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Those Dreaded Emotions

Some people think emotions should not be displayed in the workplace.  We are not robots and come to the workplace as a whole person with complicated needs, including our hopes, concerns, beliefs and expectations.  In fact, knowing these needs for ourselves and others is the key to negotiation and conflict resolution.

Feelings and emotions are different and often described as two sides to the same coin.  Emotions are the physical reaction in your body and feelings reflect your personal associations to these emotions.  Regardless, emotions and feelings are the largest tool a mediator has when resolving conflict.  They point directly to the underlying need at the heart of conflict.  When emotions rise, we see it as a gift.  It is where our focus and energy go and generates the nature of our questions.  Feelings are the loudest indicator of those underlying needs that we may be missing.  Once we identify the need, vocalize it, and dig deeper into it, we can build understanding.

Understanding, not agreement is the crux of conflict resolution.   Once both parties can be heard, acknowledged and understood they are ready to look at options that will meet both parties needs.  Thereby driving a solution (not agreement).

I thought it would be helpful to share this table of feelings/needs that I came across not long ago.  Thanks to Gary Harper, the author of ‘The Joy of Conflict Resolution’, for sharing his information. It shows the feeling on the left and the associated need underlying the feeling on the right.

Use it the next time you see emotions rise to ensure you can identify the need and explore it further.  When someone is feeling micromanaged you can say “Oh, you are looking for more autonomy in your work. What’s important to you about autonomy?”. This acknowledgement and question will create a very different dynamic than if you reacted strongly to the concern about your management style.

Whether its your own feelings or feelings that others are exhibiting (sometimes with strong emotion), hopefully you will see emotions and feelings as the gift they are and no longer dread them.

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.” -Dale Carnegie

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