Don´t be afraid about emotions

man holding his face

Working on several projects and facilitation, I was each time confused about how professionals are addressing emotions.

Everyone has to be happy, enthusiastic, nice and gentle. Loud people even jokers and rude people are contained. Under the umbrella of “be yourself”, that yourself sounds more and more to be “like I expect from you to behave”.

Don´t misunderstand me, I´m not writing about behaving like punks. I´m writing about not behaving like puritans.

From a systemic coaching perspective, positive behaviour is the expected outcome and not the corset of forcing fake positiveness.

Let´s take an example with children. Your child is behaving badly during the family dinner. You have options:

  • yelling
  • lecturing
  • understanding the source of that behaviour

Unfortunately, option three is missed because it is time-consuming. To avoid addressing that option, you create a lot of codes and rules that your kid doesn´t read, understand because it doesn´t solve the problem.

Sometimes, giving five to ten minutes of time to the kid to express its feelings does the job. Another example: you are coming home from a week-long business trip and the only thing you want to do is to hug your spouse. Unfortunately, as the door, your kids are jumping around you completely excited. What to do? The bad option is to ask them to calm down. The right option is to talk with them five to ten minutes before hugging your spouse.

Emotions are indicators of how people in your “system” are feeling. There is no bad and no good, we are human beings, right? As a coach or a facilitator, you have to detect these emotions and create to “empty the bucket” before these feelings are creating “bad” behaviour.

While browsing on Wikipedia looking on ethics, I came through this :

“Bad” behaviour is a cultural thing. In Mediterranean countries, social interactions are often passionate, loud with a lot of jokes that can be interpreted as offensive or inappropriate if you are an Anglo-Saxon as an example.

If you take a look at the figure above, you can identify some indications on how to build a code of conduct or a working agreement for such meetings.

On my personal plate, I had a couple of complaints about my behaviour for the last ten years. I´m enthusiastic, extravert with a high proportion of joking. So, even 99% of the people I worked with understand me well, I´ve got comments like buffoonery, rashness, vanity, obsequiousness and modesty. That´s a complicated picture, isn´t? Is that me? Absolutely not. It is the perception of an individual at one moment in time. Usually, the emotion leading to that comment is linked to previous experience. It is a trigger and you are receiving that emotion.

As a facilitator, it is important to identify emotions and the trick is to give the voice to everyone at least during a minute in every meeting you are running. This is the virtue of the kid’s metaphor. Sometimes, people are coming “loaded” of emotions in your meetings.

A great meeting is one where you find your space. Give space to all attendees to ensure great communicate.

Harrison Owen, the creator of Open Space Technology, came with simple rules such:

  • the law of two feet: if you have the feeling of not contributing or not learning, use your two feet
  • whoever comes is the right people
  • whenever it starts it´s the right time
  • whatever happens, is the only thing that could have
  • when it´s over, it´s over.
  • two personae: bumblebees are cross-pollinating and butterflies which are flying around

Great facilitators are creating a space, a non-judgemental space accepting also some borderline behaviours if it serves the purpose of the meeting. Brainstorming as an example is a place for excess and creativity. Decision-making meetings are more quiet and analytical.

The last point of attention, if you have introverts in your team, make the session into two parts with a break in the middle and give them the voice in the second part. (kids metaphor).


Published by PierreENeis

Certified Agile Coach & Trainer, Organization Developer & Advisor Author of AO

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