Guest post by Carolyn Stern, President and CEO of EI Experience and author of The Emotionally Strong Leader: An Inside-Out Journey to Transformational Leadership
If you want to be an “Emotionally Strong Leader,” a person who can create trust bonds and deeper connections, motivate others and build high-performing teams, then you need to develop your Emotional Intelligence. This includes being able to communicate effectively and share what you are feeling by using the right words, tone, facial expressions, and body language. “Emotive communication” ignites a spark in others, strengthens relationships, and helps people move forward with excitement.
When a leader chooses to discuss what they are feeling, people no longer experience that leader solely through outward behavior, but rather experience a deeper connection from underneath the surface. When this kind of genuine connection happens, others feel closer to that leader, and in a work setting, this affects their dedication, engagement, and fulfillment.
Below are my tips for increasing your emotive communication skills, based on my work with hundreds of leaders in a wide range of industries.
It’s important to be very specific when describing how you feel. Don’t be vague with one-word descriptors, such as “good” or “bad.” Name the emotion. To reduce the chance of being misunderstood, specify the degree or intensity of your feelings. For instance, I am irritated, anxious, afraid, hurt, etc.
Describe the Behavior First, Then Your Feelings
When expressing your feelings, first describe the specific behavior that evoked what you are feeling and then express your feelings. When sharing your feelings, use “I feel” statements. This can help prevent the other person from becoming immediately defensive when they hear, “I am angry with you” versus saying, “When you hung up the phone, I felt angry.” Remember, no one can make you feel anything; you do that all by yourself. So claim the “I” and own your feelings.
Avoid the Word “But”
Avoid the word “but” as it negates whatever came before it. For example, “I love you, but I am moving out.” “But” establishes a relationship between two ideas wherein one contradicts the other. A simple replacement for “but” is “and.” “And” is a great alternative because it suggests a positive perspective versus negating what was said before it: “I love you, and I am moving out.” Hearing this still might hurt, but eliminating the “but” eases the pain a little.
Stop and Breathe
Whenever you are overcome with emotion, such as happiness or sadness, stop and breathe to ground yourself. Once you have a clear mind, you can start to communicate your emotions. Name the emotion you are feeling but remember to tame it. Say it without the emotional charge behind it. For instance, rather than yelling, “I am furious with you,” simply say calmly, “I feel furious.” Don’t react and be a victim of your emotions. Be bigger and stronger than your feelings, and control how you express yourself.
One last thing to note; be conscious of what you are NOT saying. Did you know that 55% of what we “hear” comes from body language, 38% from tone of voice, and only 7% from words? The most important thing you should remember is when people are listening to you, they are paying more attention to HOW you say something than WHAT it is you are saying.
Enhancing your communication skills through Emotional Intelligence can boost productivity and engender feelings of pride, belonging, and confidence, all of which produce happier, healthier workers who work harder and achieve more. Imagine that!
About the author
CAROLYN STERN, author of THE EMOTIONALLY STRONG LEADER, is the President and CEO of EI Experience, an executive leadership development and emotional intelligence training firm. She is a certified Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Development Expert, professional speaker, and university professor whose emotional intelligence courses and modules have been adopted by top universities in North America. She has also provided comprehensive training programs to business leaders across the continent in highly regarded corporations encompassing industries such as technology, finance, manufacturing, advertising, education, healthcare, government, and food service. Stern lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia.
You can learn more at carolynstern.com.