Climate – The Emotional One, That Is

By Linda Adams, President of GTI

Simply put, the emotional climate is the atmosphere in which we relate to each other. It is the tone or the mood that exists in a company, school, family–any environment in which people relate to each other. It is the subjective environment in which all of our relationships take place. And each of us, often without being aware of it, contributes to this tone or mood by the way we express ourselves and the way we relate to other people, especially in equal relationships.

The emotional climate has a huge impact not only on the relationships between people, but on their level of creativity, their performance, their attitudes, their motivation, their self-acceptance and self-worth. When a power differential exists in a relationships, the quality of this atmosphere is largely determined by the person or people who have the power.

Leaders set the tone in an organization. They can create a climate of acceptance and openness in which team members are free to express their ideas, try new things, take risks–or an atmosphere in which there is a sense of uneasiness and tension and people are afraid of making mistakes or of being criticized so they play it safe, don’t speak up, stifle their ideas and creativity. At school, teachers can provide a climate for optimum learning in which students feel free to ask questions, explore new ideas and topics, discuss controversial real-world issues–or one in which students feel the need to comply, to obey, to be quiet, to avoid embarrassment or punishment. At home, parents can create a climate where their children feel free to say how they feel and what they think and be accepted for who they are without fear of being put down or punished. They can be free to reveal their individuality.

Creating a climate in which people are free to reveal their individuality, to develop their abilities and talents, to perform at their highest level isn’t a matter of trial and error or luck or chance. Creating such a climate is a conscious choice. This conscious choice needs to be accompanied by:

  1. empathic listening skills that convey acceptance and understanding of the other person;
  2. self-disclosure skills that allow one to be known by the significant people in his/her life and;
  3. no-lose conflict resolution skills which enable people to work out the inevitable disputes and problems that come up in all relationships.

The Gordon Model teaches these three skills in all of our courses. Each is invaluable in its own way, but none of them stands alone. Having empathy for others and knowing how and when to listen so they feel heard and understood is essential, but it’s not enough. It’s equally important to be free and able to express yourself so that others know how you feel and what you think. And the willingness and ability to resolve problems and conflicts so that both feel satisfied with the solution is the key to ongoing fully functioning relationships in which both people have the opportunity to develop to their full capacity.

Knowing these skills and consciously using them in your daily life will help you create the kind of emotional climate in which all of your significant relationships can flourish and you can become your most authentic and best self.