‘Thanks for Asking’

Books Empathy Respect


Key Point: “Thanks for asking.” What a powerful phrase. I was in a meeting the other day. A steering team of leaders was establishing principles that would guide us on a sensitive and emotionally laden exercise. The decision framework we applied would impact thousands of people and their daily work experience. The subject matter expert (not the ultimate decision maker) who had put in countless hours of research in support of one particular principle watched the committee’s judgment fundamentally alter something she believed in. I watched her shift in her chair as we consciously took a different path than she recommended and simply asked her… “How do you feel about the outcome we just arrived at?” She looked me squarely in the eyes…Paused… And then simply said, “Thank you for asking.” 

The meeting did progress constructively but the most salient outcome for me was to remind myself how important it is to “check in” with others and their feelings. And as a precursor to being aware one has to be present enough to understand when, where and with whom. And to accomplish that YOU and I have to be better practiced at understanding our own feelings. This is the essence and necessary foundation of Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

Cindy Wigglesworth, someone who I greatly admire and the author of an important new book entitled SQ 21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence, elegantly explains it this way:

“Emotional self-awareness is the skill and the ability to name our own emotions accurately and to understand what triggered them. It is a crucial skill because if we do not understand our own emotions it is nearly impossible to accurately understand and have empathy with another person’s emotions. Furthermore, if we do not understand our own emotions and what triggers them, it is hard to exercise appropriate self-control. Empathy (the ability to emotionally put ourselves in the shoes of another) and emotional self-control (the ability to make appropriate choices in the face of strong emotions) are essential if we are to be effective in relating to other human beings. These skills matter in our personal lives and in our professional ones. If we cannot ‘feel with others,’ we cannot accurately predict the emotional reactions our coworkers, our employees, our customers, or our shareholders might have in response to decisions we make. We will fail to factor in relevant data.”

Character Move:

  1. Practice using “feeling words” to describe and name your emotions at various times during the day. What are you feeling? What triggered that feeling? Can you govern that emotion?
  2. Ask yourself who is in the driver’s seat regarding the way you think and feel? Does your own ego boss you around willy-nilly? Can you make appropriate choices in the midst of very strong emotions?
  3. Ask yourself and honestly answer: Are you empathetic? Can you put yourself in other people’s shoes? Can you really relate well to those you interact with? When and where do you do this in the workplace?
  4. See how many “thanks for asking” types of responses you can generate. Ask more… Tell less.

Asking in The Triangle,