My 10-year old son comes running off the basketball court with a smile from ear to ear. This was just his third game ever and even though his team lost by more than 20 points, he was so happy. He had fun!
I, on the other hand, was miserable. I was very frustrated because the game was painful to watch. The kids were clueless on the court. They had no clue what to do. I am no basketball expert, however I did win MVP of the 1987 JCC Ottawa Basketball Tournament, so I feel I am qualified to have an opinion about the quality of play.
Clearly I was unable to hide my emotional state because my son said to me, “Dad are you ok? You look frustrated.”
Instead of recognizing how great my son was feeling and meeting him at that emotional level, I did the unthinkable and allowed my emotions to be more important. I responded to my son’s question with a thirty-second tirade on how his team sucks. In the midst of my Bobby Knight rant, I watch the joy and pride literally leave my son’s face and body.
I became that parent! I made my son’s game about me, all about me, and I took away all his excitement and happiness. Boy did I feel like a heel.
As an Executive Coach, when working with individuals or teams, one of my roles is to “meet” my clients emotionally where they are. Matching their emotional intensity allows me to celebrate, brood, mourn or laugh with my client in order for them to move forward. I can be supportive, empathetic and encouraging towards my clients through whatever they are experiencing. This powerful technique allows another person to be fully aware of what they are experiencing and be comfortable embracing it.
Somehow I forgot this on that Sunday afternoon.
Whether you are a parent, leader, partner or friend, when you meet another person at their emotional level you are being the best possible parent, leader, partner or friend.
PS: I apologized to my son, and he forgave me.