Managing Emotional Outbursts and Leaks

Have you ever cried at work?  Have you shouted at a boss or co-worker?  Have you lost your cool?  It’s rare to find a person who wouldn’t like a redo on an emotional moment or period in his or her life.  And so, this week on Big Think, I posted a blog that focuses on ways to deal with situations that elicit reactionary emotional responses.

Research has long shown that even when managing emotions to the best of our abilities, facial expressions and body movement/positions send messages about which we’re often unaware.  Gender and culture influence the types of expressions we exhibit readily as research by Paul Ekman and Ross Buck, among others, has demonstrated.

For example, women tend to more readily smile and often do so when the discussion at hand requires a more serious expression in order to convey conviction.

The blog linked here takes a look at some techniques that can prove helpful when attempting to train oneself to emote differently.  This isn’t about changing who you are or even how you think, but rather at least knowing when your spontaneous expressions may be getting in the way of your goals.

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Persuasion: A Healthy Sign in Most Relationships

I’ve always started my classes in persuasion with a discussion about the difference between it and two other forms of influence:  manipulation and coercion.  None of these three forms is completely free of deceit.  In fact, we expect some degree of deception in much of our communication each day.  Being told exactly what someone is thinking about you is not always what any of us wishes to hear.  There are courtesy, societal and cultural considerations and topics that just aren’t discussed.  But, among these three forms of influence, persuasion is the most transparent.  It is something done WITH people, not TO people, as is the case with manipulation and coercion.

So here are a few thoughts on the importance of keeping persuasion in relationships, whether they are workplace or personal ones.  Sure, some people can overdo persuasion, always wanting to debate issues, playing the devil’s advocate, or just going on too long when making a point.  Persuasion is not always pure either.  It can be mixed with the other two forms.  Those situations aside, however, persuasion is a sort of barometer of openness — indicating that the people involved have chosen to hear what the other has to say, discuss, reason and/or debate rather than pull the wool over their eyes or force them to acquiesce in order to achieve their goals.  Here’s more on that

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When Persuasion is Not and Option

On the front page of Huffington Post you’ll find “The Common Ground Fallacy.”   It explores what happens to a government, actually to any organization, when persuasion is no longer an option, when it has to give way to two other forms of influence:  coercion and manipulation.

Persuasion is often wrongly associated with subliminal forms of influence.  Actually, persuasion, unlike other ways of attempting to change the beliefs, attitudes or behaviors of others is something people do WITH rather than TO each other.  As such, it’s a relatively transparent form of influence.  It doesn’t seek to pull the wool over the eyes of others or force them to acquiesce.

So, what happens when a government ceases to allow persuasion to function as a means of mutual influence?  It’s a threat to democracy.  When leaders fall into unwanted repetitive episodes (URPS) as discussed in other blogs here, they put all that came before at risk.  Keeping score becomes paramount.  See what you think.

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Political Inquisitiveness — The First Step In Political Clout for Women

Below are some additional thoughts on politics and the importance of girls and women learning what to expect and how to manage politics at work.  The Secret Handshake and It’s All Politics were written to help with this endeavor — for women and men.  Recent research by Catalyst indicates, however, that women are far more likely than men to feel like outsiders in high tech industries.  But these feelings are prevalent in other fields as well.  It’s time to deal with them head on. The first step is becoming politically inquisitive. ( Also see Big Think Blog published today)

A significant portion of benign workplace politics involves interpersonal competence – saying the right thing at the right time.  Less commendable tactics have among them granting favors, rewarding similar others, and providing advantage to those who play along to get along.  At the far end of this continuum are deception and manipulation.

While some forms of politicking are questionable and even despicable, to reject all politics often undermines career progress for women in particular.  Why?  They are usually uncomfortable with politics, seeing it as giving unfair advantage to those who don’t deserve it.  But if you’re working in a political arena, you can’t afford to be politically oblivious.

The first step in the process of upping your game is developing political inquisitiveness – not only about where and with whom you work, but also about the limits of your own political style.  Are you a purist, for example, who believes that good work will be rewarded without the need for politics?  Or are you a street fighter who has learned the ropes and believes that competence is not noticed unless you make it visible, know when and how to stand your ground and sometimes give as good as you get?

Women who move up the ladder in their organizations operate like behavioral anthropologists; they become students of politics.  They observe dysfunctional patterns to which they might be contributing, such as allowing others to talk over them, dismiss their ideas, treat them with contempt or steal their ideas.  They recognize that they’re at least 75% responsible for how others treat them and learn how to alter types of interactions taking them nowhere.  There are a number of blogs on this site about choice points and comebacks that pertain to skill development in this area (See categories in right column of this page).

