Project Management

Emotional Dominance: Is It OK to Cross Our Emotional Boundaries?

Amy Whicker started her career as a computer science professor. She taught many computer languages and the theory behind waterfall and agile. After nine years of teaching, Amy decided to transition into industry, where she played many different roles on agile teams and became an instant agile enthusiast. Amy is active in the agile community. She was one of the lead organizers for the Mile High Agile 2017 conference in Denver and spoke on failure at the 2017 Southern Fried Agile Conference in Charlotte, NC. She now uses her skills acquired as a professor and an agile team member to coach and consult on agile growth and transformation. Visit Amy at

We all have emotional boundaries between us and everyone we interact with. When we can be emotionally assertive, we are mindful to respect those nearly invisible boundaries. Yet so often because they are invisible, we cross those boundaries as a way to create order, have power or reduce the complexity of our world.

We can show emotional dominance when we project unnecessary emotions with the expectation of others fixing our emotions. We can also show emotional dominance by hiding emotions (actively suppressing body language and thoughts) to project a false sense of control. Both projecting and hiding emotions is costly and has a short life, as it is both draining for the controller and those being controlled.

When we can own our emotions and harness our emotional assertiveness, we maintain more collaboration at lower energy cost (less emotional energy exchanged to dominate and be dominated). This allows our energy to be directed to a common vision instead of one person's vision. Being emotionally dominant is a waste of our power and energy.

Ignoring fear and presenting ourselves as more emotionally secure than we really are—and bringing others along for the masquerade—will also give others a false sense of security, so we are less prepared if things go sideways.

Projecting false emotions (inappropriate expression or intensity) and driving others with…

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You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, "My God, you're right! I never would've thought of that!

- Dave Barry