Are you simply communicating? Or are you truly connecting?
Listening to the words of another can be tricky enough because we often overlay our interpretation to what we think they are communicating. The trouble is, often we’re wrong. So what to do? Learn to listen to the emotions beneath both the words and the behavior.
In a world where many people feel more disconnected than ever before, learning to listen to emotions is crucial. As an executive coach, I continuously help leaders connect more deeply with their colleagues and team members. Here’s how.
How to Hear What Emotions Are Saying
Here’s how misunderstandings, based frequently on assumptions, occur: people often use non-specific phrases such as, “I find this task too difficult”. And have you noticed, that when a person makes a statement such as this, you’re often compelled to either agree or disagree? And further, we usually assume we understand what the person means by “too difficult.” But we don’t. Because we aren’t them.
For a software engineer, “too difficult” might mean they have been asked to develop a better version of Microsoft Word all by themselves and they don’t have the skillset. For you, “too difficult” might mean you don’t have the time to complete a specific task—it’s about scheduling, not about capability. Add to this that we all have our most prevalent cognitive biases and misunderstandings run rampant.
To understand what a person is experiencing, we need to know the specifics, according to them. When someone tells you their emotional experience, ask what it is, specifically. Here are some examples… if someone says something is difficult:
“What specifically?” (“What specifically about the task is too difficult?”)
“How specifically?” (“How is this task too difficult, specifically?”)
“In comparison to who/what, specifically?” (“Too difficult compared to what, specifically?”)
This will provide the info you need to understand what it feels like to be them, and then you two can navigate their experience together. As a leader it’s crucial to lead by understanding a person’s experience and not by assuming you know what it is. See how using “specifically” works for you. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, and the person will feel understood and connected with you.
Next, let’s look at the hidden language beneath emotions:
We all judge emotions… “lazy” is a popular perceived emotion that we like to make wrong. But if it might mean the person is feeling hopeless, that’s fascinating, yes? How can we lead this person to a different behavioral choice? Read on.
How To Help People Navigate Their Emotions
As leaders we want our people to have the most behavioral choice possible. So when they’re stuck, it’s our job to help them move to a more resourceful state. To do this we need to help our team members shift to curiosity as quickly as possible. One of the fastest ways to do this is via a tool we call Maneuvers of Consciousness, where a person notices what they’re resisting by being fully in it for 3 minutes, then being curious about it for 3 minutes, feeling amazed by it for 3 minutes, the fully appreciating it for 3 minutes.
Here’s a handy infographic to make it easy to follow:
Using the Maneuvers tool, we can help a person navigate some of the most challenging emotional shifts, for example:
From Depression to: Anger -> Frustration -> Curiosity -> Hopeful
From Hopelessness to: Tired -> Calm -> Open -> Curious -> Confident -> Determined
From Overwhelm to: Resignation -> Surrender -> Curious -> Resourceful -> Confident
From Scared to: Angry or Anxious -> Annoyed -> Curious -> Insightful -> Powerful
More emotional resilience means more resilience overall. Which is essential in our ever-changing world. As we learn to listen to emotions, and to what specifically a person is really saying, we can connect more deeply too.
· We can learn to listen to the emotions a person is expressing, which helps us connect with them and lead them more effectively
· Emotions can be shifted in a progression, from more uncomfortable to more comfortable and resourceful
· Helping someone become curious is key to helping them have more behavioral choice