Communication Advice: Express Yourself

“Feelings. Nothing more than feelings…” -Morris Albert

Feelings: Crucial or Corny?

When it comes to work, people tend to divide pretty quickly on the importance of feelings in the conversation. Some blame feelings for drama or wish to see themselves as above the perceived pettiness of feelings and so, they want nothing to do with them. I might argue though that such conflicts usually happen not when feelings get too much attention but when they get too little. That is, when they are dealt with immaturely like, say, when they are ignored or otherwise hurled rather than appropriately and consciously allowed to be expressed.

Another Kind of Smart

Daniel Goleman, the guy who popularized the term Emotional Intelligence, told the world nearly twenty years ago in his 1994 book of the same title that emotional competence, ahead of skills or smarts, is the true determinant in one’s ability to succeed in virtually every part of life, including work. Physiologically even, the human brain can often direct signals first to the amygdala (where survival instincts and yes, those darn emotions reside) before ever getting routed to the cognitive processing centers of the neocortex. So what does that mean? That the species that gave itself the misnomer, homo sapien (etymologically, rational man), may be anything but. We, great thinkers, inventors, leaders, and founders, are all emotional creatures first and foremost. It is a scientific truth that every single decision that people make is rooted in emotional preference. And when left untrained in the realm of feelings, we can be no brighter than lizards – literally!

This has tons of implications. Such ill-equipped individuals may misread social cues, choose unwisely, overreact, or slay the morale of others and even their own morale. In other words, they unknowingly sabotage. Yes, you equally genius and silly humans, feelings do matter – recognizing, managing, and conveying them properly. Fortunately, unlike IQ, “EQ” isn’t fixed. We all get a chance to get better – if we want to.

Nonviolence in Speech

Additionally, there are already standard methods for best expressing feelings, some of which we’ve talked about in recent posts. Today, we explore a well-known nonviolent communication technique usually comprised of the following parts:

  1. observation
  2. feeling
  3. needs
  4. request

For now, we will focus just on the first two. Anyone ever get under your skin? Your internal monologue might sound like: “Pat is really annoying me.” Or “I don’t like the way Morgan talks to people.” Lots of blame and condemnation are built into statements like these, which can only escalate toward hostility. The goal is to articulate your experience in such a way that you may be heard and change may result. How? Make a factual observation and say how you feel about it: “Pat, when you show up late for rehearsal, I feel frustrated.” “Morgan, I feel stressed out when you raise your voice.”

The significant difference: By omitting the judgment, you get to own your feelings. No one can argue that you feel otherwise, that you don’t feel frustrated or that you don’t feel stressed out. So now, “Pat” and “Morgan” have a chance to more thoroughly understand how their actions affect others without feeling attacked. Which can be an important first step in conflict resolution.

TIP: To get the real hang of this, you’ll want to expand your feelings vocabulary. And be mindful not to use language that doesn’t accurately reflect feelings. Like this common phrase, “I felt disrespected.” ‘Disrespected’ is not actually an emotion or even an adjective for that matter, it’s a verb. One that implies “You disrespected me!” It’s the stuff of squabbles. Relax, take your time, and then, search your heart – and a thesaurus – for a more fitting word.

Physician, Heal Thyself

When you combine what you’ve learned in this post with the previous two (Feedback Sandwich and Presentation 101), you too will have the exact communication tools that I was trained to use when I was employed at a world renowned medical center. I was hired as an actor to work with its student doctors. Top rate teaching hospitals across America are now including social skills in the curriculum. Why? It’s been found that doctors lacking this critical know-how are more likely to, at best, leave patients with a negative experience or, at worst, poorly conduct an intake interview and therefore, entirely misdiagnose and improperly administer care for their patients!

Yes, it’s a big deal, all this business of emotions and expression. Anyone who shrugs it off risks major consequences in their personal relationships, at the job, and maybe even with their health. The procedures we’ve covered thus far, I admit, appear simple. However, they require patience and polishing, AND they work. Go forth, exercise and spread wisdom.

Press play to hear a funky good tune, Express Yourself, performed with a live band by the song’s originator, Charles Wright. You can share this post using the buttons below or leave a comment if you’d like!

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2 responses to “Communication Advice: Express Yourself”

  1. Dianne says:

    Thanks for this, Anthem! Emotional development & awareness should be as much a part of “professional development” as any other skills-building. Here’s another great article on the urgent need for “Emotional Justice” in our communities and organizations. http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/the-immediate-need-for-emotional-justice/

    Enjoy!

    • Thanks Dianne! So true. I really appreciate the link you included too. #6 in the list (Ideological Violence) stood out the most to me as I see ego often getting in the way of what would otherwise be really great work of many individuals and organizations.

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