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Why does acknowledging emotions of your scrum team members matter?

Updated: Jan 27

Emotional acknowledgment is a simple act of noticing a non-verbal emotional cue and mentioning it. This mention can be a question or a statement such as ‟You look upset’’ or ‟You seem excited’’. Especially in emotionally challenging situations, the worst thing a scrum master can do when scrum team members feel bad is to do nothing.
The research conducted by A. Yu and J. Berg from Stanford GSB showed that practicing emotional acknowledgment at work can help build trust with team members.
The research suggests that acknowledging a team member’s emotional state is more powerful than only acknowledging the situation that produced the emotions. Saying something like ‟You looked upset after that Daily Stand-up. How are you feeling about it?’’ lands better than saying something like: ‟It looked like the meeting went poorly. How are you thinking about it?’’ According to their research, ‟People trust the person who acknowledges the emotion directly more than the person who acknowledges the situation.”

Emotions are really the core of a person’s inner experience and sense of self. So when we acknowledge emotions, we humanize and validate the person.
Proactively engaging in emotional acknowledgment allows leaders to show their care and build trust. It’s important not to amplify only the positive emotions, but also acknowledge the challenging emotions like pain or distress. Asking someone who seems unhappy about their emotional state engenders a higher level of trust because it’s riskier and involves a greater investment of attention, time, and effort than asking someone who seems happy.
Here are some examples how what emotional acknowledgment can look like:
You seem…”
‟You look…”
‟I hear you, you feel…”
‟That sounds really challenging.”
‟I’m here for you.”

Let your team members be seen, acknowledged, and understood!
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