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:
- The Slippery Slope That Isn't
- "If we promote you, we'll have to promote all of them, too." This "slippery-slope"
tactic for winning debates works by exploiting our fears. Another in a series about rhetorical tricks
that push our buttons.
- What We Don't Know About Each Other
- We know a lot about our co-workers, but we don't know everything. And since we don't know what we don't
know, we sometimes forget that we don't know it. And then the trouble begins.
- Coercion by Presupposition
- Coercion, physical or psychological, has no place in the workplace. Yet we see it and experience it
frequently. We can end the use of presupposition as a tool of coercion, but only if we take personal
responsibility for ending it.
- Toxic Conflict in Virtual Teams: Minimizing Authority
- Toxic conflict in virtual teams is especially difficult to address, because we bring to it assumptions
about causes and remedies that we've acquired in our experience in co-located teams. In this Part II
of our exploration we examine how minimizing authority tends to convert ordinary creative conflict into
a toxic form.
- Scope Creep, Hot Hands, and the Illusion of Control
- Despite our awareness of scope creep's dangerous effects on projects and other efforts, we seem unable
to prevent it. Two cognitive biases — the "hot hand fallacy" and "the illusion
of control" — might provide explanations.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 20: Brainstorming and Speedstorming: I
- Recent research suggests that brainstorming might not be as effective as we would like to believe it is. An alternative, speedstorming, might have some advantages for some teams solving some problems. Available here and by RSS on February 20.
- And on February 27: Brainstorming and Speedstorming: II
- Recent research into the effectiveness of brainstorming has raised some questions. Motivated to examine alternatives, I ran into speedstorming. Here's Part II of an exploration of the properties of speedstorming. Available here and by RSS on February 27.
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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.