How to tactfully ask emotional questions

I recently found out that Target carries a robust line of vibrators. I discovered this as my 14-year-old daughter and I cut down a side aisle while shopping for this year’s meagre list of school supplies. I was chugging towards the Q-Tips and peel-off face masks, looking at the vitamins and supplements shelves on the other side when Anna said, “Momma, what is that?”

How to tactfully ask emotional questions

I recently found out that Target carries a robust line of vibrators. I discovered this as my 14-year-old daughter and I cut down a side aisle while shopping for this year's meagre list of school supplies. I was chugging towards the Q-Tips and peel-off face masks, looking at the vitamins and supplements shelves on the other side when Anna said, "Momma, what is that?"

It was not, as sex toys go, anything earth-shattering. None of them are 14 inches long or require a marine battery. But she looked shook. And rather nonplussed about the fact the box was referring to them "personal massagers.” She had questions. A lot of questions.

So, as tactfully as one can in a busy Target on a Friday night, parked in the family planning aisle, I answered them.

We talked about what each one would be used for, where they can go, the importance of lubricants and keeping toys clean. Matter-of-factly. Because, while some topics got pinned to discuss at home and not in a retail setting, vibrators aren't weird. They aren't a secret or a source of shame. While I'm not used to seeing them across from the Flintstone's Chewables, there's no reason they should need to be purchased secretly, at great expense, and shipped to your house in plain brown packaging.

There's a lot of talk in the media and society at large about teaching our kids about sex and sexuality in a different way. About removing shame and fear, giving them a platform to find their own healthy relationship with their body and what it wants. We hear and talk about consent. But there's still a lot of folks with both a heebie and a jeebie when it comes to talking to their kid about sex outside of the rules and limitation. There's a lot of discomfort around allowing your kids to learn that sex is nice.

It took a minute to find age- and relationship-appropriate language to use and a little brief blushing from both of us to get over the initial hump of discomfort, but I never considering being anything other than frank and honest with my teenager. Yes, we talk about the true risks and dangers, why teen sex is a bad idea but not as bad as unprotected teen sex and that pregnancy is a possible even with protection literally any time. About the emotional load that comes with sexual contact. But then we have to be able to talk about birth control methods and options. About oral and anal sex and what that means. We need to share all facets of sexuality with our kids, not just the doom. If we're not talking about all of it, we're not really talking about any of it.

This also reinforced for Anna that I'm a resource. I've always told her that I'm the best resource. I want her to feel just as comfortable asking me about sex as she does asking about how to get rid of a pimple or wash her clothes or how to improve her bio paper. All are topics where she needs help and has questions and otherwise would rely on other teenagers or the internet for information, which I've long enforced is not a winning plan.

I've seen a lot of strong negative reactions to this new product line on Twitter, anger that families should be exposed to these shameful products and be forced to have frank conversations with their kids (or, even crazier, have to redirect their kids if there isn't an age appropriate way to be forthcoming).

I'd suspect it was the same when they started carrying lube or alternative feminine hygiene products. I haven't seen anybody come out in support of having these options be readily accessible at an affordable price. I haven't heard a parent suggest that allowing teens this knowledge (and avenue, if they've got thirty-odd bucks) might continue to help reduce teen pregnancy or give our girls more agency and knowledge of their body.

This year has been a weird one. I did not expect Target to throw me this curve ball. I hope I used that big ol' two-pronged vibrator to knock this one out of the park.

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How to tactfully ask emotional questions

Kellie has loved Milwaukee since before loving Milwaukee was cool, and knew this was the place to settle down and raise a family. She’s got an opinion about almost everything and loves to pick up new fun facts. Kellie keeps busy as the Group HR Manager for Saz’s Hospitality Group, a hometown favorite, by teaching at Mount Mary, getting involved in her community and trying to play catchup on her reading pile, though she’ll never say no to a nap. Most days, she’s also trying to talk herself out of or into running another half marathon. Kellie lives in Wauwatosa with her partner Rob, who is an owner of Vennture Brew Co, and her daughter Anna.

The Gottmans' core advice: My yes-ands and yes-buts.

Key points

  • Not all conflicts are resolvable. It's important to decide which should be accepted as immutable, and which should be tackled.
  • If your personality tends to the negative, that's tough on a relationship. Consider reminding yourself of that when conversing with your partner.
  • Asking your partner open-ended questions such as, "Tell me a story about you, now or in your past," can help a relationship.

How to tactfully ask emotional questions

John and Julie Gottman have studied, with unusual rigor and for 40-plus years now, what makes relationships work. Their findings are summarized in the book Eight Dates.

“Eight dates” refers to regularly scheduled meetings in which the couple talks respectfully about big issues: trust, conflict, sex, money, family, adventure, spirituality, and dreams. Some of my clients, as well as my wife and I, have done some variant of the eight dates, and we all feel it’s been worthwhile.

