Handling emotional responses – Part 1

When I do training on giving feedback or having performance conversations,  a common theme  is the concern people have around emotional responses.   Many people know that they should give regular feedback, or have conversations if someone isn’t hitting the mark, but they get stuck on what will happen if they do, and what emotional response the other person might have.

In most of the classes I teach, what I tell people is this:

“ emotions are just data”.

Confused? Let me elaborate.

Emotions tell you how important something is

The emotional response someone has is information about what is going on for him or her.   And that is really all you know.   If someone has an emotional response – positive or negative – to something that you say to them (assuming you have done your best to be constructive – more on that in part 2) then all that means is that they care about what you said.   Frankly, I would rather be greeted by a negative emotional response than an apathetic one, because at least if the person has an emotional response I know that this is a conversation that matters to them.  If someone is invested;   if someone cares, then that is half the battle won.

I will say though, that I think you do need to have a belief in your ability to handle an emotional response, understand where it is coming from and what that means for future actions, and to maintain your relationship with that individual for the future. So, my assumption is that when people say they are concerned about emotional responses, they are really saying “what if this breaks our relationship and it can’t be fixed again?’

Is an emotional reaction really a big deal?

So lets talk about that first before we get into the skills side.

I find that notion really interesting, because it seems to assume that once someone has an emotional response, that’s it … “the bottom has fallen out of it” as they say here in Newfoundland.  The relationship is ruined.   It’s the point of no return.

But really? Is that really true?

Most of us, if asked, can talk about a time when we didn’t like something but got over it. And more than a few of us can probably talk about a time when we didn’t like to hear something in the moment, but later realized how useful, helpful or valuable that something (often feedback) was.  And, given what I do, I can point to any number of interactions where exploring what triggered the emotion was actually a revelation for the individual in question and helped them learn something important for their own future productivity and, more importantly, happiness.

So at worst, the emotional response is something we can get over, and at best it can actually be life changing.

Wow.  If having that “difficult” conversation could actually be life changing and help someone be happier in the long term, isn’t that a good enough reason to have them?

So hopefully,  your motivation has gone up… at least a little.   In part 2 I’ll tackle what is probably still getting in the way “yes, Jess, that’s lovely, but what do I actually do when someone has an emotional response?”  Read on in Part 2….

For more help with handling ‘difficult’ conversations, giving feedback, managing emotions at work or  building productive relationships in the workplace,  contact us at contact@ethree.ca or click here

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