Cut through the clouds of emotion

Tears broke out and anger was brewing. Two departments were collectively at a standstill. Emotions filled the room like a thick cloud, blinding any attempt to understand, empathize, or solve problems. A virtual workspace adds density to the cloud. Breaking up the cloud is key to retaining good employees and getting the best out of them.

Conflict resolution has been my focus for over two decades. I’ve been in some pretty heavy clouds with teams and in my own life at times studying how to turn destructive conflicts into innovative solutions. Earlier in my life, much of the conventional wisdom for dealing with conflict was to share feelings and address the “elephant” in the room. But I think the opposite is true: unless the team has developed conscious agreements and connections, sharing feelings and grievances as a starting point often derails a productive conversation.

When team members collectively understand conflict, have vulnerability-based trust, and value one another, only then are feelings valued. Then problems become opportunities that everyone wants to solve, and empathy and support become second nature.

A conscious team or company values ​​people’s feelings. This is a way of creating belonging and cohesion in a group that brings out the best in people. However, many teams and companies are not quite there yet. Some have no interest in being there. Competition for talent is a good thing as it drives companies to be better at treating their employees.

To cut through that dense cloud of separation and create clear sky cohesion, I find these tips work:

1. Start with intention.

Intent has many levels. A wonderful analogy is riding a bike up a hill. Have you noticed how much easier it is to ride a bike up a hill when you’re looking at the top of the hill? Don’t take my word for it, try it. If you look at the pedals, it’s a struggle. The pedals are the emotions and the themes. Look where you want to go – your intention. An important difference is voicing your intention that is not dependent on another person or group.

Since the two departments were at an impasse, I began a process to define their common purpose. Asking people what’s at the top of their hill energizes them. The energy in the room shifts and the commitment relaxes. It seems magical to watch resistance melt away as people speak out about their intent. this is that beginning a less emotionally charged process.

2. Ask open-ended questions.

Often we make assumptions about the other person or department and prepare the communication based on those assumptions. Instead, try to replace these assumptions with true information by asking questions.

Once the intent is clear, it becomes easier to ask open-ended questions. What is your department experiencing at this point in the process? What do you wish for your customers/patients/clients? What have you tried before?

3. Become a steady eye in the storm by strengthening your balance and focus.

To get back to where I started, empathy and compassion are so much needed in our world. Circumstances over the past few years have taken their toll on most people in many ways. In my process, I coach people to develop their “middle” – that quiet place inside that strengthens their balance and focus. The only thing you can control is she. When you are centered, you are in a place of fulfillment.

To develop your center, begin with a deep breathing process. Even five minutes a day makes a significant difference. There are many ways to further develop this “quiet” muscle. As a martial artist, I know it’s possible with movement; it can also be done through thought and imagination.


A conscious company values ​​the welfare of its employees as much as profits. Knowing how to turn excitement into innovation brings out the best in people. It creates an environment that attracts great people. A good starting point is described above. Just as most people feel energized and clear-headed on a sunny day, breaking through those clouds of emotion will leave your team energized too. Cut through the clouds of emotion

Rick Schindler

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