Like it or not, humans are emotional beings, and yes that includes males

Being in software development means chances are you are male. Males supposedly are a lot less emotional then females. So, me being female, it stands to reason that I am more emotional than my colleagues?

Ha! Fat chance.

Well, okay, nowadays maybe. Helped along by the hormonal changes that come with my age. Oh dear, so now I am triply dangerous. Female, emotional, and no longer afraid to admit it.

Historically, organizations have asked employees to check their emotions at the door. They still do. Emotions are a hassle. It’s uncomfortable, if not impossible, to deal with someone who has been hijacked by their emotional brain. They don’t listen to reason. At all.

What’s more, businesses should behave rationally, shouldn’t they? So the people in those businesses should behave rationally as well, shouldn’t they? We can’t go around making emotional decisions can we? That would undermine all the economic models we have, based as they are on the assumption that we make rational decisions about what we buy.

Well… Have I got news for you. Or not.

Leaving our emotions at the door?

Impossible. And as it turns out: counterproductive.

No matter how rational you think you are, we decide with the emotional part of our brain and rationalize afterwards. Even when you do your utmost to make a rational decision, your emotional brain has already decided and is leading your rational brain by the nose.

Don’t take my word on this. After all, I am a poor emotional female, remember? What would I know?

But do check out what Simon Sinek has to say about why we buy what we buy and why we follow people that start with “why”: ”How great leaders inspire action”. And what J.D. Meier has to say about the book “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” in which Dan Heath and Chip Heath talk about the two sides of our brain (no, not simply left and right). Or “Decisions Are Emotional, Not Logical: The Neuroscience behind Decision Making

Anyway guys, the bad news is that whether you like it or not, humans are emotional beings.

And, yes, that means you males too.

Now don’t go all crazy on me. Emotions aren’t as scary as you may think them. Recently I overheard someone saying “Emotions are facts. You can’t deny them.”

I get what this person was saying, but “Emotions are facts” went a bit too far. Emotions aren’t facts. Not in the sense that I, being very scientifically oriented, think about facts. Facts are objective. Emotions aren’t.

Just a couple of days ago Sue Johnston (of It’s Understood, where I am going through coaching skills training) conveyed the same sentiment with a much more palatable phrase: “Emotions are information.”

Yes, that I can live with.

Emotions are information.

Brilliant.

Ignoring emotions will always give you at most half of the story. Recognizing emotions, brings the effect they may have out in the open, and helps people understand where the “rational” arguments are coming from.

Asking people to leave their emotions at the door, cuts you off from an enormously rich source of information and makes you much less effective as a leader. Check out “Primal Leadership” by Daniel Goleman (of “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ” fame) and co-authors Boyatzis and McKee, if you want to know more about it.

The good news?

Emotional intelligence is not something you have to be born with.

It can be developed. And developing it will make you more effective in everything you do.

And yes, that also applies to you males too.

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2 comments on “Like it or not, humans are emotional beings, and yes that includes males
  1. Warren Postma says:

    Good points. I’ll add that I have learned that it is important to manage your own emotional state, not to “check it at the door” but to understand and listen. I’ll also add that your “gut” knows a lot that you might think you should ignore but you should not. For more on the the “gut” and why you should listen to “gut feel”, check out “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker.

    • Marjan Venema says:

      Thanks, Warren. Yes, being aware of your own emotional state is the first step in moving from reacting to responding. Gut feel needs to be managed as well though. Just like any other emotional reaction to a situation, it may just be triggered by similarities to old situations that are no longer valid. For example when someone asks whether they can speak to you. For me, that causes an immediate “uh, oh, what have I done now?” sinking feeling in my gut, simply because way back in the past it invariably announced criticism.

      Sure going to put that book on my to read list!

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