Blog Post

TED Talk Tuesday: Let's Try Emotional Correctness

Jeff Miller

Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness, Cornerstone OnDemand

This article is part of our monthly TED Talk Tuesday series, spotlighting can't-miss TED Talks and their key takeaways. You can learn more about our partnership with TED here.

On the surface, Sally Kohn wasn't a cultural fit at Fox News. As a progressive commentator, she and the conservative-leaning political pundits she worked alongside didn't usually see eye-to-eye.

Despite this, Kohn and her colleagues actively brought a sense of compassion to work by attempting to understand each other's positions. Being sensitive to how lived experience shapes a belief system, Kohn was able to relate to her colleagues on a personal level.

In her Ted Talk, Kohn says "emotional correctness"—applying empathy to better understand why people act the way they do—can have a positive impact on an organization and the people in it. Below are three takeaways from her talk:

"For decades, we've been focused on political correctness, but what matters more is emotional correctness."

At the office, many employees are careful about how they present themselves and their ideas. They want to maintain a professional image for their colleagues. But Kohn says people should focus less on political correctness and more on emotional correctness.

So what exactly does it mean to be emotionally correct? "Emotional correctness is the tone, the feeling, how we say what we say, the respect and compassion we show one another," Kohn says.

These morals can be applied to everyday life, but they can be especially pertinent in the workplace. The office is home to several personality types, and when people don't know how to communicate with colleagues who are different from them, it can lead to conflict. Even employees who get along on a personal level can get into disagreements, whether that be over how to word an email to a client or the potential of a job candidate. If you find yourself in one of these conflicts, think about the other person. Why do you think they have a different opinion than you? How can you communicate your thoughts in an effective yet empathetic way?

"Political persuasion doesn't begin with ideas or facts or data, political persuasion begins with emotional correctness."

Kohn's approach not only leads to a healthier work environment, it can also have a successful business impact. While facts and data bring an element of expertise to any argument, applying the concept of emotional correctness can help you sell an idea. Emotional correctness builds trust and gives you credibility.

Try to bring the concept of compassion to your conversations with colleagues and clients, especially those who tend to have different beliefs than your own. Imagine how the person you're talking to might react to what you're about to say. What might their doubts be? How can you alleviate their concerns? Paying attention to not only what they say, but their body language can help you react and respond appropriately.

"We spend so much time talking past each other, and not enough time talking through our disagreements."

When people disagree, they often dismiss the person on the other side of the argument. But it's important to step outside yourself and check your ego. Think through your argument and analyze the pros and cons. Then, think about the merit of the other person's argument. By considering the situation from a different point of view, you might realize some benefits of the other person's argument—or even potential flaws in your own.

"If we can start to find compassion for one another, then we have a shot at finding common ground," Kohn says.

Approaching conflict with emotional correctness is not easy, and it takes practice and patience to get it right. But once you add empathy to your resume, you will begin to improve your relationship with your colleagues—no matter how much you may disagree.

Header photo: TED

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