November 2, 2005
Excerpts: Beyond Reason - Part IV
A second purpose for expressing strong emotions is to let the other person know the emotional impact on you of their actions. The other negotiator may have said or done something that had a powerful impact on your emotions. He or she can come to a greater sense of appreciation of your emotional experience if you clearly communicate the impact on you of their behavior.
For example, a young medical student was assigned a middle-aged physician as her supervisor. During hospital meetings, he routinely interrogated her on her knowledge of anatomy. When she gave incorrect answers, his fixed response was a sarcastic Study more! She felt singled out and humiliated by his comments. But instead of assuming his intentions were malevolent and venting at him, she set up a private meeting with him and calmly educated him about the impact of his comments on her:
I appreciate your taking the time to meet with me. What I want to say is not easy for me to express, she said. I feel embarrassed when I answer your questions incorrectly. I study hard and am starting to feel hopelessly unable to succeed in medicine. I have been considering dropping out of school.
His eyes widened with surprise at her comments. He confided in her that each year he chose one student who demonstrated superior academic skills. He pushed that student to excel. She was his chosen student for the year.
For this student, it paid off to describe to her supervisor the impact on her of his behavior. But what should she do if he responded with hostility, looking her in the eyes and saying, Quit school if you must. If this isnt the right place for you, then move on.
She could respond by communicating the impact of that statement on her: I feel lost at this school. Its so big. And when you suggest that I move on, it doesnt give me the guidance that I need right now. The supervisor still may refuse to help her, but at least he now has a clearer understanding of the young medical students experience and emotional needs.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.