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:
- When You Need a Lift
- When we depend on praise, positive support or consumption to feel good, we're giving other people or
things power over us. Finding within ourselves whatever we need to feel good about ourselves is one
path to autonomy and freedom.
- Fooling Ourselves
- Humans have impressive abilities to convince themselves of things that are false. One explanation for
this behavior is the theory of cognitive dissonance.
- Toxic Conflict in Virtual Teams: Virtuality
- In virtual teams, toxic conflict sometimes seems to erupt spontaneously. People who function effectively
in co-located teams can find themselves repeatedly embroiled in conflicts that seem to lack specific
causes. What triggers toxic conflict in virtual teams?
- 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.
- Unanswerable Questions
- Some questions are beyond our power to answer, but many of us try anyway. What are some of these unanswerable
questions and how can we respond?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 11: The Rhyme-as-Reason Effect
- When we speak or write, the phrases we use have both form and meaning. Although we usually think of form and meaning as distinct, we tend to assess as more meaningful and valid those phrases that are more beautifully formed. The rhyme-as-reason effect causes us to confuse the validity of a phrase with its aesthetics. Available here and by RSS on December 11.
- And on December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
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- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
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- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.