More Gottman Nuggets

Here’s additional core advice from the Gottmans, plus my take.

1. Never stop being curious about your partner. That may seem pie-in-the-sky but it can be realistic. The Gottmans urge us to ask our partner open-ended questions. The following are questions I’ve recommended to clients and that my wife and I have discussed to advantage:

  • Tell me a story about you, now or in your past.
  • Do you have any dreams, not necessarily when sleeping but about your future?
  • Do you ever wonder if that’s all there is, I mean career-wise, relationship-wise, otherwise?
  • Your parents don’t display much emotion, and you’re kind of that way. Has that served you well?
  • You want to have kids more than I do. What, deep down, do you think is the main driver of that?
  • I know you’re a Democrat, but why are you a Democrat?
  • You believe in God. In the face of evidence to the contrary, what makes you have faith in God?
  • How are you feeling about your substance use?

Or you could ask something quite general, for example,

  • How are you feeling?

2. Conflict is inevitable. Key is accepting the immutable and attempting to resolve the others in a statesman-like way.

The Gottmans’ research found that 69% of conflicts never get resolved and the key is how to deal with the 31%. Of course, that begs the question of how to figure out whether a conflict is likely to be resolved. Well, here’s an example of how you might constructively have such a discussion:

You: We argue a lot about your spending, my rushing in sex, and my being less enthusiastic than you are about spending time with your parents. Do you think those issues are in the 69% or the 31%?

Your partner: Maybe it’s easiest if we start with the issue of visiting my parents.

You: I think we can agree that your parents think I’m a know-it-all and I think they’re, well, lackluster. Without a personality transplant, do you think either is likely to change?

Your partner: No. So, it sounds like you’re making me mainly go see them by myself.

You: If I had my druthers, yes. But might the statesman-like thing to do be for me to join you when it’s particularly important to you and/or them and, other times, you go without me? And of course, you can supplement the visits with phone and FaceTime calls. Does that seem reasonable?

Your partner: It depends on how often you think it’s important for you to go. I’m afraid you’ll want to go just once or twice a year. I like visiting them every two weeks.

You: What if we aim for my going half the time, say once a month. Can you live with that?

Your partner: Well, we can try it. But, in a month, let’s agree to revisit the plan.

You: Fair enough. (If it feels right, give your partner a hug.)

3. Successful couples emphasize the good times, and minimize the bad. In my experience, that’s a manifestation of the partners’ personality in general: They are people who tend to focus on the positive or negative in all aspects of life.

That said, my clients, my wife, and I have found such positivity partly “willable.” It may be worth trying to get in the habit of emphasizing the positive, thinking twice before bringing up the negative, and, yes, trying to do it tactfully. That may not come easily. So, it might help, right before you start interacting with your partner, for example, when you’ve just come home from work, to first whisper under your breath the word: “positive.” That’s a just-in-time reminder. You have nothing to lose in trying that. Do stay with it at least for a few days, to see if it helps.

4. Avoid judgment. The Gottmans urge us to avoid judgment, but in my judgment, that seems too extreme. Judgment, discernment, is central to rational decision-making. Rather than aiming to avoid judgment, I tell my clients and remind myself to generally keep judgments internal but when it’s deemed wise to express judgment, try to do it tactfully.

The takeaway

The longer I’ve worked with clients, the more I believe that the benefits of simplicity, even at the risk of reductionism, outweigh the benefits of comprehensiveness. With that as the fundamental principle, I believe we can reasonably reduce the Gottmans’ extensive advice to just this: Emphasize the positive and formally meet regularly to identify baby steps forward.

How to tactfully ask emotional questions

More of us are saying goodbye to our jobs. In September, more than 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs, setting a new record high, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Once you decide to leave your job, the next step is how. Quitting can be done on the spot if you’ve reached a toxic breaking point, but if you want to preserve working relationships, a heads-up gives the company and your boss more time to prepare for your departure.

In a world in which you do have a relationship worth preserving with your boss, you should share your resignation face to face, then follow up with an email that’s more of a formality for human resources.

In these cases, the conversation is a chance for you to share specific feedback about how the job or your boss benefited you so that you’ve helped them walk away feeling like it was a conversation that strengthened your relationship and makes it easier for them to be an advocate for you as you leave, said Phoebe Gavin, a career coach who specializes in supporting early- and mid-career professionals. After that conversation, you can ask your boss to whom you should direct the formal resignation.

“In an ideal world, this is a conversation you bring up in your regular check-in with your manager, and not a sudden declaration slipped under their door,” said Gorick Ng, a career adviser at Harvard University and the author of “The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right.”

“This also means that your immediate supervisor should be the first to hear about your departure. You don’t want them hearing about it through some rumor mill or from their boss.”

