After the presentation to the senior team, Carole (the manager for a product team) said to Jerry (a product team member), “During the meeting, you kept sending texts on your phone, looking down at your phone, and looking out the window. I rarely saw you looking at your team members who were presenting. I felt that you were disengaged and didn’t care.”
“Well of course I was looking at the damn phone,” Jerry said. “The burning fires back at the office needed to be dealt with, and you would surely be unhappy if we missed our numbers. We missed the projections by .15% last quarter, and you chewed me out. I’m beginning to feel that you don’t like anything I do. In fact, you don’t seem to respect me at all.”
Carole: “Tell me more about your feeling of disrespect.”
Jerry: “Well, you are chewing me out for taking care of business, and you chew me out for what does happen.”
Carole: “I’m puzzled. I pointed out three behaviors and suggested what it felt like to me. And we went from this morning’s meeting to last quarter’s review. Why do you feel disrespected when behavior is pointed out? When did I say I didn’t respect you?”
Jerry’s feelings are important and need to be worked through, but his feelings are his own internal creation. No one makes him feel a certain way—it is his psychology at work that prompts the internal feelings he has. He needs to understand that the observation of behavior from others may trigger some reactions, but those reactions are entirely of his own making.
Paying attention to the information actually shared could be instructive. He could respond with, “I’m sorry. I got too caught up in a problem at the office and got distracted.” Or “I need some tips for dealing with the fires during back at the shop and focusing on this project too.” Or “I didn’t realize I was spending so much time being distracted.“
All of those responses would have shown that he heard the message about his behavior and would work to change the behavior. Instead, he paid attention to the internal emotional messages he was feeling and jumped to conclusions and judgements which were not relevant.
Carole knows how to be appropriately assertive, confront, empathize, listen, reality test and reframe. Jerry appears to have very few of these skills and is weak in emotional expression, emotional self-control, insightfulness, relationship savvy, and stress hardiness.
Fortunately, there are ways to tune up all of these skills, as these are covered in the People Skills Handbook, which provides action tips to improve your emotional intelligence.