Dismissing emotions exacerbates the situation

I was sound asleep when two strangers burst into my hotel room yesterday. It was 6 am.


I was blinking confusedly at their yelling and cursing, when my brains began shouting at me “we’re in danger!!” My 9 year old son was asleep next to me, somehow, amidst the chaos, but thankfully the strangers realized the room was occupied and they left.


Adrenaline raging, I dead bolted the door and sat on the bed, wondering how they had access, if they were sober, if they had weapons. I couldn’t go back to sleep.


When I talked to the manger a bit later, I started to feel those emotions again coursing through me.


The infuriating part if the manger tried to minimize my emotions - “It was a minor mistake… not a big deal… you’re overreacting… you’re assuming they were dangerous…”


I was pretty upset at the manager. I didn’t feel heard, I didn’t feel respected.


But I realized that it’s human nature to try and control someone else’s emotional response when feeling defensive. It’s counter-intuitive to offer deep and compassionate listening. It’s really really difficult to admit wrong when feeling defensive.


I don’t fault that manager - most likely she wasn’t trained to listen empathetically in a situation like that. Most of us aren’t.


I kept thinking about the compassionate communication course I took last year from my colleagues in Integer Network South Africa, and how revolutionary it is to train people to listen well in highly charged circumstances, to “do conflict well.”


If only more organizations were interested in training their leaders in this - what a world! Where emotions are not dismissed, people felt heard and seen, and solutions become the outflow of honest connection.


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