Workplace People Skills: Redirecting Emotion into Success

Professional workplace success requires redirecting your own emotion into productive discussion and action. Whether you are interacting with customers, co-workers, leaders, employees, vendors, or the media, clear headed thinking serves you and the business well.

Corporations frequently ask me to teach how best to redirect personal emotion into workplace success for customer service, leadership, and teamwork. Here’s one of my classic stories and the lesson/technique to learn.

A Story of Redirected Emotion

Redirect Emotion Image by:kimnchris

The critical aunt arrived for a visit on a warm day. Ready for her endless complaining, the two nieces had the ceiling fans on and cool drinks ready. Not long after her arrival, the aunt shot one of her never satisfied zingers as she fanned herself with a magazine: “All your fans are going the wrong way!”

One niece seethed with emotion and explained that the manual specified which direction for summer and which for winter. The aunt huffily replied: “I guess I don’t agree with the manual.

The other niece, remaining calm, simply replied: “You would like these fans to go the other way?” She flipped the switch, redirected the fan, and her own emotion as well.

The Lesson

When extreme words like all, always, never, hit your ear, they generally trigger your emotion and a defensive response. To avoid the trap of your emotion, ask the person speaking what it is they want, need, or prefer.

You may not always be able to deliver exactly that. However, once you get the other person to state what they want, need, or prefer, you can have a clear headed two-way discussion that leads to action.

You never know when someone might press your emotion button at work or at home. Professional people-skills (also known as soft skills) help you avoid the trap of your own emotion.

The Technique

When someone presses your emotion button, ask for more information before you take them into your otherwise clear headed mind.

Your emotional intelligence (EQ) drives your people-skills and that delivers success.

Warning: If you are interacting with an irate customer, first let them vent and offer empathy before you ask them what they prefer. More on this situation at Best Mindset to Use With an Irate Customer.

Yours in service,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach

Related post: 3 Missteps & The Better Steps in Workplace Communication

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, turns your interpersonal obstacles into interaction success in customer service, leadership, teamwork, and communication in diversity. See this site for workshop outlines and testimonials of success.

6 Responses to “Workplace People Skills: Redirecting Emotion into Success”

  1. Matt says:

    I know that I’m going to have to use this technique starting on Monday. My entire staff is going to experience a shake up.

    Those key words; “always, all, and never” set me off. I need to understand my response before I can address the matter at hand.

    Wish me luck.

  2. Great post, Kate!
    EQ is such a crucial skill set (and one that can always be improved). Asking for more information is a great example of a simple strategy that can make a huge difference. It allows the other person to “get it all out” and gives us an opportunity to understand exactly what they want as well as time to formulate our best response, which as per your beautiful example, is sometimes as simple as flipping a switch (real or metaphorical).
    Guy Winch Ph.D.

  3. Kate: Great post. Your strategy (“ask them what it is they want”) would have come in handy on Friday, when a little confrontation arose with my (almost) 12 year old daughter. Something wasn’t turning out the way she had envisioned, and her perception was that it was all my doing. I tried going back through the facts to clear up what I believed she had mis-remembered. That DID NOT WORK. I see now that if I had just asked her what it is she wanted, the confrontation could have been completely avoided, and our focus would have been on something useful, i.e. fixing the problem. Thanks so much for your good insight – I’m going to put it to work right away. Susan

  4. Excellent post Kate! I loved the story about the demanding Aunt. What a great way to illustrate your point. The right emotions, like passion and enthusiasm, move us forward faster. The wrong emotions, like anger and frustration, slow us down. Thanks for sharing some great tips to help us keep moving in the right direction. … Joan

  5. I really enjoyed this post. It’s great advice – all too often when people use that kind of terminology we find ourselves reacting instead of acting. It’s hard not to see dissatisfaction as criticism (it’s not always the case), so your advice to ask first is great.

  6. Nice post, Kate!
    Straight forward advise with a lasting impact on one’s personal effectiveness when interacting with others. Especially like your point on asking more information first, before you react.

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