Behind Every Good Leader #4: The Interaction of Emotional Landscapes

What have you learned about yourself this week? Have you noticed any themes across the situations in which you find yourself feeling angry, anxious, or stressed? If you need a refresher about how to gain this self-awareness, revisit Behind Every Good Leader #3.

Gaining emotional self-awareness accomplishes several goals:

  1. It helps provide clarity regarding your own internal emotional landscape.
  2. Once you gain clarity regarding your basic needs and more vulnerable emotions, you become empowered to make a change in your perceptions and behavior.
  3. Understanding your own emotional experience makes you more empathetic toward others.

When you are in a stressful situation, going through the sequence of fundamental needs, vulnerable emotions, secondary emotions, perceptions, and behavior, so is the other person you are talking to! The interaction looks like this*:

Generally, the behavior of the person you're interacting with triggers your fundamental, unmet needs. And your behavior triggers her fundamental needs. Maybe he criticizes you, and it reminds you (perhaps unconsciously) about the way your father used to criticize you. Maybe she walks away from the interaction, and it makes you feel dismissed and disrespected, just like your partner does in conflict.

Now that you have some clarity about the emotional motivation underlying your tendency to become angry, critical, or withdrawn when dealing with stress at work, try to gain empathy for those you interact with. What needs and emotional experiences might be motivating your employee to shirk responsibility when she's made a mistake? How might your highly anxious teammate who always seems to point out what everyone is doing wrong on a project be motivated by an underlying need for perfection? How might the way you behave in these situations trigger the very responses in your colleagues that you want to avoid? I encourage you to observe yourself and others in these interactions. Work on gaining more clarity about yourself and more empathy for others. Take note of how the simple act of stepping back and observing helps you slow down your internal emotional process.

I'll be taking a break from publishing until after the holidays. Stay tuned for January 5 when I'll provide some tips for not only gaining clarity and empathy but beginning to change the way you interact with others in stressful situations at work.

*This graphic is based on Scott Woolley's Infinity Model of Couple Interaction.

Jaime GoffComment