“Can we please take a fact-based approach to the subject?”
We’ve all heard those words. Mostly used by a male colleague and usually regarding a female colleague. This statement can mean different things. Sometimes the speaker wants the issue to be discussed in a less emotional manner. But sometimes the speaker also wants to put the other person in their place or even show them up.
This statement is problematic for not only the above-mentioned reasons, because it suggests that issues in business life can be seen in a factual or objective way. This is a misconception, because people aren’t machines, but have feelings that accompany almost every activity. It is not seldom the case that people with a background in natural sciences believe that there is an objective reality. Even quantum mechanics has challenged this idea.
Why are emotions so often maligned in communications in business life? Are people afraid of their own feelings? Or worried about emotional arguments? Emotions are often a targeted part of the corporate strategy: in marketing, customer loyalty is linked to customers identifying with a brand or product. Your own colleagues should also ideally identify positively with the company and see lasting meaning in their work. But when it comes to communication, please keep your feelings out of it.
This attitude removes the possibility of forming a connection with the person they are speaking to. It doesn’t mean that you have to listen to the other person’s tales of woe at every meeting, but genuinely giving colleagues attention (sometimes just being willing to listen is enough) makes it possible to build an interpersonal relationship, which can be especially valuable at times of crisis.
Imagine you are in the middle of a transformation in which you are ‘submerged’ and you don’t know what you should do with yourself or how to deal with the many issues that face you. Who would you turn to? To the person who asks what your factual concerns are and who has a rather distant relationship with you? Or the person who first quietly listens to your feelings and problems, then tries to help you?
Many readers might be asking what that has to do with a company’s success. A strong, resilient network within the workforce in which people support each other and generate new solution ideas through discussion is, for every company, truly worth its weight in gold.