I recently heard a story about someone in an organization who had gotten in an argument with one of his co-workers. He tried to walk away so he could calm down and avoid a heated argument, but the co-worker followed him and tried to keep the argument going. The first person then explained that he didn’t want to discuss the issue at that time and needed to wait until he calmed down so he could discuss it rationally, but his co-worker persisted.
In this type of situation, the co-worker was either unaware of what was happening or he didn’t care. Either way, the outcome won’t be positive.
A Lack of Awareness
The first possibility is that the second person simply wasn’t aware of what the other person was saying and doing. The other person was throwing off lots of clues, very clear indicators that there needed to be a cooling off period, but the second person wasn’t picking them up. One of the traits of emotional intelligence is being aware of emotions in other people. That means moving the focus away from ourselves and, instead, focusing on the other person. We can look for facial expressions and body language and we can listen to tone-of-voice. It’s a matter of being aware of what’s going on with the other person. In the just cited example, the first person was even telling the second person what was going on, still the second person persisted as though he didn’t hear what was being said, nor did he notice the body language.
If you have a hard time recognizing emotions in others, start by doing a Web search on “recognizing emotions in others” to get some more tips. Consider getting professional counseling to help improve your emotional intelligence skills.
A Lack of Caring
The second possibility is that the second person simply didn’t care what was going on with the other person. I hope that’s not the case, but I’ve noticed that phenomenon at times. It’s a sign of extreme arrogance and total lack of empathy when we don’t care about the emotions in our colleagues. Some people say there’s no place for emotions in the workplace, but it’s naïve to think that emotions don’t play a role in today’s workplace and career success. When we steamroll over our colleagues, leaving a trail of bodies, we torpedo our own career. People have long memories and will remember what happened well into the future. It’s not necessary and it never works long term. The short term success of not caring about our colleagues isn’t worth the team-destroying bad feelings.
A Better Way of Handling Conflict
What’s a better way of dealing with emotionally charged situations at work? Allow a cooling off period, then try to understand the other person’s point of view, then arrange a meeting. In the meeting, apologize if necessary for things said and done, then stick to the issues. Avoid name calling, labeling, and value judgments. Look for common ground. Remember the words of Meryl Runion in her book Power Phrases: “Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t be mean when you say it.” (Meryl has lots of good communication advice on her website, www.speakstrong.com.)
In today’s workplace, we have to interact with other people and our ability to do so successfully plays a significant role in our career success. Our career and, for that matter, personal life success is not just a matter of our technical competency, it’s also a matter of how well we navigate the unpredictable and sometimes treacherous paths of human interaction. As we discussed before, the most successful people are good at both technical skills and people skills.
The most successful people are aware and they care about the people with whom they work.
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