Remove Emotion From The Equation

A friend of mine recently came to me to vent about a conflict he was dealing with at work. He was at his wits end about how to resolve this conflict and needed an outsider’s perspective.

We sat down over lunch and he delivered his account of what was going on. As I suspected, his conflict was very similar to his onion rings…it was a rather small issue deep-fried in a thick batter of emotions.

On either side of most conflicts you’ll typically find an over-abundance of emotional attachment. If conflict was a steam engine, then emotion would be the coal being shoveled into the firebox.

My friend was smart enough to realize this. He knew that seeking guidance from someone who was not emotionally attached to the issue could help him peel away the layers and focus on the issue instead of the emotions he was experiencing. He knew that he had become so passionate about his position that he was interpreting every opposing opinion as a personal attack. He also suspected that his colleagues on the other side of the conflict were most likely feeling the same way, and he was probably right. They had reached a point where a change needed to occur so that the conflict could be resolved and also so the relationships didn’t suffer irreparable damage.

As he continued to talk, it became clear that all he really needed was a sounding board. He came to the conclusion on his own that the best course of action was to remove emotion from the equation.

He phoned me later in the week to let me know that the conflict had been resolved. He had reengaged his colleagues and influenced them all to refocus on the issue at hand by first acknowledging that the emotional element had been getting in the way of progress. As it turns out, everyone was feeling the same way. They too were ready to let go of their emotions and rediscover their common ground which would be the foundation for resolving their conflict. They let their shared vision and values be their guide and were finally able to focus on their equally shared desire to find a mutually beneficial resolution to their problem.

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  • Comments (3)
    • Benjamin Lichtenwalner
    • February 25th, 2011

    It seems the emotion is often pushed by pride or ego. Perhaps these elements are the shovel lifting the coal, to continue your analogy. Isn’t it also important, therefore, to act as a servant leader, remembering your responsibility to serve your stakeholders as a means of maintaining your humility? This, ultimately, should also contain the degree of emotion.

    A great post with solid insights. Thank you for sharing, Adam.

  1. Thank yu for this post. It is a very powerful process engaged in here. however, I do not feel it is a removal of emotion, for we are all emotional beings. Emotions are a part of us in every instant. What struck me was nit the remval of emotion, rather the recognition of that emotional state and shifting to another state that enables creativity to occur again. You gave this person the freedom and space to be heard and understood. I can see how being the sounding board allowed recovery froan over-aroused state,

    The ears are really a most amazing organ – especially when used in a focused positive manner.

    Thank you for the reminder of the need to shift emotions and removing psychological arousal

    • Gary Duke
    • February 26th, 2011

    Ken,

    Brilliantly phrased and insightful post!

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