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Coaching Leadership

Appeal to Rationality

In a difficult conversation, it’s easy to fall into the trap of appealing to rationality. When emotions are running high, especially on one side of the conversation., then you may try for a “let’s just be rational about this”.

It’s a very similar position to asking someone to “calm down”, and likely to have about the same effect. That’s ranging from nothing, to a full and final breakdown in communication.

We fall into this trap when we are less immediately impacted by the conversation. Maybe it’s one where you’ve had time to digest the contents, whereas the other party is hearing tough news for the first time.

Quite often it’ll be when the topic is incredibly important to the other party, but is less impactful to you. It’s extremely common when you confuse a lighthearted topic with one that’s truly important to the other person. That’s a difficult conversation which you didn’t realise would be difficult, which is just about the hardest kind.

Appealing to rationality, or attempting to be logical, will not work in an emotional situation (and all situations are somewhat emotional). There’s no independent arbiter doling out correct answers. No impartial judges validating your feelings over another’s. When you move to “rationality”, this external justification is exactly what you are seeking, to the detriment of the overall conversation.

When you are reaching for this conversational gambit, you may really be attempting to slow down the conversation, bringing it back to a shared pool of understanding.

If that’s the case, just go for it. Recognise the emotion, and ask to take a moment. “Can I take a second to gather my thoughts?”, “I can see that this is a really important topic for you, what else would you like to share right now?”. “I’m keen to understand more, I’m sorry I’m not there yet”.

All these are approaches to bring you towards a productive exchange of meaning, which you won’t get with a suddenly appeal to faceless authority.

Don’t waste time being rational, when you can build a lasting an powerful human connection instead.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

It’s Never Just Business

What you do defines who you are. The actions you take and the options you choose are the things that define your shape in the world.

If you are ever in a situation where you are considering saying “It’s Just Business”, then take a moment and think about why you are about to do this.

When you remove yourself from the discussion in this way, then you are often attempting to shift responsibility for something away from yourself. You are suggesting that this third party, the impartial arbiter, this other, “business” is responsible, where you are not.

This is probably an emotional or difficult moment, so you may not be able to course correct in the flow the first time you notice it. If not, you can pick-up after the conversation and reflect later.

There is an emotional, personal connection in all relationships, no matter how professional they may be. If you can recognise this then you can empathise with the other person in the conversation and build a more meaningful relationship, even if the news you are delivering is hard to hear or likely to disappoint them.

Don’t let it be Just Business, own your actions and you’ll be a better leader, and a better person.

Categories
Coaching

Riding the Elephant

I recently came across an excellent metaphor for the interaction of logic and emotion, presented by Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.

Imagine that logic is a person, riding the elephant of emotion. Sometimes the elephant is quiet and logic steers the way. Sometimes it’s not, and nothing that the rider does can alter the course. The harder the rider tries, the less likely they are to have any impact at all, it may just get worse.

In these cases, you have to let emotion take its course, ride with it rather than fight it and hold off on trying to set direction.

Doing this successfully requires great self-awareness, and you won’t always manage to get it right. If you can start to recognise when the elephant is making its presence felt, then you can start to understand what’s going on in your mind and how it’s impacting your life. If you can’t, then you are doomed to be dragged around whilst flailing inconsequentially on the elephant’s back.

Logic doesn’t always win. Recognise this and you’ll ride the elephant to a much better place!