We've all seen this. The team leader says, "We'll begin the project in February." Immediately one of the staff says sarcastically, "Certain of that, are you?" and ten others in the room smirk. The team leader now replies, "Yes, as certain as we can be" as if she had not noticed the sarcasm.

Not a single person in the room misses the fact that the team leader could not handle the emotional message behind the words - the real message. Her credibility goes through the floor.

Name the elephant and gain credibility

To gain credibility, the team leader has to acknowledge the feelings behind the words, the feelings in the room.

She could, for example, nod at the interjector, look around at the group, and start her reply, "I know, these postponements have been frustrating..." The elephant's name in this case is Frustration. And sometimes all it takes is a significant nod, or a smile of a particular flavour - that's enough to name the elephant because it indicates, I hear what you really said.

When you might not want to name the elephant

There are times when it is best to leave the elephant unrecognised. For example, the interjector may be the only one worked up about it. To acknowledge the feelings might hijack the whole presentation and annoy the audience as well. A judgement call.

Michael

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