Pay Attention to "Faking It"

When I swam in college, I had a teammate whose shoulder always hurt when the hardest practices came. I have a vivid memory of grinding my way through what seemed like endless repetitions of 400s while he "did abs" on the pool deck.

He appeared more to be sunbathing. I was infuriated. I remember seething in the lane as I pushed off for another grueling repetition.

Flash forward to my adult day to day. My daughter is yelling at me because I "always eat all the apples" and she "WANTED AN APPLE WITH PEANUT BUTTER".

On the face, this is pretty ridiculous. Do I really believe that not getting the apple with peanut butter that she decided she wanted thirty seconds ago should result in a screaming fit? Of course not.

The Problems We Present

Part of the disconnect here is that many people don't have good skills for communicating their emotions, and even worse, for rationalizing those emotions to other people.

Our brains trick us, by coming up with rationalizations after an emotion floods everything. So, the rationalization your brain comes up with can be very far from what is behind the actual feeling.

Why does this matter? Because in coaching I have run into numerous scenarios where I believe someone is a bit overworked about something that doesn't deserve the emotional energy. 

Naturally, I could convince myself that I am "right" by dismissing such people. The reason they present is ridiculous! Or they are so totally "faking" it that I don't have to take them seriously.

What I recognize now (with my own daughter and the people they coach) is that the emotion is real, whatever the explanation they give. And if they are lying to you about it, it is likely because they do not trust how you will react to the whole truth. Or perhaps they are so muddled that they can't even get there.

In any case, have empathy for the "fakers" on your team or in your life. Do what you can to allow them a safe avenue to express some of the strong emotions they are feeling.

If you are dealing with a serious behavioral issue that effects others on your team, you do owe it to the team to figure out what is going on. Empathy has nothing to do with accepting or "permitting" behaviors that you don't approve of.

If you coach an individual who lacks the skills to express their emotions and trust others to help them through ups and downs, you can help them to identify how they are feeling and trust other people to help them when they are in moments of distress. 

Taking them at their word (or more precisely, their feeling) and hearing them out with empathy will go a long way to building them and building your team.