Dear Dr Sylvia,
I have been reading a lot about emotional intelligence recently and I would love to hear your answer to the following question: “Is it more effective to talk mostly about facts or add lots of vibrant color using emotional words at work?”
I believe we are all looking at the importance of how to communicate effectively without coming across as a drama king or queen.
Thus, do you suggest we should use more emotion laden words or stay with numbers and other data?
Tale of Two Employees
Here are examples of what I mean. This just happened last week and has me curious about how you would coach these two men.
Scene #1: Jeff told me he needed clarification with his boss about a project that was just approved. He felt it was not heading in the right direction. His boss is known as a “hot head” who does not like conflict.
Jeff said “I was concerned with the ramifications of telling my boss that the numbers were off and so I went in with only the facts. My boss disagreed and said to do what I had been told.
I left the conversation feeling frustrated. I decided to not make waves and just do what I was asked to do.
I stuffed my upset and yet, underneath I really hope the project fails so I can say “I told you so!
Scene #2: Stan said he went to talk with his boss about the new project. He was concerned that the numbers were off. He said to me: “I found myself biting my lip to keep my cool when I had the meeting with my boss. He loves to be right and gets very negative when he is challenged.
I heard a voice in my head say, “Speak up and don’t be a wimp.”
So, I told my boss in these words “It’s always uncomfortable to disagree with you. However, I don’t want to come back one day with an ‘I told you so’ attitude. Just know that I am willing to take the challenge and talk straight even if it means there will be some fires to put out.”
I used the facts to underline the problems and used emotional words like ‘if we fail’ to spice up things.
What do you think works best?
Curious About Emotions
Thanks for the question. It’s important to look at the power of facts and the importance of emotions in the workplace.
I bet, if we asked people to vote, they would say that Stan in Scene #2 is the winner.
It’s All About Timing
When it comes to timing, they are both right.
In Scene#1 Jeff was not prepared to show his upset and if he had, it would have fallen flat and he would have been even more angry and frustrated.
He may have then said something he regretted and once the words are out of your mouth, you are no longer in charge of them.
What Jeff needs is some coaching to get to the bottom of why he is so fearful of confronting conflict, especially with a strong “hot head.”
It is only then, that he will be in a positive position to take on someone who intimidates him.
In Scene#2 Stan is in a better position to speak up and be heard. He knows how to use emotional words without pushing them out like a sword to the stomach.
He used “if we fail” to include himself and his boss and therefore, the accountability was on both of them. That was great positioning.
He also showed excellent leadership abilities by being willing, albeit with some trepidation, to be open and honest.
Stan was willing to talk openly and was not interested in being the “gotcha guy” who would come back with an “I told you so.”
Looking at the big picture
Studies show that emotional intelligence is more important, or at least equally important, to intellectual capacity.
It means, considering not just your own ideas and feelings, also those of the other/s who are to be included in any project.
Understanding the WHY
I suggest that everyone, from first time hire to long term boss, needs to look at the underlying reasons why it is so hard to speak up, talk truth to power, and be capable of putting both facts and emotions together to make vital points.
Yes, facts are more objective, emotions more subjective.
I suggest that Stan from Scene#2 looks like a great candidate for future promotion and I only hope that Jeff from Scene#1 does some coaching sessions or at least reads my book “Don’t Bring It To Work” to find out why he holds back emotionally.
Here is to your (and everyone’s) success,
P.S. I would like to gift all that read Don’t Bring It To Work with the companion Pattern Aware Success Guide. Send me an email and it’s yours.