If you’re going to succeed at work, one thing you’re going to want to nail is reading the emotional subtext.
You know, the emotional connections and disconnections that we feel, and don’t talk about, as we go about our work.
- our wish to be with or as far away as possible from someone
- our longing to be validated
- our despair at being ignored.
It’s something you know is there, even if you can’t see it.
Just like I couldn’t see the path beneath this fog in the fern garden last week at the Canberra Botanic Gardens. (I snuck in a lovely, little holiday – highly recommend it if you can.)
Emotional subtexts are tricky to read. It’s part of the reason leadership principles are often simple to understand, yet not so easy to put into practice.
Here are some reasons they’re tricky:
- Emotional subtexts aren’t easy access. They’re invisible and we can only know them by observing their effects.
- Relationships don’t stay still. We’re constantly modifying ourselves to accommodate the people we’re with, subtly and often outside our conscious awareness.
- There’s a lack of language to describe our relationships. Even the term relationship is used to describe every connection we have e.g. with our boss, our direct reports, external stakeholders etc. While each one has its own special form, it’s usually described only in terms of good or bad. The richness and differences between them are lost.
- Work relationships are further complicated because we have a connection with someone in two ways. Firstly, because of how our roles are related (the work requires it), and secondly, we have a personal relationship with the role-holder (that we can choose to develop). Things can get messy here too – ever been the boss of your friend?
So don’t feel bad if you’ve ever been blindsided in a relationship or can’t read the room.
These are some of the reasons why.
Still, relationships are key if you want to succeed at work. A great place to start is to work on improving your emotional subtext reading skills.