The more you are aware of your emotions, the better you'll be at dealing with other's emotions. People notice emotions that you are not in touch with or think you have successfully hidden, and these emotions can influence your interactions with others and the climate in the workplace. Sometimes your emotions and intuition can be your only reliable means of navigating through all the information and changes we face each day.