Sometimes a good friend of mine calls me and starts a rant. He’ll describe how bizarre or disagreeable a situation is and how off-putting this is for him.
My role in such moments is to listen. It’s also fine if I start to laugh as he’ll sense that it’s an invitation for him to laugh too. For him, that’s a nice way to react to his rant. That’s because he doesn’t share to discuss. He shares to get rid of that disagreeable feeling he is experiencing and finding a way back into laughing serves him well.
As a coach, we often need to find a way to welcome such “offloading”. It’s part of the work and serves us to help the coachee find a way back into doing the work he needs to do with us.
Someone who is experiencing a disagreeable feeling and cannot make sense of it on his own is under stress. And someone who is under stress finds it hard to be attentive to the work at hand. They may believe that they are doing the work, but an important part of their energy is busy with keeping whatever it is they are experiencing under some cover. It reduces their attention. Their work becomes less effective.
It’s true for leaders too. When leaders don’t pay attention to their emotions they too become less effective. Even more so when they find themselves offloading their feelings onto their team. What they may not realize is how this is taken on board by some of their team members.
It distributes stress to the team. Now it’s the team that is less effective. The problem for them now is, that they don’t know why.
Someone who can track the feeling back to an event can deal with it. The cause and effect information helps to self-regulate. Someone who doesn’t realize where the feeling comes from has no means to deal with it, which adds uncertainty to the feelings experienced.