By Dr. Robert Frazer, Jr.
“Don’t you just hate it when everyone gets emotional?!” I dare say if you’re like me… a male (emotional avoider) doctor who grew up in a family that didn’t deal well with emotions, you agree with that statement. Experts point out that emotions are part of all human relationships, more importantly when not allowed to be expressed they get acted out. What doesn’t get talked out gets acted out! Often with very negative consequences. Let’s explore emotionally intelligent mindsets and tools for those difficult conversations we all have from time to time.
Our Mindset – First, what is your mindset when there’s conflict? In my early years, I’d often think…“WOW, this is not something I want to deal with now… we’ve got much more important things to do… she is always stirring something up…” Note how these thoughts are outer directed, it’s not about me, its them! Often I’d played a key role in this impasse. Long ago a consultant friend, Wilson Southam, said something that’s stuck with me. He stated that when he was confronted by a workmate he tells himself… “This person is conspiring to do me good.” That’s hard to say in every confrontation, but it has a positive opening effect on how one receives feedback.
Daniel Goleman, PhD, points out that effective leaders are emotionally self-aware. They know what they are feeling, label their emotions and are appropriately transparent, letting others know what they’re feeling at the time. He also states, “Leaders who manage conflict best are able to draw out all parties, understand differing perspectives, and then find a common ideal that everyone can endorse. They surface the conflict, acknowledge the feelings and views of all, then redirect the energy toward a shared ideal.” This is much easier when the doctor plus key team have agreed upon core values and collectively created a mission for the practice.
Emotionally sound tools for positive outcomes conflict
The Five Be’s of Good Feedback – When you must give feedback…
- Be Specific– do not laundry list; pick one or two concrete actions to discuss.
- Be Descriptive – describe what you observed that the other person did or said.
- Be Timely – negotiate a mutually good time soon after the event while the memory is still fresh, but perhaps intense emotions have subsided and never at the end of a long day…“the arsenic hour!”
- Be Wanted – maintain cooperative affirming relationship so that when you have to confront you have positive regard for one another.
- Be Helpful – offer a workable solution as part of your feedback.
The Awareness Wheel – one of the most effective tools ever.
The Awareness Wheel from the book Alive and Aware by Alice Miller tells us when giving feedback or confronting – first report to the other person Sensory data – what you heard them say or saw them do without judgment. You both must agree on this before going further. Secondly, your Interpretation of what you heard or saw. Often using phrases like “I interpret that to mean… Thirdly, report Emotions – how you feel…“I feel…” about what you heard or saw. Fourth express Volition … “I need… or I want…” asking for what you need or want.
An applied strategic planning (ASP) client of ours returned to her office after Retreat I and invited her team to help plan the future of the practice. Her invitation was met with reluctant agreement, but they didn’t want to travel to Texas or give up time on weekends. She was disappointed and discouraged. She then employed the awareness wheel during a team meeting saying … “When I invited you to participate in ASP for our practice, you all reacted coolly, looking away or rolling your eyes, asking if this would be during or after work? I interpreted that to mean you really weren’t interested, especially if some work would be after hours. I then felt discouraged and disappointed in both you and me for not helping you understand how positively this will impact the quality of our lives. What I need is for you to join me in this work to create the best practice we can!”
This almost sounds too simple to work, but it does!
An innovative leader in the world of dentistry, Dr. Frazer is a highly skilled speaker, coach/consultant for dentists and practices offering transformational services including strategic planning, performance coaching, Emotional Intelligence education, and exceptional leadership skills. Recognized as the foremost authority in strategic planning and management in dentistry today, he has led dentists, associations, dental schools, manufacturers, and countless private practices across North America to become strategic thinkers achieving the highest levels of success, significance, fulfillment and profitability.