You pride yourself on keeping your emotions in check at all times. But now you’re face-to-face with someone at work who’s about to burst into tears.
You’re probably thinking one of three things:
“OMG, why are you doing this to me?!”
“No, no, no! Please don’t cry!”
“Oh c’mon! Why are you always so emotional?! It’s just business!”
Many of us don’t know what to do when another person starts crying at work. Some people get anxious, some defensive, some overly empathetic.
The good news: If you can quit your squirming, it’s really not that hard to handle the situation deftly. And — bonus! — each of you may get something positive out of it.
Those who cry are usually upset because someone has taken them by surprise with unwelcome news or because something that they value has been questioned, disregarded or violated, said organizational psychologist Liane Davey of Knightsbridge Leadership Solutions.
But never assume that the crier can’t have a rational conversation or is weak.
On the contrary, “I am not afraid of being vulnerable and that makes me so much stronger than those investing energy in maintaining a façade,” said Davey on her blog, where she notes that she will occasionally cry at work.
What to do: Offer tissues and quietly listen to what the person has to say.
“Tears aren’t radioactive and you don’t need to panic,” Davey said.
What not to do: Don’t let an emotional outburst — or fear of one — be an excuse to give someone a free pass on a problem or to avoid having a tough conversation.
That wouldn’t be fair to the rest of your team.
“If you see emotion, address it. Make it clear that you’re willing to consider the facts, feelings, and values that are part of any issue,” she noted.
What you can learn: The fact that someone was brought to tears may tell you something about that situation that you’ve been overlooking or wrongly dismissing as unimportant.
Listening to what the crier is really saying and taking it into consideration can go a long way to building better understanding between the two of you.
It also will help the crier see you as compassionate.
“I’ll trust you more [and] I won’t be afraid to care deeply, to be all in,” Davey said.
Have you ever had to deal with someone else’s crying at work? How did you handle it? We’d love to hear about it. Tell us your story and you could be featured in an upcoming article on CNNMoney.?