How to handle emotional outbursts on your team
An emotional outburst is just another form of communication
Look at outbursts as giving you three sets of information: emotional data; factual or intellectual data; and motives, values and beliefs
Do you have a crier on your team? Or maybe you have a screamer who is aggressively invested in every decision? These kinds of emotional outbursts can hijack your team, stalling productivity and limiting innovation. Here’s how to work through them.
An emotional outburst is just another form of communication.
Emotions are clues that the issue you are discussing is touching on something the person values or believes in strongly. So look at outbursts as giving you three sets of information: emotional data; factual or intellectual data; and motives, values and beliefs. To get to the heart of the matter, follow these steps:
1 Spot the emotion If you wait until the emotion is in full bloom, it will be difficult to manage. Watch for the telltale signs that something is causing concern. The most important signals will come from incongruence between what someone is saying and what their body language is telling you.
2 Listen Listen carefully to the response, both to what is said and what you can infer about facts, feelings and values. You will pick up emotions in language, particularly in extreme words or words that are repeated.
Body language will again provide clues. Angry (leaning in, clenched jaw or fists) looks very different from discouraged (dropping eye contact, slumping) or dismissive (rolling eyes, turning away).
3 Ask questions When you see or hear the emotional layer, stay calm, keep your tone level and ask a question to draw them out and get them talking about the cause of their frustration.
4 Resolve it Once everyone involved in the discussion is working with the same three data sets – facts, emotions and values – you will be clear about the problem you need to solve.
Although taking the time to draw out the values might seem slow at first, you’ll see that issues actually get resolved faster. And, ironically, as you validate emotions, over time people will tend to be less emotional as it’s often the suppressing the emotions or trying to cobble together facts to justify them that was causing irrational behaviour. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2015
Previously published in The Irish Times.
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