THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

How to handle people who get emotional about numbers

Numbers don’t get emotional about people.

People get emotional about numbers.

Associates get emotional when faced with a percentage pay-cut (perfectly understandable – who wants a pay cut?).

An unemotional demonstration that a 5% drop in percentage can be recouped by an 11% increase in productivity often falls on deaf ears.

The “loser” in this win:lose conversation is too busy being emotional to embrace the solution.

“HOW DARE YOU CUT MY PERCENTAGE!”

Principals and their spouses get emotional when I demonstrate that their associate is taking home £70,000 a year pre-tax and they have made a trading loss for the year of £6,000 on the surgery utilised for that purpose (after running the business).

An unemotional demonstration that an increase in marketing activity and effective treatment co-ordination will push the right associate back into profit often falls on deaf ears.

The “loser” in this lose:win conversation is too busy being emotional to embrace the solution.

“HOW DARE YOU EXPECT ME TO INVEST MORE!”

Provided people can leave their emotions behind and just sit down and discuss the numbers, there always is a win:win.

“let’s work out how we can make this work out”

There is a very effective coaching technique for when emotions run high.

Ask a question:

“Do you want to talk about the situation or about how you feel about the situation?”

The solution is never to mix the two in the same conversation.

If people want to talk about how they feel – let them – shut up and wait until they have finished (they eventually do – it usually takes c.40 minutes).

When they have finished, ask them if they are now ready to talk about the situation.

They will reply “yes” and then start on about feelings again.

That’s when you have to stop them and ask if they are back in that phase, in which case refuse to discuss the situation until the feelings are concluded.

Rinse and repeat – as many times as you have to – until the conversation is about the situation.

Then you can bring the numbers back in.

Allow people to get as emotional as they like, for as long as they like.

You can wait.

Then, when they have finished (are they sure they have finished?).

Get numerate.

People get emotional about numbers.

Numbers don’t get emotional about people.

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