05 Apr What is the Forgotten Communication Tool? (Part 2)
One of the skills I try to teach clients in their quest for organization and productivity is to listen not only to those around them but also to themselves. Sometimes the advice we get in working with others needs to be applied to ourselves when we’re on our own. My friend Mike O’Krent is an expert in listening and communication and has worked on projects for Steven Spielberg, so I asked him to share some advice.
Part II: Handling the “What Ifs” (Emotion)
Mike O’Krent, Founder and President
LifeStories Alive, LLC
The subject of communication is as vast as an ocean. I’ll try to teach the tools I’ve learned one drink at a time, so we can swallow and enjoy each one. Let’s begin exploring the “what ifs” that inevitably come up in conversation. As we learn together the tools used to become a better listener, one of the most fearful situations that people are forced to handle is emotion.
“What if they start crying?” “What if I start to cry?” “What do I do?” In the work I do at LifeStories Alive, I have, as you can imagine, encountered tears in many forms and for many reasons. Here are some rules of thumb that I use when emotion comes up. Please realize that my comments are taken with my role at LifeStories Alive in mind, as an interviewer there to record their LifeStories…not as a parent, loving spouse, or best friend.
What if they start to cry?
- Don’t interrupt the emotion or say anything! This one is tough for me to do. I was raised that it’s proper to comfort a person who gets emotional. What I have found, however, is that if I let them get the emotion out…completely out…they will feel better when they are finished. Another benefit is that some of the most valuable pearls of wisdom and heart have come at the end of uninterrupted emotion. Here’s an example: http://tinyurl.com/6n3cge8. What would I have missed if I interrupted that emotion?
- Be compassionate with your body language but never say, “I understand” (because you don’t) or “It’s okay” (because it might not be). It’s better to acknowledge the emotion, but don’t try to make it go away.
- Don’t invade their personal space. I’m a hugger. I want to gently touch them when the emotion happens. I have learned that invading their personal space will interrupt the emotion, and that’s the last thing I want to happen.
- How will I know when they are finished with the emotion? They will always let you know by making eye contact with you. Even after they make that eye contact, take a good, long pause to be sure that they are finished.
What if I start to cry?
With the work I do at LifeStories Alive, I get emotional during an interview. Here are some helpful tools I keep in mind:
- Take a deep breath. I try to do this as quietly as possible. I don’t want the audio of a deep breath on my part to be heard (although my editor can remove it in post-production editing).
- Keep a tissue or handkerchief near. The audible sound of sniffles is distracting to the speaker/interviewee.
- After their emotion is finished, it might be appropriate to explain why what they said touched you…but do this only after you are sure they are finished.
Emotion is a natural part of life. Handling emotion in a respectful way will help make you better listener and, thus, a better communicator.
If you missed part one of Mike’s tips, you can read them here.
About Mike O’Krent:
Mike O’Krent, founder of LifeStories Alive, LLC, specializes in making personal history videos for families that value their heritage. They create family heirlooms in video – digitally mastered records of life stories with personal accounts, photos and mementos of family history.
Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and graduating from Southern Methodist University with a BBA in Marketing and Management, he entered his family’s retail floor covering business as the 4th generation in that business.
Between 1996 and 2000 Mike interviewed Holocaust survivors for Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. During that incredible experience, he discovered the process and the importance of recording the life stories of our loved ones.
Mike moved to Austin in 1998 when he bought and managed a local floor covering business; then sold it in 2004. He finally found his passion in business when he started LifeStories Alive.
Learn more about Mike: