Friday, June 29, 2007

lesson: emotional leakage

A few minutes after a strategy planning discussion late yesterday afternoon, one of our executives sat down in my office.

"I thought that went well."

"Thanks," I said.

"Are you OK?"

"Yes. . .why?"

"There were a couple of moments in that meeting where you looked like your head was going to explode."


"Yeah, you didn't say anything, and your voice didn't show it, but you certainly looked it."

It's at moments like this when my vision narrows to a pinpoint and everything I hear turns into barking noises. The icy clutch of crystal-clear insight reached out, grabbed me by my jumblies, and squeezed.

I had been guilty of emotional leakage.

Thankfully it didn't sabotage my contribution to the meeting, but I can easily imagine there have been other situations when it has.

You probably remember watching Don Vito smack up Sonny and tell him to "never let anyone outside the family know what you're thinking". Modify that to read "don't ever unintentionally tell anyone how you're feeling", and you capture the essence of my point, and the slight twinge of shame that comes from missing it.

The decision to not transmit emotions in an unintentional way requires some discipline. Being a kind of emotional guy, I can see this is going to be a challenge to balance the following:

1. To understand how I am transmitting information about what I am feeling
2. To not lose the ability to benefit from the transmission of emotion

Non-verbal cues are a huge part of anyone's communications arsenal. I think learning how to be a better communicator and ultimately a better leader is going to mean leaning how to master them.

Have you had this problem? Honestly, I think I'd rather be an emotional guy who knows how to control how he expresses his emotions than be a non-emotional guy who has to fabricate them.


Anonymous said...

Not meaning to be contrarian, but how in the given situation do you communicate, "My head is about to explode," so that your team can adapt to you? Sure there are exceptions where you don't say to someone, "I would like to pop you in the nose," but what about the more frequent times when you need to say, "Back off, I can't take more of this just now?"

Bruce McCarthy said...

A lot of people don't realize what they communicate non-verbally. I know a woman who readily agrees to many points verbally but crosses her arms and slaps her laptop closed at the same time. This is very confusing to people around her and frustrating.

I know I can sometimes turn red when I find myself in an unexpected situation. No amount of preparation or control can prevent that, but I try to recover gracefully and let the moment pass.

I agree, I'd rather have genuine emotions and sometimes struggle to keep them private than to have none and be insincere.