The Validation of Feelings: What Marriage Can Teach You About Management

People are different from each other. That is what makes the world such an interesting place. But that is also what leads to lots of confusion and disagreement. Some people get upset about things that wouldn't bother you, and some people have quirks that don't seem to bother anyone but you.

What happens is that we don't understand why one person is mad at another person, why they can't understand our point of view, why they can't get along with certain people, etc. So we spend our time explaining why they shouldn't be mad, why they overreacted, why they should try to get along, and it gets us nowhere. At least, it never got me anywhere. Maybe some of you have better luck with it.

So how can these types of conflicts be handled? Like a marriage – by validating feelings and keeping in mind what is really important. Accusing someone of feeling "the wrong way" about something is a sure way to escalate the problem. But validating that person's feelings with a "I understand why you feel…" is a quick way to defuse the situation. It also helps you see things from the point of view of the other person, which helps you better frame a solution to the problem. Even if a solution isn't reached, employees, spouses, pretty much anybody, will feel better knowing that someone understands their point of view.

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Like any tool, though, this must be handled with care. Otherwise you will end up with that one employee that constantly wants to come in and complain to you to get some pity. In these situations I've always tried to validate the person's feelings while still pointing out that they aren't necessarily accurate. For instance, "I understand that you feel _____ because _____, but I think you are assuming _______ when that isn't true."

Don't forget that management isn't about being right or wrong. It isn't about power, status, or control. It's about people. And sometimes people don't need answers or guidance or lectures, they just need somebody to listen to them. Letting out frustrations allows them to feel better and refocus on more important things.