Preacher Curls, Feelings and Influence

I had a session with my personal trainer bright and early the other morning.  Things were going relatively well until we headed for the preacher curls. Ugh. I don’t like preacher curls. When I said I really didn’t feel like preacher curls, I was promptly informed that fitness had absolutely nothing to do with feelings. So, I curled.

And so it goes at the gym, as it often does in the workplace, feelings get into places where they have no business (pun intended) being.

I attended a Human Capital Strategist (HCS) Certification course last year and, all of the valuable information aside, there is one comment that still sticks with me today.

Let me set this up for you.

We were in the midst of a case study developing human capital options for a business in distress. We evaluated the business environment, strategic direction and tactical challenges. We discussed key leadership roles, incumbent competencies and necessary skills and made informed human capital recommendations (we did our homework) based on the needs of the business.

It was time to present and our group spokesman (was it me? I can’t remember) started off by saying, “blah, blah blah, and so we feel blah, blah, blah.”

The analysis we conducted, the pros and cons we weighed, and the solid, fact based recommendations we made didn’t matter. In fact, nothing before and after the “we feel” mattered. Those were the only two words the instructor latched on to and said (something like), “That’s the problem with HR, they are feeling all the time.”

As HR pros, as women, and as leaders, we feel too much (or speak as though we do) and it gets in the way of our influence and our effectiveness.

In a Computer World article, Career Watch: How Women Can Get Ahead, Selena Rezvani, author of The Next Generation of Women Leaders discusses how women can get to the top in the workplace. One point she makes is:

Women executives communicate in a specific way. They use emotional intelligence to read people and situations, but they don’t use emotions when making a case for something. When building your argument or making a case, said the executives, keep things fact-based, not innuendo- or hearsay-based, using phrases like “The data shows..” and “The facts are…” rather than “I feel….”

She is addressing women executives in this article, however, this is superb advice up, down and across the organization.

So, tell me, how do you feel about that?

Photo credit iStockPhoto

About the Author

Lisa Rosendahl

Lisa is an astute Human Resources leader with more than 18 years of professional human resources experience with expertise in leading people, inspiring commitment and managing change. A former Army officer, Lisa is also a wife, mother, speaker and writer and authors a personal blog at


Lisa Rosendahl

Great points by all, I especially appreciate the “data is dry” notion from Judy and working girl. My verdict: we need both feelings and data and the key is knowing when or how much to use of each. Now working girl , about the fitness studio . . . .you are right on there, although I keep trying!

working girl

It’s true that in business, expression of feelings when making a recommendation is regarded with suspicion. And yet, most customers base their purchasing decisions on feelings. Quite a few employees are also influenced by their feelings and may be more motivated by appeals to their emotion than by logic.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good rational argument based on dry data as much as the next person, but I think there’s a legitimate place for feelings in the workplace. As long as you keep them out of the fitness studio, where they clearly have no business.

Judy Lindenberger


Wow that hit home. I find myself saying …. “the data shows” a lot when really I could be saying … “Here is what my intuition is telling me” or “I am really excited about …”

You’re right. Feelings sell ideas.

– Judy

Lisa Rosendahl

Hi Debbie, my staff and I bounce between facts – feelings – right – wrong – outcome – unintended consequences so much, we get dizzy! When I get only feelings, I get concerned. I’ve had times when my feelings would have sent me one direction (off a cliff!) if I hadn’t considered the facts – and vice versa. Agree with you totally on your point about extremes – isn’t that the truth.

Lisa Rosendahl

Oh Dave, I couldn’t do away with my feelings (let alone anyone else’s) even if I tried and that’s definitely not the route I am proposing we go. As Lois suggested, it’s a presentation correction, a fine tweak, or a matter of perception. Thank you for commenting.

Lois, thanks for stopping by. “Decisions made with heart and hand” – I like that – could be a tagline to a blog! Congrats again to you and your team on your Best Place to Work Award.

Debbie Brown

Very interesting Lisa-
I do not think this needs to be classified as gender specific, as I was once coached to characterize my thoughts in terms of feelings, so that they could not be debated- (by a male )- it seems he uses this tactic to make his points- . Point being a feeling is yours, to express and could not be debated- and yet, if it was a good point, it was a good point (that felt manipulative to me)- I feel facts are hard to debate too.I agree with the points made- it’s when the extremes come out or there is more going on below the surface when things get mucked up.

Lois Melbourne

I agree with both Dave and Lisa. I am a CEO and I do FEEL and I do present my feelings, but not at the exlusion of facts. Because I feel and because my employees know that I am human, they are engaged and challanged by the decisions that I make, knowing that not only the numbers, but also their well being has been considered.

To Lisa’s point – the expression of ‘feeling’ your decision does protray that you didn’t consider facts or are making clouded decisions. That is a presentation correction, not necessarily at decision making correction.

I am very proud of low turnover, high engagement, ‘Best Places To Work’ awards and high level of employee referalls for protential new hires. They are the results of over 16 years of good decisions made with both heart and head. They are signs of good business.


Dave Ryan

In my time in HR here is one thing I have learned. When confronted with an “ugly piece of business” many women cry, and the men yell or curse. Both are resonses with feelings, emotional responses if you will. Men are just wired different than women

When it comes to leadership situations, I think the people in HR, men and women both probably “feel” too much, but if we don’t do it who will. There does need to be some level of compassion within the organization. Compassion = fellings. I don’t think we want that to go away all togther.


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