I recently had a meeting with the charismatic Chief Executive of South Gippsland Shire Council – Tim Tamlin.  We were discussing the topic of effective relationships with people, especially when they are upset, and he gave me a description of a technique which he has found particularly useful.

The technique is the work of Otto Scharmer – you can easily find web resources – but the thing which interested me about the technique was how easy it was to remember and how well it is supported by neuroscience evidence.  I believe that the technique works to defuse emotional situations by “switching on” more reflective parts of the brain, thereby turning off extreme emotion centers of the brain such as the amygdalae – the seat of the fight and flight effect.  Here’s how to respond if someone comes to you in an emotional state:

  • Open mind. Focus on what the person is really saying and try to see things from their point of view.  Focus on the possibilities and resist being tempted into instinctive reactions such as “that won’t work.”  Ask open questions and try to understand what their desired outcome is in the situation. Show that you are genuinely open to their perspective.
  • Open heart. Reassure them that you are with them and you want to help.  You understand their concerns and will do what you can.  This will form a connection between you and avoid any sense of an adversarial relationship.
  • Open will. Join with them to work on the solution together.  The solution may not be exactly what they would have wanted before they spoke to you, but stage one and two above will have demonstrated your goodwill and your commitment to the best possible outcome for you both.  You are in this together and together you will commit to the best possible solution.

I think that this approach is a demonstration of what we have come to call emotional intelligence. You can measure the probability that a prospective employee has emotional intelligence and will be likely to be able to make this kind of connection.

Andrew Marty
Managing Director
SACS

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Andrew Marty
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