Category Archives: Marcia Reynolds

Eye Rolling: Five Ways to Keep the Conversation Rolling

By Marcia Reynolds, PsyD

Marcia Reynolds-eyes rolling

“I can handle when they talk back to me,” the HR Director said, “but when they roll their eyes, it just gets under my skin.”

“I know,” said the Training Manager. “I have an intern who does amazing work, but when I try to give him some direction, the eye roll makes me explain myself far more than I normally would. I feel I have to defend myself when I’m just stating a clear expectation.”

“It’s not just the younger employees,” the director added. “I get the smirk and sideways glance from one of my most senior specialists. If I ask if she disagrees with me, or disapproves of my approach, she says, ‘Oh no, I see what you mean’ and acts as if she is the most agreeable person around.”

“I think we need to address how eye-rolling impacts our communications. But I bet they roll their eyes if we suggest it!”

How To React When You Notice Eye-rolling

Most people emotionally react when someone rolls their eyes. The gesture is seen as a non-verbal judgment of your words. If you ask about the gesture, eye rollers generally deny they did anything disrespectful.

Don’t let eye-rolling get by you. Eye rollers have something on their mind. Click To Tweet

Whether in a business meeting or an informal conversation, the last thing you want to do is angrily respond to eye-rolling. If you stay curious instead of defensively reacting, you might find out what is underneath the eye roll. This could be your chance to connect by showing you care about the person’s opinion.

For example, during a tense discussion, you might be focused on making your point heard. You want to influence thinking. Eye-rolling might indicate you have pressed too hard. You might back off and sincerely ask the eye roller to share his or her perspective.

You want the person to surface their anger and frustration, to feel safe enough to vent. You need to hear what they think is missing or what they feel they aren’t getting in the moment. Even if you can’t give them what they want, it is better they feel heard instead of ignored.

So, instead of checking out or having a knee-jerk reaction to eye-rolling, notice your urge to defend, reprimand, or shut off from someone for eye-rolling. Then follow these 5 steps to engage them in the conversation.

Encourage Eye Rollers To Express What Is On Their Mind

1. Exhale your stress and recall feelings of respect and care for the person as best you can. Shift to wondering why they are resisting what you are offering. Even if you can’t feel good about the eye-roller, at least calmly (and genuinely) ask, “Would you please tell me what you think I have done or what I’m not hearing from you?” Then listen silently, resisting the urge to defend yourself. 

2. Even if it takes prompting, encourage eye-rollers to vent. Venting is a way to release frustration. If you accept their words without making them wrong, they might feel you care about their point of view. In fact, letting people vent not only allows them to release their feelings, but you can find what they really want or what is causing them to feel the way they do if you listen. Then, once they feel heard, they will be more willing to try to understand your point of view.

Flip Their Resistance Into Participation

3. Summarize what the person tells you and ask for confirmation. Don’t analyze what they say, just share what you hear. Say things like, “I think you are saying…”, “I see you are upset because you think…”, “I now understand that you think the decision was made based on these factors…”. Let people tell you what you got right and correct you if you are off. They must feel heard before the conversation can move forward.

4. Shift their frustration from blame to desire. Once they feel you are listening, ask them what they need to so they feel their ideas or contribution is valued. Ask questions like, “What has you most frustrated right now?”, “What do you need that you feel you aren’t getting from me or other people?”, “Do you have some ideas we can work on together?”, “What would you like to see people stop doing, and what would you like to see happen instead?”.

5. Agree on what the desired outcome is. You may not agree now on the best way to move forward but if you want the same end result, you might find a way to integrate some of their ideas. Agree, negotiate, or explain your point of view in light of their concerns keeping in mind what they think should happen as an end result. If they aren’t ready to provide an answer, ask if you can come back to the conversation after giving the situation some thought.

Don’t let eye-rolling get by you. Eye rollers have something on their minds. See if you can get them to express their views. Show you value their perspective. Integrate their ideas as best you can.

“I discovered something today,” the HR Director said, “Eye rolling could be a way of getting my attention, not pushing me away.”

“Thanks!” the Training Manager said, “That bit of wisdom could help me with my teenager.”

Vincent Van Gogh said, “Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives, and we obey them without realizing it.” Catch your reactions to eye-rolling. It’s your chance to show them you care about what they think.

Dr. Marcia Reynolds is an award-winning author and world-renowned expert on how leaders inspire change through conversations. She has spoken at conferences and taught workshops in forty-one countries on leadership and transformational coaching. Global Gurus names her number three coach in the world. Her books include Outsmart Your Brain, The Discomfort Zone, and Coach the Person, Not the Problem. Read more at www.Covisioning.com.

