Have you ever just wished that you could deal with the facts in a tough conversation and not have to worry about emotions? 

If you answered a loud YES, the truth is that you're not alone.

It feels like it would be so much easier, eh? 

But here's the sciencey piece that will rattle your thinking. The emotional centre in our brain, the limbic system, fires at 80,000 times faster than our cognitive thinking part of our brain. That means that emotions are NEVER off the table. In fact the reason that tough conversations are tough is because they involve emotions, both yours and the other persons. 

Before you even step into the conversation you need to make friends with the dynamic force that are emotions. 


Prepare for emotions

According to Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence accounts for 85% to 95% of the difference between mediocre managers and effective leaders. You need to prepare for emotions. 

When it comes to tough conversations having a few tips and strategies up your sleeve if emotions get heightened is key. These tips and strategies will give you the roadmap you need to navigate what can become a minefield amongst these conversations.  

The two main heightened emotions that may arise are anger and sadness. 

1. Tips for Dealing with Anger

When people express the heightened emotion of anger, they are not engaging the rational part of their brain. Rational decision-making is not possible because of the take-over of this emotional response. 

The following are tips on dealing with anger: 

  • Remain calm
  • Keep your voice volume lower than the other persons'
  • Show respect while still maintaining your assertiveness
  • Cease all conversation for a period of time, then come back in with a lower voice tone
  • Provide an opportunity for you both to 'cool-off' and re-enter the conversation 
  • Move to a walk-and-talk meeting. Movement allows us to reconnect with rational thinking. 

2. Tips for dealing with TEARS

Tears and sadness, particularly at work, are often a taboo subject and are generally seen as only being shown by someone who is ‘emotional’. The truth is we are all emotional beings, we experience emotions every moment of the day. If someone displays tears or sadness with you at work it is important to remember that tears are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign of humanness. 

The following are tips on dealing with tears: 

  • Simple statements like 'it's okay'
  • Allow the other person to cry; don't feel like you've got to stop them
  • Silence is okay
  • Offer tissues - this is a simple empathetic gesture
  • Express empathy with statements like 'I can see this has had a big impact on you' and 'this is upsetting for you.

Emotions are a part of being human. Just because emotions get heightened doesn't mean that the conversation is not worth having, it simply means that the situation is worth honouring because it matters. 


Guiding Questions theory

Look at the guiding questions to keep us on track. Emotions can derail us. Having the questions written down can keep you on track.

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