Posts Tagged ‘Emotionality’

Ever been attracted to someone who will save the day? You know, the White Knight that will save the situation? What about the flip side? Someone showing up in your life you absolutely can’t stand? A leader must pay very close attention to feelings that accompany these situations. Are you aware both situations can have a great deal in common? They can have what I call large “blind spots” associated with them, blind spots into which organizations can fall and disappear.

There’s a curious component to these blind spots since they can have as much or more to do with the leader’s character as the exterior reality. The dynamics of these blind spots and how to deal with them fall under the category of projection. So what is projection? How can one deal with it?


Projection is shady. It creates false feelings of well being around potentially disastrous decisions. At the core projection deals with the desire to take a shortcut to avoid going to dark places, especially within.


Previous blogs mention we all have portions of our psyche that are quite strong and other parts that are weak. Over time, we tend to build our lives around the stronger components and gradually develop a fear of those weaker ones. The primary reasons for the fear are imagined and real instabilities from which we believe we may not recover. Simply put, our reputation, business, etc., are at stake. We are staring at uncertainty.

The shortcut attempted is trying to find someone, the Other, who will deal with those dark spaces for us. We become infatuated with the Other. The Other is taken hostage. Conversely, the shortcut with the detested person is to simply get rid of him or her. This way the scary work can, again, be avoided. In both cases the leader stays myopic, loses vision, and is unable to see the consequences of decisions. A boss hiring someone to do the more difficult parts of the boss’s responsibilities (read: dirty work) is a good example of projection. It tears the team apart.

So Which is Which?

How does one know if the desired decision is wise and simple or blind and chaotic? In one word, “Options.” In two words, “Risk management.” In another two words, “Assumption analysis.” Let me explain.

Projection is sly and takes several forms. It is a narcotic that puts discernment to sleep. It is a demolition expert wiring explosives to all that has been built. It puts the trigger in the leader’s hand. It intensifies emotionality making pulling the trigger feel oh so sweet. (“Just fire him! Just hire her! Start without a contract! Requirements gathering will slow us down! Cash flow! Everything will be okay.”) Then it waits for the blind decision that irreversibly pulls the trigger and destroys healthy power, assets, and people.

By asking questions around options, risk management, and assumption analysis the door to healthier decision-making opens. Vision returns. Now, all this means going into those dark spaces. It’s hard work, rewarding work. It’s also the simplest work. (There’s never enough time to do it right the first time but there’s always time to fix it.) Keep in mind that just like Hades in Greek mythology, that’s where the real gold not the fool’s gold is!

Character and Personality #1: Emotionality

by Gary Monti on July 6, 2010

How does it strike you when there is difficulty and someone says, “Oh, it’s just a communication problem.” Where did that world “just” come from? Is the working assumption communications is effortless, straightforward, and accurate over 90% of the time? My experience says otherwise. I’ve found there is a very common behavior that poisons communications especially in times of change – emotionality. But wait, aren’t emotions healthy? If so, what is the difference between emotionality and honest expression of feelings?

Sorting out the difference and being a leader requires wisdom and a working knowledge of both character and personality along with the interplay between the two. This is the pond in which we will swim in this new blog series.

Can We Talk?

Alfred Korzybski, the founder of general semantics, found that as stress increases; the desire for valid information increases in terms of both amount and frequency. However, unless one has a strong, positive character the desire to actively communicate goes down. People retreat inward. This isn’t to say they shut up. Rather, there is an ever-increasing absorption with the question, “What is going to happen to me!?” Minds start racing and projections of the most horrible kind can take over.

While there might be a great deal of talking there actually can be a dramatic drop in communications. Others become objects seen as helping or hurting us in getting to a stable position.

Understanding what contributes to communications or its breakdown helps a leader decide how to plan and execute the next move. This is where character and personality come into play.

Character vs Personality

Character is the inward set of rules by which one operates. In game theory it refers to one’s rationale for making decisions. This is a bit oversimplified but will work for now. “Character” is a rather neutral term. A hardened criminal has a character just as the judge who sends him to prison. Unless stated otherwise, in these blogs “character” refers to rules grounded in professionalism, empathy, and compassion.

Personality comprises the way we choose to gather information and interact with the environment. To contrast: two people can have similar character traits, e.g., the desire to serve mankind, but have very different personalities for expressing it. One could become a therapist while the other becomes a contractor who builds libraries.

Let’s use this context to examine emotionality.

Emotions vs Emotionality

Emotions are quite valuable. They reflect the variance between our expectations and the current state of affairs. Frequently, these expectations are driven by our personalities. For example, if a municipality with limited funds must choose between a mental health facility and building a library the therapist and contractor could violently disagree as to how best to spend the money. They risk falling into emotionality.

Here is where character comes into play. Leaders look at their feelings and ask, “Are they appropriate for the principles at play?” Essentially, the principles come first regardless of the consequences and emotions are expected to shift accordingly. (Important tip: Reads easy, does hard.)

With emotionality decisions are made based on feelings and seeking to either get relief from or indulge them. Think of a two year old trying to get the upper hand.

Where this leaves us is: an honest expression of emotions with a statement of underlying principles (agenda) supports communication with others while emotionality tears community apart.

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