Other people perceive your negative emotions before the message. Source: Unsplash/charlesdeluvio

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Harvard Business Review

How to have hard conversations effectively when emotions are running high

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Harvard Business Review
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4 minute Read

Do you say whatever is on your mind without giving it much thought? Do you express the emotions you’re feeling, including anger and frustration, in whatever way those feelings arise in that moment?

It makes sense. You want to communicate something you are thinking or feeling to another person or group of people. So why couch it? Why not just say it like it is? In theory, we should be able to express ourselves in any way that feels good to us and gets our point across. But have you noticed that when you do let loose and say whatever you want, however you want — whether it’s hurtful or filled with anger and frustration — you don’t get the result you want? More than likely, the conversation ends in an argument because the other person responds with the same level of intensity and emotion that you’ve expressed.

Don’t let your emotions hijack your message. People respond to how we make them feel. When you start an intense conversation full of emotion, the recipient is not listening to the message. Instead, they have an emotional reaction to the intense feelings you are projecting. The subject you are trying to address becomes less important to the other person than dealing with and responding to your intensity or emotional state.

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