Why Leaders Avoid Their #1 Responsibility

By Dr. Marcia Reynolds

Marcia Reynolds

I walked in the room as a well-known tech leader was addressing an audience of HR professionals. He paused for effect as he said, “The most important need for leaders today…” I quickly sat down with pen in hand. He continued, “…is to hold meaningful one-on-one conversations with their employees.”

Wasn’t this the message I was asked to deliver over thirty years ago when I taught my first management training class? His facts confirmed the ongoing abysmal state of employee engagement. Leaders continue to avoid solving this problem even though it should be their number one responsibility.

Leaders avoid one-on-one conversations because humans are unpredictable and messy. Most people prioritize what they are good at, leaving the difficult tasks at the bottom of the list. Therefore, leaders avoid having conversations that may turn out badly. 

Humans are emotional by nature. Everything seen, heard, felt, touched, and smelled is processed through two emotional centers of the brain before the logical center is engaged. People need to know it’s okay to be themselves no matter what they are experiencing, without worrying about being negatively judged. What leaders avoidemotional expressionis their best chance to connect with employees.

Emotions aren’t bad; they are reactions to stimuli. They reflect energy moving through the body. Acknowledging emotions in a conversation can lead to discovering important information needed to breakthrough blocks, make good decisions, and take a positive step forward.

Leaders avoid, fix, and tolerate: If you weren’t raised to talk about emotions, you probably don’t know how to respond to them when they show up. You might tense up, check out, give an unsolicited suggestion, or impatiently wait for the person to get over it and move on.

Most leaders rationalize their avoidance by saying things like, “If I encourage people to talk about their feelings, I will say things I wouldn’t normally say.” Or, “I don’t have time for their dramas.” The business world is full of aphorisms that declare, “Only the tough survive.”

Being uncomfortable with expressions of emotions doesn’t make you bad. Your discomfort is an indication that you haven’t had enough training to develop your skills. When you learn how to use the power of sensory awareness-to feel deeply and empathize with others-you are more capable of making a difference.

Understanding how emotions affect decisions and behavior makes you wise.Creating a safe space to talk about emotions makes you strong. Leaders who develop the skills of emotional intelligence can have meaningful conversations that increase engagement, innovation, and results.6 tips for what to do when emotions arise during difficult conversations. Click To Tweet

Appreciation opens the door to transformation: Staying alert to what you are feeling or receiving from others can be scary and even painful. Here are six tips for what to do when emotions arise during difficult conversations:

  1. Take a breath, release your tension, and be quiet. Give people a moment to recoup so they don’t feel badly for reacting.
  2. Allow their reaction to happen. They might apologize or give excuses.Tell them you understand why they are reacting so they feel normal instead of inadequate.
  3. Don’t try to “fix” the person or make suggestions unless they beg you.Even then, if the person is smart and resourceful, it is better to ask questions to learn more about their situation. This will help them think things through more rationally.
  4. If they get defensive, don’t fuel the fire. Don’t get angry or disengage. Whether they are mad at you or others, give them a moment to vent to release the steam.
  5. If they are afraid, ask what consequences they fear and listen to their answer. Don’t tell them they shouldn’t feel afraid. Encourage them to speak by asking a few questions that show you are curious and you care. What are they afraid they will lose, based on the situation? What else could happen? What would they like you to do to support them through the change? Listen with curiosity, care, and compassion. The conversation will help them discover what assumptions they have about the future, opening the door to seeing what else is possible.
  6. Before you end the conversation, ask them to articulate what they discovered or learned. Articulating insights helps people feel stronger. Identifying what they are learning gives them a sense of control. If the emotions don’t subside, you might ask for another meeting when the person can more comfortably look at solutions with you.

Humans are emotional beings. If you judge or avoid their reactions, you are judging or avoiding them as humans. That never feels good. Being a leader means you can sort things out together no matter what they feel. See the person in front of you as doing his or her best with what they know now. From this perspective, you might have an amazing conversation that could surprise the both of you.

Dr. Marcia Reynolds is an award-winning author and world-renowned expert on how leaders inspire change through conversations. She has spoken at conferences and taught workshops in forty-one countries on leadership and transformational coaching. Global Gurus names her number three coach in the world. Her books include Outsmart Your Brain,The Discomfort Zone, and Coach the Person, Not the Problem. Read more at www.Covisioning.com.