Emotional Wake

Are You Leaving a Negative Emotional Wake?

Negotiations happen all the time as we become involved in a daily chain of give-and-take social interactions. Ironically, most people don’t realize when they are negotiating, but if they did, they might find that crafting their conversations differently can produce more satisfying outcomes. Soundview Senior Editor Andrew Clancy recently had the opportunity to interview Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time. Here is an excerpt:

Soundview: You focus at one point on messages that are loaded with destructive responses. Some of these “response loads,” such as sarcasm, exaggeration, and bringing up old baggage, are ingrained in so many people. How can people combat tendencies that have become standard habits?

Scott: It was one I had to fight with myself. One of the principles of Fierce Conversations is to take responsibility for your emotional wake. We always leave an emotional wake, whether you can describe it as an afterglow or an aftermath. I used to be told in my early days as a manager that “your message is right on, but your delivery leaves a lot to be desired.” I used to think, in my hubris at that time, “Well, if I’m too strong for some people, then that’s their problem.”

Finally, I realized that the constant in the difficulties I was having with people who somehow felt wronged or criticized (which I should add was not my intent) was me. I was the constant in all those failed conversations. I had to realize that I needed to deliver the message without the loads attached. I was forced to ask myself, what is it about the tone of my voice, the force of the way that I speak and the passion with which I speak or the look on my face that communicates something to someone that is painful for them or causes them to not even be able to hear what I’m saying because they’re reacting to my tone of voice? I realized I had to get clear with my intent.

What was my intent in these conversations? If I’m not clear that my intent is to enrich the relationship and to move things forward in a really positive way, and if my intent is not to be completely respectful of this individual and to hold them up as able to receive whatever it is I need to talk to them about and to respond to me, then I need to wait.

So many people say, “I’m honest. I’m candid. I’m transparent and I don’t get thanked for it.” Usually this is because they’re leaving a negative emotional wake. We all know people who will always say exactly what they think and we wish they’d go away. They have no skill. They have no tact. They have no diplomacy. You don’t feel that they even really see you. They’re just there to persuade everyone about their particular brilliance and that is not an attractive trait.

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