In Pixar's newest movie Inside Out we're brought into the mind of an 11-year-old girl, Riley, to meet the five characters depicting her emotions: Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. These characters control everything from her decisions, to her actions, to her memories.
Having watched the movie, it's easy to imagine these same characters living inside of us all and coloring the way we interact with the world. Given the inevitable role that our emotions play in our everyday lives, why does it feel like we are often expected to hide who we really are in the workplace?
Over the past few years, employees have begun to demand a change. People want to be acknowledged for the work that they do, the value that they deliver to the company and who they are as people. Employees have the potential to bring more than skills to the conference table; cultural and professional development contributions also matter, which demand a certain level of emotional intelligence. And as the job market bounces back, emotions such as frustration, anger and boredom are becoming increasingly intolerable for employees, who can easily find a new position with the promise of fulfillment, security and joy.
Making the Connection
Although these demands are new in the workplace, the desire to feel seen, heard and understood is human nature. The challenge is that now, it's not just humans who see, hear and understand us. Look to the right of the screen. Huffington Post understands what you like to read and makes suggestions just for you. Pandora knows what type of music you like and automatically queues it into your playlist. Retailers will send you e-mails with promotions tailored for you. And the examples go on.
Most people have come to expect this sort of effortless experience, so a lack of it in any given situation is increasingly noticeable, uncomfortable and intolerable.
In order to make the workplace a more accepting environment, we have to be aware of each other's triggers. What makes someone frustrated? What makes someone beam with pride? And how can we individualize our communications to accommodate everyone?
In the 1970s, Dr. Taibi Kahler developed the Process Communication Model® which identified six base personality types: Emotions, Opinions, Thoughts, Actions, Reactions and Reflections. Each of these types communications differently and will have different emotional responses to situations. Understanding these personality types and their communication styles can have a huge impact in improving the emotional wellbeing of workplaces. Here are three steps to onboarding emotions into your workplace:
1. Take a personality inventory
In order to successfully communicate with coworkers, it's important to understand personality types, communication styles, and what makes people tick. You don't need a formal personality assessment to do this, just listen to how others use language and observe how they communicate. People feel more emotionally understood when they are treated as individuals, in the way that most relates to their needs.
2. Share you preferences
After you've observed your coworkers and reflected on your own personality type and communication style, make it a priority to share your preferences with each other. Having this awareness can make a huge difference in effective communication. Discuss common situations that come up, and share how you each prefer to approach it. Hone in on situations where it seemed like there were communication issues, and find out if it was because there was a mismatch in communication styles. These honest discussions provide tangible examples for people to refer back to when similar situations come up.
3. Put personality into actions
Once personality preferences have been established, identify the key places where you can use language to connect with and motivate people. If you're tasked with sharing important information, consider your audience, and not just what they need to hear, but how to best share it with them. For example, one of my coworkers prefers clear data and facts, preferably presented in lists or other sequential ways. However, another one of my colleagues wants to know the backstory of how a decision was made and how it will impact their team. Knowing these differences helps me adapt my language to both get the job done and emotionally satisfy my team.
In typical Pixar form, Inside Out entertains the youngest of viewer, while still speaking to and resonating with adults. Our lesson: it's time to embrace emotions - not suppress them for 40 hours a week.