In this three part blog, we have been reviewing benefits to leaders, teams, and negotiators of learning to code emotional behavior using a standardized coding system.
We’ve discussed reliability (benefit 1), meaning that communication about observed emotional behaviors becomes consistent, and greater ability to predict future behaviors (benefit 2), meaning that a coding system can help us to better understand negative and positive consequences of specific behaviors.
In this final post, we review the third advantage of learning and implementing a reliable coding system, and we also address what coding cannot do.
Benefit 3: Better options for response. Using a coding system also allows us to pinpoint where and how to intervene so that communication and task effectiveness is improved. And, learning to code may in and of itself help individuals to make better decisions about how to respond when confronted with difficult emotional behavior. Consider the example again of a co-worker Robert, who tends to slams his hand on the table during team meetings. A coder, for example, may recognize Robert’s table pounding as an indicator of domineering behavior. Normally, you might insult him, roll your eyes, or disengage. By responding that way, you’ve just escalated the situation and potentially hindered the progress of the meeting. On the other hand, recognizing the behavior as domineering allows you to maintain a curious mindset. What is Robert trying to accomplish? Research strongly suggests that simply by labeling the behavior, you will diminish negative emotional experiences (Lieberman et al., 2007), and you may be less likely to respond impulsively in ways that escalate the interaction into more negative territory. Learning to make a facilitative response can significantly improve the dynamics of the team, and avoid lengthy derailments and distractions.
What can’t coding do? Can behavior coding help us to identify who is lying and who is not? Are there specific facial movements or other reliable indicators of dishonesty? The answer is clear: No. While there have been some very high profile claims to the effect that learning to read specific facial movements will make you an expert in detecting lies, these claims have been overstated.