Avoid conflicts through clear communication: emotions give space without buts


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Text comes from: Der Abschied von der Sachlichkeit: Wie Sie mit Emotionen tatsächlich für Bewegung sorgen (2015) by Markus Hornung, published by BusinessVillage Verlag, Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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The first challenge in dealing with the emotions of others is to give space to the emotion and to make it clear to the sender that its signal is being perceived - without a poisoning “but”.

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Markus Hornung HornungMarkus Hornung is a consultant and speaker on emotional intelligence.

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The transmitter needs security!

But the news that something has arrived is far from sufficient. For as strange as it sounds, the other has no idea what exactly, exactly what message has come to you.

However, not only does it require you to be sure that you have received its signal, but it also needs to be sure about what you have received and that this is exactly what it has sent. As long as he does not have this security, he will continue!

Speak emotions directly

The next step, then, must be to clear the transmitter of the emotion, which is exactly what has arrived. And this can only be achieved by appealing directly to the emotion!

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Sounds complicated? Is not it. It's just unfamiliar. Especially for those of you who believe in self-awareness.

Why do not you just say it to him?

In my seminars and coaching sessions, I repeatedly find that the direct response of an emotion is absolutely unfamiliar to many participants and is almost perceived as an imposition.

For example, when I ask participants when confronting an angry customer: "Why don't you just tell him that you see that he is angry?" I almost always get the same answer: "But that's clear that he is angry. Everyone sees that! ”

There are no self-explanations!

And that is unfortunately a mistake. There is - I can not repeat it often enough - in interpersonal communication no matter of course!

Let's make it clear once again that Jack, the little neurologist in our head, is sending a message because of touching his value system. We call this message an emotion. In order for him to stop doing so, he must receive an unmistakable response signal that his message has been understood technically and in terms of content. An “I understand!” So it is not, never, never enough!

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The word “But”

An extremely important point that comes into play both when expressing and when recognizing emotions is the use - or rather not use - of the word “but”. What always fascinates me in my seminars is how hard we have drilled to use this inconspicuous-sounding word:

  • "Mr. Hornung, I can understand that you are angry, but I really can't help it!"
  • "Treasure! I love you, but we have to talk! ”
  • "Ms. Meier, I am more than satisfied with your performance, but there are some things that I would like to see differently!"
  • "Markus, you are really a fine guy, but your room looks like a pig again!"

Adversative or relative?

You can already sense that the list of sentences in which the “but” creeps in could be extended indefinitely. It's just inflationary and sloppy how we use the poor little word "but".

Language is meant to facilitate communication, and if we use “but” for everything and everyone, we can easily be misunderstood. Perhaps a look at the German grammar is good here and can help. The “but” is a conjunction that can be used in two different ways in our language:

  1. adversative (ie the opposite of what has just been said)
  2. relatively (thus relativizing the above).

“And” instead of “But”

Both are fine and good and in many cases even desirable, and neither are helpful in emotional communication. We do not want to be understood as either adversative or relativistic. We want to see that what he sends is understood. This means that we will almost always be allergic to the “but”.

Fortunately, there is another conjunction in the German language that is used to juxtapose the same sentences. It is much better at letting Jack know that we sincerely understand and recognize his emotions. It is - you guessed it long ago - the word "and".

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Two statements instead of conjunction

The whole thing becomes particularly effective if you also omit the “and”, instead make a point and simply put two statements in two sentences instead of telling everything in one sentence.

Our brain is very well trained and correspondingly sensitive in listening. It recognizes and senses the difference immediately. Do an experiment and leave the following three sentences at rest:

  • "I see you're angry, but there's nothing you can do about it!"
  • "I see you're angry and there's nothing you can do about it!"
  • “I see you're angry. You can't do anything about that. ”

The change in subconsciousness

The difference does not appear to be dramatic at first and is hardly noticeable. But if you let the words come to your attention, if you listen more closely to the three variants, then you notice that something subtly changes. Do you feel how, with each sentence, recognition of anger becomes clearer and more credible?

Or how about giving up the word “but” when expressing the emotion of joy:

  • "I'm really happy about the second place, but Markus didn't deserve the first."
  • “I'm really happy about the second place and Markus didn't deserve the first.”
  • “I'm really happy about second place. Markus didn't deserve the first one. ”

Do not relativize positive statements with “but”

Here the difference is already clearly recognizable, especially in the third example, in which the two statements are formulated in separate sentences. The more isolated the emotional statement or recognition is made, the less it is relativized, the sooner our counterpart will recognize that it is meant seriously.

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For the important recognition of emotions this means: There is the feedback “The signal has arrived and has been understood”, which means for Jack that the signal can now be switched off!


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