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:
- Email Happens
- Email is a wonderful medium for some communications, and extremely dangerous for others. What are its
limitations? How can we use email safely?
- Filtered Perceptions
- How we see things influences how we see things, almost like a filter or sunglasses. What are your filters?
- How to Avoid a Layoff: Your Relationships
- In troubled economic times, layoffs loom almost everywhere. Here are some tips for reconfiguring your
relationships with others at work and at home to reduce the chances that you will be laid off.
- One Cost of Split Assignments
- Sometimes management practices have unintended consequences. To reduce costs, we keep staff ranks thin,
but that leads to split assignments for those with rare skills. Here's one way split assignments can
lead to higher costs.
- First Aid for Wounded Conversations
- Groups that meet regularly sometimes develop patterns of tense conversations that become obstacles to
forward progress. Here are some ideas for releasing the tension.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 22: Motivation and the Reification Error
- We commit the reification error when we assume, incorrectly, that we can treat abstract constructs as if they were real objects. It's a common error when we try to motivate people. Available here and by RSS on November 22.
- And on November 29: Manipulators Beware
- When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.
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