Stop Apologizing for Prioritizing Relationships


I was able to attend an awesome AmeriCorps conference this summer and it consisted of a variety of workshop sessions, including one called “Management Boot Camp: 3 Hours to More Effective Interactions at Work.”  This was an incredible session focused on inspiration, assessment, accountability, and most importantly, communication.  The workshop presenter began his training by asking us to separate into groups according to our strongest personality trait, such as visionary, compliance/rule follower, feeler, and social/extrovert.  While it was difficult to select just one group that I fit into, I selected feeler as my predominant trait, followed closely by compliance/rule follower.  And I was so glad I chose feeler as my primary trait, because when I gathered with my group of fellow feelers, it was amazing how we all “got” each other and felt similar emotions about our work.  We talked about common problems that we face as people who care about feelings and like to create harmony and peace in our work relationships.  The best thing that came out of our conversation as feelers was the commitment we all made to stop apologizing for prioritizing relationships.  We realized that as feelers, we value and prioritize relationships and people in our work in addition to tasks, goals, outcomes, and good work performance.

Here is what we learned:

1. It is OK to care about others’ feelings

We came to the conclusion that is actually OK to care about others’ feelings and want to have good working relationships. We thought that sometimes we feelers get a bad reputation for being “too emotional” or caring too much about others, but we decided to accept that we care deeply about others and not to let others define us by our feelings alone.  Instead of stifling our empathy and caring attitudes, we can embrace those feelings and share them in appropriate and relevant ways as they relate to our work, the population we serve, and the causes we support.

2.  We need to stop saying “I’m sorry”

This is hard for a lot of feelers, especially for women, and moreover, especially for us women govies.  Since I discovered that I need to stop this self-defeating practice, I’ve noticed how many times (each day!) that I say “I’m sorry” when I don’t need to say it.    “I’m sorry, but I need to talk with you about…”  “I’m sorry, do you have a minute?”  “I’m sorry, but…”  “I’m sorry to bother you…” I could go on and on.  Let’s stop saying “I’m sorry” when we don’t need to! It not only devalues the content of what we’re saying, but it reinforces the incorrect idea that feelers need to apologize for their feelings or caring about people/relationships/ideas.  Instead of saying, “I’m sorry,” simply state what you need to say.  With practice, I think we can remove this toxic phrase from conversations where it is not needed.

3.  We can utilize our feelings to drive our performance 

Instead of allowing others to negatively characterize you as emotional or having a lot of feelings, we can use our feelings and empathy to your advantage.  Let our empathetic natures drive our passion and align ourselves with the mission of our organizations and departments.  Let our feelings of concern for the public that we serve motivate us to perform with excellence and treat others as we would like to be treated.  Channel your passionate and idealist heroes (like Leslie Knope) and let their passion-fueled work be your inspiration.

In the comments below, please share how have you used your emotions and feelings for positive outcomes in the workplace.

Christina Smith is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Brenda Dennis

Great article! I especially resonated with the second point. People are just starting to realize how much it is good relationships that make the business and government world work.