Conversations for Change

Training employees to use emotional intelligence in communication with others is vital to success.

Our conversations create ripple effects. Conversations lead to the creation of new possibilities, commitment to a new project, resolving conflicts, showing or receiving appreciation, and change. The best at creating meaningful conversation do something very different from the rest.

Through my years of coaching managers and leaders it is clear that 90 percent of the difference between star performers and average performers is based on emotional intelligence. Training employees to use emotional intelligence in communication with others is vital to individual and business success.

Having the emotional intelligence to deal with our own feelings first gives us the confidence and ability to navigate through the changes that are inevitable in today’s business world. We can experience an emotional hijack as a result of a change, or we can self-regulate and catch ourselves before we head into an emotional uproar that takes a conversation into places we do not really want to go. We can be aware of how other people’s emotions are impacting their ability to have a meaningful conversation, too. When we know how to process or guide others and ourselves through emotions, we will be able to consistently create meaningful dialogue that helps us develop business and teams.

Did you know there are 7 Core Emotions that are chemically identifiable in the body? Here they are:

  1. Love
  2. Joy
  3. Hope
  4. Envy
  5. Sadness
  6. Anger
  7. Fear

Each emotion has symptoms that show up in our thoughts and how we hold our bodies. For example, when someone has to give a presentation to a large group, it may be a trigger to feel fear or excitement. The symptoms of fear may be foggy thinking, sweaty palms, a shaky voice, or red blotches all over one’s face and chest. The symptoms of excitement could include clarity, focus, good eye contact, and engaging gestures. Each person’s emotional triggers and symptoms are unique—I refer to this as your “emotions map.”

To develop awareness, ask yourself, “What am I feeling now?” Use a journal to track the symptoms and feelings you experience during the day. You will recognize patterns that will help raise your awareness.

Be Aware of Your Emotions to Self-Regulate

Have you ever noticed when a conversation changed your emotional state? Perhaps during a job interview in which you discovered that the position was a wonderful fit for your abilities, you noticed yourself shifting to excitement (joy); or alternatively if you realized the position was not a good fit, you may have experienced sadness. You could be carried by that emotion; taking that feeling into everything you do the rest of the day. Or you could intentionally choose another feeling if you are aware and able to self-regulate. Anger is a signal that something has crossed our boundaries. The emotion is begging for a conversation to deal with whatever or whomever crossed our boundaries. Whenever you feel stuck in anger, ask yourself, “What’s going on that I need to have a conversation to clean up?” Are you self-aware enough so that the next time you notice anger, you will ask yourself, “What crossed my boundaries, and to whom do I need to talk in order to clean it up?” Fear is a signal that we may need to stop what we are doing or it may be a mask that prevents us from doing something that could be useful. Self-awareness is the key to knowing the difference. The 12 dialogues in “Conversations for Change: 12 Ways to Say It Right When It Matters Most” demonstrate how to clean up issues, problems, and conflicts so you can continue to move up the emotional ladder from fear or anger to hope and joy.

Focus on Solutions to Trigger Positive Emotions

In looking at a solution, you are engaging with positive emotions and are more likely to have (and trigger) positive emotions. You are asking for the results and outcomes you want to experience. If you waved a magic wand and the problems were resolved, what would it look like? Describe that in detail. That is being solution focused. In focusing on a problem, you are looking at negativity and are more likely to feel and trigger fear, anger, or defensiveness. This becomes a self-defeating spiral, because when we are talking about the problem, weare perceived as sniping, criticizing, being negative. Eventually other people tune us out. This is being problem focused.

Be Aware of Your Emotional Wake

An “emotional wake” is the feeling we leave people with. When we leave a meeting, are team members consistently feeling angry because they were not heard? Or are they feeling excited and engaged about what the team is working on? The predominant emotion we leave people with is our emotional wake. Can you think of someone who creates a positive emotional wake? Being around that person feels good. Consciously or unconsciously, this person decided to be solution focused instead of problem focused in the face of change. Being aware of our emotional wake creates respect for self and others.

Emotional intelligence is not hardwired. It can be developed at any age. It takes consistent practice to develop emotional intelligence. People who learn from their experiences have significantly higher emotional intelligence than those who do not recover! When we do not recover, we get stuck in an emotional pattern and recreate it again and again. We talk about the problem too much and do not move on.

Steps to Improve Emotional Intelligence for Successful Conversations

  • Create your own emotions map. Use a journal to capture the symptoms and emotions that you experience during situations throughout the day.
  • Be aware of your emotions in the moment by asking, “What am I feeling now? How do I want my current emotion to inform my actions and decision-making?”
  • Focus on solutions—be aware of emotional wake in your conversations
  • Create a folder or picture collage that triggers positive emotions. Use this to guide yourself out of being stuck in a non-productive emotion.
  • Create an environment of safety and trust with those you are communicating with by learning to see your emotional wake and clean it up if you are leaving people stewing in anger or fear.