Wherever you stand with your boss, a resignation email will be necessary to inform the company about your imminent departure. Here’s how to write it tactfully, including what you must say and what is better to leave out.

DO share your last day. Other details are a courtesy.

Victorio Milian, a human resources consultant at Humareso, sees the email as a brief formality. “I really just need to have an understanding of when you are stating your resignation and when your last day is,” he said. “More often than not, I already know the reasons behind the resignation.”

Milian said the email also lets human resources know how much lead time they have to recruit. Send it to key organization people who need the information, like your boss or HR, and let your other colleagues know face to face.

Career development coach Jessica Hernandez recommends also stating your willingness to help transition your responsibilities to others while your replacement is found. If appropriate, you can mention one or two things that meant a lot to you while working at the company, she said.

Even if it’s just a formal resignation email to human resources, it’s good to throw in a thank-you to keep the email from seeming adversarial, Gavin said.

“ You never want to make an enemy of HR, even if your direct supervisor is terrible,” Gavin said. “There are a lot of things from an offboarding perspective that you are going to really need HR for, and you may need to circle back with them afterward because you have questions.”

“If you are going to put emotional energy into thinking about how you are leaving, put all of that energy into transitioning your relationships from being co-workers to being members of your professional network.”

Keep in mind that giving a resignation notice of two weeks is standard, but it’s a courtesy to your boss, not a binding requirement. If you want to ask for less time, speak with your manager in person before you submit the resignation email, recommended Danny Speros, vice president of people at the software company Zenefits.

You could say something like, “I want to help make the transition smooth. I believe we can accomplish that in two weeks or less. Should we set up some time to talk through a plan?” he previously told HuffPost.

Resignations are usually disruptive to teams, but you can make them less so by timing it right for colleagues with whom you want to stay on good terms. Consider sending in your resignation when colleagues won’t feel like you’re screwing them over, rather than right before a big deadline when everyone is counting on you, Ng said.

DON’T share why you are leaving and what you are doing next.

The resignation email is for delivering the logistics of your departure; it shouldn’t be a space for you to vent.

“Many people feel compelled to explain why they chose to leave or where they’re going next. These aren’t necessary in your resignation letter and can be discussed in a one-on-one meeting afterward,” Hernandez said. “Whether you share this information is a personal choice.”

Gavin recommended reserving these insights for an exit interview, or to a one-on-one conversation with your boss if they ask you for more details directly.

“The big conversation about why are you leaving, where are you going, what could we do better — that kind of stuff is an exit interview. That’s not what a resignation email is for,” she said.

In the end, agonizing over whether to pick between “Notice of resignation” or “Thank you for the opportunity” as your email subject line may not be the best use of your time. Gavin’s advice is to not overthink it.

“If you are going to put emotional energy into thinking about how you are leaving, put all of that energy into transitioning your relationships from being co-workers to being members of your professional network,” Gavin said. “That is a much better use of your energy than stressing out over a resignation email.”

How to tactfully ask emotional questions

Ethics are no walk in the park. While many scenarios are black-and-white, easily solved with clear-cut answers, not every circumstance that a teacher comes across is so simply resolved. As a teacher, you may come across decisions that impact an individual’s entire life, from family to future. You need to be prepared to deal with that.

Regardless of the severity of the dilemma, however, every teacher will need to take action based on a code of ethics. A code of ethics is a personal set of guidelines that you’ll use to determine the right course of action in a given situation. Although the teaching profession has no formally adopted code of ethics, any code of ethics should comprise six basic elements:

Possessing adequate and appropriate knowledge is crucial in solving ethical issues. Having adequate knowledge of both the situation in question and what is expected of them helps teachers visualize multiple approaches to ethical dilemmas. After assessing the pros and cons of the consequences of possible actions, a teacher can then make a decision about how best to approach the situation.

Empathy refers to the ability to appreciate a situation from the point of view of the various participants involved. It enables decision-making that aims to provide the greatest unbiased benefit to all parties. Empathy opens up multiple pathways for reaching a decision that includes perceptions and views of all involved.

The ability to logically and coherently analyze situations and perspectives represents an important element of the code of ethics associated with the teaching profession. It’s important for teachers to be able to reflect on a situation or circumstance while taking all aspects into consideration and maintaining moral principles as a gauge for deliberation.

4. Appreciation for Moral Considerations

The ability to identify and analyze conflicting and competing moral interests involved in any given situation is very important when faced with ethical dilemmas. Everyone’s rights should be protected, and no one should be deprived of what they deserve. The most important trait in dealing with moral considerations is the ability to adhere to the truth.

