Human emotions: Why interactions are not always hunky-dory.

Throughout my career, I’ve been blessed to work with a variety of people:  Male and female, degreed and non-degreed, union and non-union, old and young, lazy and assiduous, smart and clueless, etc.  I say blessed since I’ve been forced to learn how to work with different people and their emotions to get things done. 

To navigate the daily emotional minefield, one must not take things personally and focus on getting results.  Someone once misinterpreted my email and got very upset thinking I didn’t approve of how they handled a situation.  They took the time to write a few long emails so I scheduled a call so they didn’t write a few more long emails.  I let them start the call to hear them vent.  On another occasion, an engineer yelled at me trying to defend why he wasn’t responsible for a mistake I found on an engineering drawing.  I sat back in my chair and just listened till he had no more to say.  After someone says their piece, most people realize they have overreacted while trying to explain why they are so upset.  Please note it’s common in some cultures for people to raise their voice and use their hands when speaking.  They’re not upset.  That is just how some people express themselves.

At the end of the day, most situations will be okay.  I focus conversations on the problem at hand.  How are we going to solve this problem and move forward?  It may take compromise and setting aside egos.  There are several books on emotional intelligence to learn more on this topic but most people just want to be heard.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some bad apples that like to cause disruption and purposefully throw wrenches into situations.  The bad apples will rot and and get filtered out over time.

One method I’ve learned when conveying feedback is to provide balanced feedback.  It’s not easy to do.  People want to focus on just the positive or negative.  If Fred bombed a presentation, start by assessing what he did right and then discuss what he did wrong.  Just pointing out all Fred’s shortcomings and not highlighting where he nailed the presentation will affect Fred’s motivation to present next time.   

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