I am surprised how few people understand the impact of their words, presence and emotional disposition on the lives of others. There seems to be a lack of awareness, particularly amongst managers, of how words, tone and body language can potentially negatively impact how another feels about his or her sense of worth and the value placed upon his or her contribution. Words can detrimentally affect motivation and the will to make a difference and subsequently negatively impact productivity as a whole. Managerial attitude, a lack of emotional intelligence and the sometimes negative perceptions they have of staff, affect results and could potentially retard progress of the company.
Victor Frankle, an Austrian Psychiatrist and University Professor during the Second World War, noted: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. Surviving the most horrific of situations, he seemed to be suggesting that there should be a pause between what is being heard/experienced and subsequently the way that what has been heard/experienced makes you feel, and your response to the context. He is saying that “response” (preferable) requires consideration and “reaction” requires none. A pub fight is a good example of no consideration or understanding of what is really happening – where people react to a situation and end up fighting about it. The attitude here is a solving of the problem through violence or dominance. Consideration of a problem, however, employs logic and emotional intelligence within a context and usually results in better solutions, deeper relationships and happier and more content people.
Women seem to be quite sensible with greetings and acknowledging the presence of their friends – they politely hug, kiss or shake hands. Men, on the other hand, are quite ridiculous when it comes to greetings, almost seemingly wanting to display macho tendencies in the way they choose to greet – a head-butt, chest thrust or stinging slap on the shoulder of their “mate”. The same is a stimulus which requires some sort of response from the other. What Victor Frankle is suggesting are two things – evaluate the stimulus (what is happening here?) and evaluate the most appropriate response (what can I do that will lead to sustainability in the relationship?). For example, the male, as above, needs to do the following:
- Evaluate the stimulus – is my friend being vindictive, or is my friend joking or is my friend doing the normal male-bonding thing?
- Evaluate the proper response – do I hit my friend back, or do I laugh with the rest of my friends or do I pull him over to discuss what is really going on here?
If there is a desire for a sustainable relationship, then one’s response is critically important. It is not every relationship, however, that needs to work for sustainability – for example, there is a knock at my front door. I answer and find a guy armed with a vacuum cleaner and a pipe. The conversation could go like this:
Guy: “Are you Mr Mills?”
Me: “Sure, how can I help you?”
Guy: “I’d like to demonstrate the capabilities of this vacuum cleaner for you”.
Me: “Thanks for considering me, but I have a fully functional vacuum cleaner in my cupboard, so I won’t need to see this machine”.
Guy: “Sir, but you need to understand, this thing is turbo-charged; it sucks like crazy!”
Me: “In my cupboard, I have an Electrolux and, as you know, nothing sucks like an Electrolux!”
Guy: “You don’t understand, this thing does oil and water and …”
Me: “No, I have a great machine, thank you” and I firmly close the door.
You see, I don’t need a sustainable relationship with a vacuum cleaner sales-person, but I can’t close the door on my son or daughter, or on a client, or on my boss or on a colleague. For these relationships, because I need them, I need to create space to evaluate the stimulus and find an appropriate response that will enhance the relationships and not damage them.
Emotional intelligence and a healthy self-awareness are critically important in leadership – being able to empathically respond to others and respond with wisdom. Accomplishment of the same will earn you respect and grow trust in your most important relationships.