Sometimes we encounter people who are experiencing emotions and we just can’t relate. Perhaps we encounter a customer or end user who is excited about something and we think to ourselves it’s no big deal. Maybe the other person is sad and we don’t think whatever it was that caused the sadness was that big a deal. Emotions, feelings, are personal to each of us. A big deal to one person is minor to another and vice-versa.
When You Just Can’t Relate to the Other Emotion
How can you handle emotions in another person when you just can’t relate? I’ll share a personal story to illustrate one way to make it work. Janet, my wife, is a potter and a yoga instructor. Perhaps you’ve heard me say in the past that she doesn’t care at all about computers or networks. One day, I’d been working in my office for a long time trying to get a site-to-site IPSEC VPN to connect between two disparate devices. It was frustrating, because I just wasn’t able to get it to work. Finally, after working on it for quite a while, I got it working. The ping went through. I was excited and went running upstairs to tell Janet. Remember, she doesn’t care at all about computers and IT. When I told her I got it working, she got excited and congratulated me. She wasn’t excited that the VPN was working. She was excited that I was excited.
Connect with the Emotion, Not the Cause
We talk a lot about empathy, which is good. The problem is that sometimes you simply can’t relate to the emotions the other person is experiencing. You can, however, relate to the fact that they’re feeling the emotion. You can remember how it felt the last time you were excited, sad, jealous, happy, frustrated, or any number of other emotions. That’s the key. If you can’t relate to why the other person is feeling the way they are, relate to what they’re feeling.
It’s a Way of Saying “You’re Important to Me”
Janet was excited for me because I’m important to her. Our customers and end users are important to us. Our colleagues at work are important to us. Our sisters and brothers of the human race are important to us. When we share in the emotions of the other person, we show we care about the other person and we’re saying, “You’re important to me.” When you can’t relate to what caused the emotion, relate to the emotion.
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