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Don’t use a rational tool to respond to an emotional question.

Recently, I watched a presentation by Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last, and Find Your Why. He was talking about the biological chemicals that drive human behavior, such as dopamine, oxytocin, and cortisol. In his talk, he discussed how humans build relationships and how our interactions cause biologically-based reactions in our bodies. When we feel safe and loved, our oxytocin levels are high. When we’re enduring stress in a fight-or-flight situation, our cortisol levels skyrocket. In our everyday relationships, what we do and say influence how we make people feel. In today’s fast-paced, digitally-driven business world, we send and receive thousands of emails to provide information and respond to requests. Sometimes, though, the people we respond to are not looking for information, but rather are seeking approval, acceptance, and support.

“What did you think about my presentation in today’s meeting?”

“What are your thoughts on our team’s progress?

“Do you think I can make this work?”

These questions beg for answers beyond facts and figures. And, the answers to these questions provide feedback that have the power to inspire and shape behavior. Respond by email, and you only give information, or worse, you leave the questioner with doubts and insecurities. Walk to a person’s office and give your answer with your eyes and your hands and your heart. Only then have you given what is really being asked for—confirmation, confidence, and inspiration.

We like to think we’re rational beings, but we’re really emotional beings trying to make sense of this often irrational world.

Email is a very rational tool. Use it to provide concrete information. “What time is our meeting?” What were our sales numbers from last quarter?

When someone asks for your opinion, ask yourself what they’re really seeking? And then, give them back what they’re really looking for … a part of yourself. They chose you because you matter to them. Take the time to give them more than just words. Give them all of you and build a relationship based on trust, understanding, and clarity.

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