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2.4.1 Dealing with Difficult Emotions

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2.4.1 Dealing with Difficult Emotions

Including other people in decision-making can often become more complicated when the people involved show signs of emotional distress. It is difficult to deal with these expressions without getting carried away with their emotions, but it is important for you to acknowledge and consider their emotions before making the best decision. 

The following are common emotional states that others may have during the discussion:

1. Sadness

If you notice that someone is feeling down because of the decisions being presented, you can briefly pause the discussion to ask them what they think. As always, ask them about their feelings without putting them on the spot by using ‘I – statements.’ Asking them about their opinions will let them share any reservations they have about the decision. It is important to note that talking about their feelings may lead to more overt expressions of sadness, such as crying.

Crying is a natural response to disappointment, sadness or frustration towards unmet expectations, whether from oneself or from others. It can also be from pent-up stress and anxiety. Whatever the root cause is, it is always important to give the person crying some time to settle down before moving on. If it is severe, allow them the option to reschedule the discussion. It is important to do this because their emotions can affect the decision being made. Remember to not make them feel like their tears are invalid and allow them to recover so that both of you can have a more meaningful discussion.

2. Embarrassment

When a person realises or feels that they have been acting or thinking in a way that is harmful to themselves or to others, they can feel embarrassed. Do not try to interrupt their reaction. Instead, give them time to process their emotions. Once you sense that they can move on, ask them to explain their realisation and what they will do to rectify their behaviour.

3. Anger

Anger usually comes from someone hearing something they did not want to. This can result if the decision you are presenting is against their expectations or will affect them in ways they do not want to. In these cases, it is important that you keep calm and not add insult to injury. Give them a chance to vent and identify the cause of their anger. Once they have calmed down, find a way to look for the solution to the problem together. If their anger seems inconsolable, request that you schedule another meeting so that they can calm down first.

4. Confusion or Fear

If the other person does not fully understand or fears the decision you want to implement, the best method is to listen. Ask about their confusion or fear and listen to their explanation. Do not try to dampen their emotions because it is better for you to understand what they are facing. Do not go straight to saying that you understand what they feel. When someone is afraid, they want to be understood, not patronised. Once the emotion has subsided, explore the root of their fears. What do they feel like they will lose? Is the loss real or imagined? Take reasonable steps to understand how you can help the other person and clarify the decision you are proposing.

5. Resistance to Change

When you want to make a decision, you need to consider who it will affect and in what ways. Not everyone will immediately understand why you want to make this decision and they may try to resist it. You can help by understanding what is preventing the other person from moving on. Try to learn what is at stake or what they are not getting with the change. It is important to be open with the other person, ensuring that you show genuine concern and curiosity to communicate where you are coming from and understand where their hesitance stems from.

The common element of dealing with these situations is openness and reserving judgement towards someone’s reaction. Respect their emotions and remember that their reactions are natural reactions. Your conversation with them must aim to promote growth for them to improve themselves. Regardless of how intense the emotions they feel are, give them time to process their emotions before proceeding with the discussion.