I was standing in line at the grocery store when the woman behind me started talking to me. Unprompted.
She told me about her granddaughter’s 11th birthday, her ex-husband\’s plane ticket, and her son and new girlfriend\’s travel down from Massachusetts to also join the party. In under three minutes.
She even showed me pictures of her step-grandson on her phone. As I turned away to check out, my head was spinning from way, way too much information. From a total stranger!
Has this TMI happened to you? On a plane, in the gym—or in the office?
Engaging Our Emotional Expression
In EQ language, we call this using our Emotional Expression. Ideally, it is a skill that I use to get you better in touch with me and create greater reciprocity in our relationship. We use this skill personally and professionally, every single day.
Which makes me think of Corina, a senior VP of a rapidly growing and well-respected non-profit. She invited me to work with her staff to provide greater team stability amid so much change.
I quickly discovered her team adored her. Brilliant, warm, expressive, self-aware and inclusive, she created a culture of trust and safety. I admired her—and even wondered why she hired me.
Then I sat in on some staff meetings and my eyes popped open. She was so self-aware, and so transparent with her feelings that she unintentionally hijacked the discussions with her emotions— sucking the air right out the room.
In my one-on-one meetings with her staff, I learned that while people trusted her implicitly, they also felt she didn’t listen well to their needs and contributions. They didn’t say it, but I heard it: they felt it was all about her.
When I shared this with Corinne, she was startled, upset and embarrassed. She had no clue of her negative impact on her team.
When We Over-Engage Emotional Expression
Corina had the ability to use her emotions to successfully express what she was feeling and to get others engaged through this expression. In the language of EQ, we call this emotional expression, and because of it, she had cultivated solid relationships with staff, board and community.
What she didn’t realize was that EQ skills are like muscles. We can under-use, actively use or even over-use (because it\’s so well-developed) any one of them.
Here’s the good news, though.
Even when we over-use an EQ skill to our detriment, we don’t want to stop using it. Actually, we can’t stop using it. It’s a well-honed muscle that knows when to spring into action. We rely on it.
What we need to do instead is bring it into balance with other EQ skills.
For Corinne, this new insight was enormously helpful. She quickly began to notice how her emotions could shut people down. Together we focused on better utilizing her impulse control and empathy to shift her attention from self to others.
It also helped her to know that when people are under-engaged with their emotional expression, there are equally challenging consequences.
Because when you can’t read someone’s face—when you can’t tell what they are thinking or how they\’re reacting—it puts the relationship in jeopardy. Often people will shut down, then disengage, and eventually disappear.
When We Under-Engage Emotional Expression
So while having a poker face is handy at the poker table, it can be entirely confusing and misinterpreted at the conference-room table.
If you or someone you know under-engages with their emotional expression, a successful practice is to verbalize more feelings in conversations: I’m looking forward to this project, I’m concerned about the outcome, I’m pleased with this work…
Where are you along the continuum of emotional expression? How effectively do you share and communicate your emotions… to get others… in touch… with you?
The key to developing (or providing balance) to any EQ skill is curiosity. Here\’s to all the relationships in your life, and your ability to use your emotional expression effectively to get others in better touch with you.