The ideals of ethical teaching, such as appreciation for moral considerations, reasoning, and empathy, are much more difficult to reach if the element of courage is missing. Courage is required to create ethical outcomes appropriate for all parties involved, and it can take the form of willpower, tact, or even street-smartness, depending on the situation. Courage comes more naturally to some people than others. As a teacher, you will be required to display courage in a number of situations, sometimes on a daily basis. It will always help to know that you have the school regulations, or possibly even the law, on your side, but there are very few cases in which you can be completely sure without actually having the courage to bring the issue up with a relevant third party. Keeping your students’ best interests at heart will help to guide you in the right direction.

6. Interpersonal Skills

Even teachers with all of the preceding attributes could still be prevented from acting ethically if they lack the requisite communication skills to make their position known. Even if your understanding of right and wrong is clear and just, and is accompanied by all the qualities of being an ethical teacher, the potential for positive outcomes in your ethical dilemmas is diminished if you lack interpersonal skills. In ethically tinged situations, teachers must know how to formulate their words tactfully and how to use the right expressions and put them forth in frank manner, so they appear neither too harsh nor too feeble.

As a teacher, you’ll find yourself with ethical decisions to make every day. These might involve complex issues like reporting child abuse or censorship. Even if the issues you encounter aren’t so weighty, it’s still just as important to be able to make the right decision even when it may not seem to “really matter.” Center your internal compass on these six values, and your ability to act according to a code of ethics should true, no matter how choppy the moral waters.

The employee experience is the journey an employee takes with your organization.

At its heart is this question: How are employees experiencing their workplace?

The answer is the sum of all interactions an employee has with an employer, from prerecruitment to post-exit. It includes everything from major milestones and personal relationships to technology use and the physical work environment.

Why does the employee experience matter?

All of the individual moments of an employee's experience play a role in how a worker feels about an employer's purpose, brand and culture.

These feelings directly affect employee engagement, retention, performance and development.

One-third of global employees strongly agree with the statement, "The mission and purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important."

By moving that ratio to eight in 10 employees, business units have realized a 51% reduction in absenteeism, a 64% drop in safety incidents and a 29% improvement in quality.

How to tactfully ask emotional questions

The employee experience can also influence an employee's decision to return to a former employer and their likelihood to recommend an organization to other high-talent individuals, affecting the organization's reputation and talent acquisition.

World-class employee experiences attract top talent through strong company branding, drive high performance through meaningful manager-employee relationships, and create valuable brand ambassadors long after employees have left your organization. World-class employee experiences can also lead employees to choose to spend their career with your organization — because your organization provides them the best opportunity to develop and continually improve their workplace wellbeing.

As a result, improving the employee experience should be a strategic priority for every organization.

02 Developing an Employee Experience Strategy

Where should an organization begin when developing a new employee experience approach? What matters most? What changes are proven to create real value for an organization?

The following are three key phases that every organization should consider when developing an employee experience strategy:

  • Align your employee experience with your purpose, brand and culture.
  • Focus on the seven essential stages of the employee life cycle.
  • Remember the core needs at the heart of every stage of the employee life cycle.

Align Your Employee Experience With Purpose, Brand and Culture.

The employee life cycle and the experiences within it should be uniquely built to reflect your company purpose, workplace culture and employer branding. (What is the employee life cycle?)

For example, if your organization promotes a customer-centric culture, how is that company culture experienced by employees in your hiring process and in your onboarding process? Where does it show up on an employee performance review? How might it be expressed in the way you say "goodbye" to employees who are moving on or retiring?

Rituals play an important role in defining an organization's culture. The experience of onboarding a new hire, an employee performance review, or a firing not only influence the individual, but they also express "who we are" and "what we care about" to the rest of the team. Employees are often spectators of or participants in the full employee life cycle of their peers. Watching a friend receive public recognition may reinforce a positive workplace culture as much as personally receiving recognition.

Building your employee experience should begin with a clear understanding of your organization's brand, purpose and the culture you want to create. If you want to have a unique and powerful employee experience, every part of the employee life cycle should be implemented according to your distinctive organizational identity.

Focus on the 7 Essential Stages of the Employee Life Cycle

The employee life cycle identifies the seven major stages that employers need to get right within the employee experience.

These landmark elements contain both key milestones, such as attraction, onboarding, and exit, and also continual demands, such as providing an engaging workplace, managing performance, and developing employees. They capture the most significant employee-employer interactions that shape employee perceptions.

For organizations just beginning to think about their employee experience, examining the seven stages in the context of your company culture is a good place to start. The employee experience has to be well-thought-out and activated within each of the employee life cycle stages.

Much like a consumer experience, one negative experience in the process can create problems throughout the system. An employee experience framework takes all of these elements into consideration when forming a talent strategy.

Remember the Core Needs at the Heart of Every Stage

A few constants in your workplace have a significant influence on the quality of the employee experience at each stage of the employee life cycle: