Thursday, August 16, 2018

Five Ways to Build Trust Using Emotional Expression



This week’s blog focuses on the connection between emotional expression and trust. I know sometimes it's difficult to express emotion, and there are certainly some emotions that shouldn't be shared. But, I'm also talking about the nonverbal expression of emotion in the workplace. Actively expressing emotion will actually increase trust with others and make it easier for them to use their EQ when they are interacting with you. Therefore, I am inviting you to work harder this month on expressing a little more than you might today.

The EQi 2.0 assessment measures emotional intelligence and 15 skills that make-up the EQ competency, click here to learn more. One component on the report is called Emotional Expression and is defined as “Openly expressing one’s feelings verbally and non-verbally.” As you can probably guess, some employees get low scores on this because expressing feelings makes many people uncomfortable. Some I have spoken with have actively defended the importance of not ever expressing feelings, especially at work because “everything should be about data and facts and not personal opinion.” I don’t agree with that viewpoint, but I certainly understand it especially in today’s super-touchy, easily-offended workplace.

Using emotional intelligence includes exercising a good judgment about when to express, what to express and who is appropriate to express emotions with. When I use my EQ, I am trying to recognize my feelings, read those of others and then choose a response that is best. Those with lower Emotional Expression are reserved and hard to read. They can appear to others as guarded or disinterested.

Some people have gotten feedback at one time that they were too loud, reactive, emotional or an over-sharer so they are trying to improve, but overcompensating. Some are very private and don’t like to reveal or discuss feelings with others. This is a problem because suppressing emotion could result in negative health consequences like high blood pressure, ulcers, and stress. It’s also a problem because it makes it very difficult for me to use my EQ with someone who isn’t giving me anything to work with. I don’t know how to best respond because I can’t get a reaction from you.

When this happens, thoughts swirl in my head about why they aren’t responding. Do they not understand what I am saying? Do they not care? Do they have such low self-awareness they don’t know how they feel about it? Do they not trust me to be honest with me?

None of these guessed reasons may be accurate or fair, but they create a less than positive perception. I was speaking with a Chief Diversity Officer at a large organization not long ago who struggled with this. When I asked her why she had difficulty sharing her feelings said she didn’t want to risk coming across as an "angry activist." While I agree and understand her fear, I also pointed out that being too inexpressive isn’t engaging anyone else in her cause. I wondered, "How do you expect me to get passionate about the importance of diversity if I never see it in you?"

If you think your Emotional Expression could use a boost, try these pointers:

  • Use your audience as your guide, match a similar level of expression even if it’s higher than you naturally would.

  • Remember that not all feelings are intimate. You can share feelings of frustration, worry, pride, concern, excitement, and confusion in a business-appropriate way.

  •  If you just can’t share some feelings, remember that others can track your likely emotion by sharing some thoughts or rationale for decisions instead. Most will have what they need if you give them some information about what’s going on behind the scenes for you.

  • You may struggle to share your feelings if you haven’t identified what they are. Spend time reflecting on your strongest emotions – why do you feel that way and what triggers them?

  • Start small. Pick a low-risk situation to practice sharing more. This could be a co-worker with whom you already have a high trust established or a low stakes discussion in which you can contribute an opinion.

The good news is all of the EQ skills can be learned so this is something we can all develop. Just a note of caution to not over-correct and use too much Emotional Expression either! The goal is to express emotions according to the situation and with common sense. Once you do, it will make a big difference in your interactions, and possibly your health as well.   

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