In our work Rowena and I hold conversations with many people and, while we rarely discuss any of the details of those conversations, we do reflect together on the themes that present through those discussions. As we engage in that reflection we can identify the impact of peoples approaches to themselves, to life, to their work and to others.
Outside of that when facilitating with teams we often discuss communication; the individual’s or leader’s intention and then the impact of that – delivery, words used, emotional content and context.
Imagine yourself walking into a room, having a conversation and walking out again. For most of us that’s the extent of what we think the interaction is, we’ve gone in, got our message out and moved on. In this busy world we have created that may happen many times a day and if you have a responsible role where you have to manage people, multi-task and account for dollars and time that’s what it needs to be about. Or does it?
What happens after you leave the room? In effect, what do you leave in your emotional wake?
Every conversation has a consequence, an impact on the other as Susan Scott highlights in “Fierce Conversations”. Whether she has coined the term “emotional wake” or someone else has, it is a powerfully valid way of taking pause to consider what you want out of any conversation – before you have it.
Often we can get so caught up in what’s going on in our own head that we neglect to consider what’s happening in someone else’s. Everyone has pressure, everyone feels challenged, everyone wants to do the best they can with the resources that they have (think about that) so what can we do to ensure that our emotional wake is an intended one and the consequences are desired?
It’s easy to get people on the defensive. Simply criticise the quality of work, highlight their mistakes, limit their involvement in decisions or stop talking when they walk into the room. There are more certainly and you may have experienced them. Each assists in breaking the person down and is both isolating and, depending on the intention behind the behaviour, could effectively be bullying.
How often do you think of the intention in your communication? What could you do in preparing to hold the space for another person so you could have a genuine conversation that could address any issues necessary? How could you make the space safe for you and for them?
What’s important to me is that we remember; it’s not what people do it’s what we think of what people do that creates the issue. Take a broader perspective than what’s happening and reframe your thoughts, feelings and emotional first response to accommodate what may be happening for the other person.
In quoting Johann Von Goethe when he stated “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of” we have the opportunity to create an emotional wake that builds people and that would be a legacy worth leaving. Wouldn’t it?