Barbara Corcoran posted the following question on Twitter during last week's Shark Tank episode: "What do you think - is being emotional a positive in business?"
Of course, as a speaker, my immediate answer was "Yes!" Then I pulled up the responses, and they were overwhelmingly negative:
"Can work both ways. Most of the time, it's not a good thing."
"Was just saying 2 myself crying in business 2 me is such a turn off. No matter how moving."
"I think it's good to be emotionally vested but not a good idea to let your emotions run the show."
"No. emotions can make you look weak and you never want to look weak in business."
To be fair, there were a few people who saw the positives of emotion in business:
"Emotional investment is a must, however, know your audience. Know when to pull back & when to show passion."
"I think the old saying is flipped...it should be, 'It's not business, it's just personal.'"
"ABSOLUTELY! Passion breeds hustle!"
"Yes! passion lights the fire to move your business to a whole new level."
"Yes - if you're in control of them."
The reason she asked this question is that one of the entrepreneurs pitching the sharks started to cry when he explained why he was trying to get his business funded. His girlfriend's parents don't approve of him and won't let her leave Japan to be with him. When he becomes "respectable," he hopes her parents will relent.
It was a moving scenario, and I imagine there was just a little bit of nervousness and anxiety underlying this outburst due to standing in front of the five sharks!
But here's what I interpreted from the answers to Barbara's questions: The "good" kind of emotion is called "passion." The "bad" kind of emotion involves crying and leads to being perceived as weak.
I found it an incredibly narrow and shallow view of what constitutes emotion.
Do you want to intrigue your prospect (or your audience)? Do you want them to be curious? Do you want them to feel frustrated with the way things are going and to buy your service or product so they can improve their circumstances? Do you want them to laugh and feel connected to you when you're on stage or when they see your funny commercial? Do you want them to feel superior to others who don't buy your product (there are companies who do)? Do you want to piss them off so much that they take action?
Do any of these emotions I've mentioned above involve crying or weakness? Or even passion?
I also understand that Barbara asked the question very specifically with the words, "being emotional," which has its own connotation, that is, using emotion inappropriately.
But I'm going to argue that using emotion, or "being emotional" (because after all, we're human, and humans are emotional creatures) is a critical tool in business and for speakers.
Emotions are complex, varied, universal (but individually triggered in different ways) and powerfully motivating.
Why would you limit your use of your own emotions to move your audience to take action?
Why would you limit your ability to affect your audience's emotions in a way that makes them feel connected, curious, enthusiastic, greedy, hungry, hopeful or one of a hundred other touchy-feely words that -- by the way -- prompt your audience to engage with you in a way that serves them and brings you more clients, more visibility, more income, or whatever else it is you are trying to achieve?
No, don't get up on stage and bawl your eyes out. And haranguing and yelling at your audience is only going to make them hate you.
But hey, even a heartfelt and spontaneous catch in the throat or slight tearing up is okay with most audiences. And if a show of emotion from a speaker or businessperson is truly not welcome, then you must be speaking to a roomful of cyborgs. That's an article for another day!