Sunday, May 18, 2008

Feeling and Acting

Enthusiasm is very nice when genuine but if that version isn't available then a reasonable facsimile will do.

People who demand that they must feel a particular way in order to behave in that manner can be huge drains on a team. The best colleagues have a positive demeanor even if they don't feel like it.

Individuals who believe that their feelings are the key criterion mistakenly conclude that their colleagues just have better moods. That is not so. On any given Monday morning, most meeting participants would rather be on a beach in Tahiti but they have the decency and professionalism not to show it.

This operates in all directions. The leader who blubbers about every problem he or she encounters is not doing the team any favors. The team members have their own problems and should not be unduly burdened with the leader's challenges. The reverse is also true.

To some extent, acting a part is a requirement of every job. We may choose to be sensitive cops or tough cops, activist or corporate lawyers, gregarious plumbers or quiet ones, but we have to be able to project the central role.

And that requirement exists regardless of our feelings.


Hoots said...

I can't count the times I've had to tell someone who said they didn't feel good, "That's okay. You don't have to feel only have to LOOK and ACT like you do."

We aren't paid to feel. We're paid to perform.

I remember a wonderful story told by Ingrid Bergman on the occasion of a Lifetime Achievement recognition of Alfred Hitchcock at the Academy Awards. (I actually found the exchange online.) She was shooting a scene and couldn't get into the part as she liked and said to Hitchcock, "I don't feel like that, I don't think I can give you that kind of emotion."

Hitchcock replied, "Ingrid, fake it."

Two decades plus on a cafeteria line will teach you a lot about human behavior. Here's an experiment: Show some teeth.

I've given a simple exercise to a lot of cafeteria line servers...helping them to SMILE.

Our friends can tell when we're faking a smile, but strangers usually can't. Even if they do, if you flash a fake smile at someone they will often reflexively flash another one back in your direction. I read once that smiling was man's way of showing his teeth...very much like animals do when confronting another (possibly hostile) animal.

Just a couple of random thoughts.

Michael Wade said...


Great Hitchcock story and the guidance on smiling should be adopted by more people.

I'm going to try to take that advice!