by Dawn Stanyon
This article is the fourth in a series on emotional intelligence in the workplace written by Dawn. You can find parts 1, 2 and 3 HERE, HERE, and HERE, respectively.
When my kids were in daycare, they were gently cared for. They were nurtured. They had great snacks and long naps. And they were taught emotional expression.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard my wee daughter say, “Mommy, I don’t like that you said that. When you say that it makes me feel sad.” Really? Yeesh. But you know what? I quickly grew to love and appreciate this communication skill. My daughter was able to clearly express her feelings and I was then able to respond to meet her need. Of course, sometimes it was just to say, “I understand that you feel sad. You can have a cookie AFTER dinner.”
Emotional expression is one of the seven traits of Emotional Intelligence (EI). Simply put, it’s the EI skill that allows us to effectively express our emotions. Good daycare and pre-school teachers role model this skill set. If pre-K children can pick up the communication skills that reflect high levels of emotional expression, professionals can do it too.
How are you at appropriately expressing different types of emotions at work? Here’s a little assessment. Do you:
- Effectively express how you feel about work issues?
Appropriately express specific emotions (happiness, worry, anger) at work?
Provide positive feedback to colleagues?
- Express emotions at the right time, in the right way, to the right people?
Improving your emotional expression at work allows your colleagues to better understand you and create more trusting and authentic relationships. Look, I’m not suggesting you sit in a circle and share. I am suggesting that you will get more done and achieve more success at work if you increase your ability to communicate – and emotional expression is one component of outstanding communication.
According to a study highlighted in this Forbes post, emotional intelligence is valued in middle management – supervisors and managers – but is much less sought after in directors, VPs, senior executives and CEOs — to the detriment of workplaces. On an interesting side note, CEOs have the lowest emotional intelligence scores in this study; however, the CEOs tagged as “top performers” in their category were those with the highest EI scores, including strong ability to appropriately express emotion. So interesting.
Here are three tips to help you increase your emotional expression:
1. Express how you feel to the right people. Need to understand a situation? Don’t carp to your office mate, ask the right person if you can talk to them to understand the situation. Put anger aside and use language to search for the facts.
2. Express your positive feelings appropriately. Of course it’s fine to holler out a “Whoot! Whoot!” if you just closed a mega-sale that you’ve been working on for a year; however, consider others around you when expressing joy, humor and hope.
3. Effectively express how you feel when someone upsets you. Translate the toddler’s “I feel sad because…” to the adult “I want to let you know that I’m concerned about the execution of this project. Can we take five-minutes to review this?”
Hopefully when today’s toddlers are VPs, directors and CEOs, they will role model positive emotional expression. Until then, let’s all take a cue from outstanding daycare teachers.