Brady Wilson

Emotional Tank - How to be understood in half the timeTwenty years ago, someone gave me and my wife a gift that shaped the destiny of our children. 

It was a book that contained one simple principle we've been using for the past two decades: every child has an emotional tank. When their tank is full, children have a great capacity for being happy, understanding you and obedient. But when their tank is low, they tend to be unhappy, find it difficult to understand, and are inclined to disobey.

But how does this apply to business?

Every adult has an emotional tank too. And when adults’ emotional needs are met, they seem to understand things much more quickly.

I first discovered this myself when I was learning a new procedure:

  • When I felt respected and understood by others, my capacity to understand shot through the roof; but
  • When I felt put down and patronized, it was almost as if a dark curtain was drawn over my eyes. I just couldn't get it!

Then, I realized it wasn't my fault.

As I double-checked myself, I recognized that I was bringing an eager desire to learn, an open mind and a willingness to understand.

But it wasn’t about me—I eventually saw that others were also having difficulties understanding the same “teachers” I was struggling with.

The problem lay with the messenger.

Fill that tank!

If you are trying to communicate something with the objective of getting a task done, there are four tank-filling steps you can do to produce quick understanding.

  1. Connection
    Connection is a hard commodity to analyze, but it's made up of a mixture of credibility, openness, empathy and genuine caring for people.

    You know when you feel it, and you know when you don't—and others sure know when you're connecting with them. In my work as a professional trainer, I spend a lot of upfront time getting inside the frame of reference of the people I'm going to be presenting to. Somehow, knowing and feeling what they're dealing with and going through helps me create a quick spark of connection.
  2. Framing
    Frame your message in a way that appeals to your people’s interests. For example:

    “I was sitting at my desk the other day, Gail, and I was thinking about you. I was remembering how busy you usually are, how many urgent last minute phone calls you get, how many responsibilities you have to juggle from day to day and all of a sudden I got an idea that I think would save you a lot of time. Would you like to hear about it?”

    If I was Gail, I'd be pretty open to understanding what this idea was all about. You framed your proposal in the context of my daily reality. That makes you a little bit credible—and a little bit of trust starts to flow.
  3. Word pictures and stories
    A senior executive once invited me and two others to a meeting, and began introducing us to each other.

    “Marilyn is here because she is a coach who's had a proven history of coaching senior executives in our organization. Bill is a long-time friend who brings extensive expertise in the areas of strategic planning and dealing with executives. And Brady? Well, I don't really know Brady, but he's here because we connected for five minutes in my office one day, and then he wrote this funky story about me that told me he really got it. Besides that, Carol recommended him—and when Carol recommends someone you take notice.”

    The story I had written was about a female knight who chose to fight without armor. It told of her wisdom of getting her fellow knights on board without creating needless resistance. The story caught the executive’s attention because it captured some of the real-world struggle she was facing. I took time to put myself in her frame of reference and write the story—and I believe it filled her tank a bit. I think it created some understanding about my philosophy and values in a very short time-span.
  4. Inquire into others’ conclusions
    My credo is that “people will tolerate your conclusions, and act on their own.” 

    When you are seeking to be understood quickly, it is tempting to dump the whole load without stopping to see how you and your message are being perceived.

    One simple question can help you sidestep unnecessary resistance: “how does this sit with you so far?” Asking this tells the other person something important: that you care what they think, and you're willing to stop and let them catch up.

Don’t skip a step!

Remember: when you feel resistance, do not try to bulldoze ahead. Why? It will take you twice as long to achieve understanding.

The next time you need to get understanding across quickly to a listener, connect with them, frame your message to appeal to their interests, use word pictures and stories, and inquire into their conclusions. If there is resistance, reflect back the essence of the feeling in your own words.

Doing this will help you become understood in half the time—and let you get back to your work.

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Brady Wilson

Brady Wilson

Co-Founder of Juice Inc, Thought Leader & Author

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