Aside from observing how the people above them get things done, the politically inquisitive identify colleagues who not only understand political activity in their organization, but who are willing to share that information.  Unfortunately, people who have political knowledge rarely seek out others with whom to share it.  For them, it was hard won.  If you can seek them out, invite them to lunch, win their trust, and make their job easier somehow, they may reciprocate with valuable political information and encouragement.  Yes, this burden should be shared with the organization — one  led by people seeking to manage politics so that talented employees are retained and rewarded.  If that exists in your organization, all the better.  But individual political know-how is important as well.

Political inquisitiveness doesn’t require that you actually like workplace politics.  It doesn’t mean staying in an environment that’s rife with virulent forms.  It does, however, require recognizing that few major developments in any department, company or industry get done without some level of politics.  Wherever there is competition, especially for scarce resources, politics is operative.  It’s better to go in with your eyes open.


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Handling Put-Downs at Work

I’ve been traveling the last few weeks, but back to home base.  My latest blog on Big Think takes a look at how to deal with put-downs.  Most of us drive home many days of each year thinking about what could have been said in challenging situations.  I wrote Comebacks at Work, with Chris Noblet, for those of you interested in the longer version of ways to make those days less frequent — how to respond effectively to offense and insult on-the-spot. But for a glimpse of a general approach to such situations, you might check out 

I’m planning to write more on this topic.  Back soon with that.  Also, if you stopped by after reading the Big Think blog, you might check out the “Categories” list in the right column of this page for more comebacks and ways of dealing with confrontation, choice points, dust ups and political games.

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Are You An Unapologetic Feminist? Emma Watson Shows What That Looks Like For Young Women

If you watched actor Emma Watson’s speech to the United Nations last Sunday, you saw a strong, young woman do her part to make “feminism” constructively meaningful again.  In a few minutes, she did what many women and men have feared doing much of their lives.  She referred to herself as a feminist without an ounce of apology in tow.  ”I’m not one of those ugly, men-haters” was not added to her revelation.  In fact, she made clear that the word “feminism” has been and is now about equality of women and men.  In her speech, she invited men, particularly young men, as part of the HeForShe campaign to join her as feminists to improve the dire economic and domestic conditions under which so many women live.  As Watson explained, these conditions will not improve around the world until men and women join together to make it happen.

I hope you’ll take a moment to read this blog.  Perhaps feminism is being reinvented and it’s very beautiful in many ways.

Posted in Tutorials for Women | 1 Comment

The Power of Framing

Today on Big Think I wrote about how framing can enhance persuasion — and also romance — as the latter is certainly a form of the former.  Framing in conversation suggests or imposes a type on the interaction.  Is this a game, serious talk, just passing the time, getting to know each other, or any of a host of other possible types of conversation? By knowing the type of conversation, most of us are at least somewhat familiar with the rules — within our primary culture.  In the blog, you’ll find an example of violating the romance frame.  This is how many relationships meet an untimely end.

To the extent that we enter conversations with others without regard for framing, the risk of things going wrong is high.  Take a look at the blog.  See what you think.  Perhaps tomorrow you’ll want to insert some frames into your conversations to make sure you and the other person or people involved are on the same track.  It’s possible to overdo this.  That’s for sure.  But ignoring it altogether is even more problematic.  It’s one of those techniques we all know about, but often forget to employ.

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Do You Work For a Monster?

If so, you may find some solace and tips in the blog I posted yesterday on Big Think, “The Vulnerability of Power.”  It’s natural to think that power, once obtained, grows.  But, in actuality, those in power, especially the predictable among us, put themselves in power jeopardy all the time.  It takes an astute observer to determine where the vulnerability lies and how to manage someone with real or perceived power or to do your part to take that power away.

People with power are vulnerable, too, because those with less of it observe them carefully — far more so than the powerful who may assume that they no longer need to be so observant.  This makes them vulnerable.  Stop by Big Think to see if you can change the way power is lorded over you.

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Would You Like To Be More Persuasive?

I’ve started my persuasion and negotiation classes with some important key points about both.  Among these is the one discussed at Big Think.  When we prepare to persuade, we often consider what we want to achieve and then decide the best argument to make that happen.  In actuality, effective persuasion is usually much more incremental than that.  If you think of persuasion in incremental terms, you’re more likely to lower your frustration level and raise your effectiveness.  Take a look here to see if your way of thinking about persuasion is hindering or facilitating.  Whether you’re trying to convince a teenager to use his or her phone less often, presenting an idea to your boss or motivating people working for you, an incremental approach is often the best.

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To Whom Did You Give Power Today?

At Big Think today I wrote about the power we give to others who least deserve it. Happiness, success, and sense of self worth are influenced by dependence on others.   And so, we should choose wisely the people on whom we depend for what matters most.

Sometimes giving away power makes sense.  It’s important to trust.  As human beings we have social and physical needs.  We may want praise, understanding, support, care, financial backing, love, commitment or any of a host of other things.  The question to ask is whether we are seeking them from the right people.  Going over and over to a dry well for water is unproductive at best.  Depending on people unable or unwilling to provide what we need is similar.  In the latter case, however, we give people the power to make us miserable when with a little rethinking we could do so much better.


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