Experts! Speak English PODCAST Navigating Corporate Communication: Unveiling Insights for Career Growth As you know
If the future of business is based on flexibility, diversity and inclusion, remote work and new work, it is time to work on the emotional intelligence of leaders and decision makers because long term business and profitability is based on strong business relationships with your employees, your clients and your stakeholders, so this episode looks at emotional intelligence and find out how to get better at it.
In an era when artificial intelligence is on everybody’s lips and laptops, what about emotional intelligence? That’s not something that you can magically muster from your keyboard is it? But before I go on, let’s just clarify what emotional intelligence actually is, in the second part of this podcast episode, I will share how has an impact communication and as we approach Coco’s Communication Challenge I’ll be sharing some tactics and techniques for becoming aware of and in tune with your own emotional intelligence and that of your colleagues, clients and other stakeholders, because once you are more in tune with emotional intelligence you can keep it at arms length and make sure that your in-sensitivities are not having an impact on people around you.
So Emotional intelligence which you’ll hear shortened to EI, refers to the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. In the context of communication, emotional intelligence refers to the ability to communicate effectively while being aware of and responsive to the emotions of yourself and others. If you think about it, it’s like an emotional radar, we can chose to put it on, tune it in and pay attention to it, or not.
Effective communication requires more than just the transmission of information – that’s where corporate life can fall foul of EI; it also requires us to be in tune with or aware of the emotional states of the people involved. So last week I talked specifically about helping colleagues to deal with grief and that requires emotional intelligence because it is what allows us as individuals to accurately identify, interpret and interact with a broad range of emotions both in ourselves and others. It is this awareness and acknowledgement that can help us to communicate more effectively. Emotional intelligence is what fuels and fosters strong relationships. A lack of emotional intelligence will make life at work more stressful and frustrating so for the sake of a simpler and more rewarding career.
Those individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence, are better able to manage their own emotions and respond appropriately to the emotions of others. This can lead to more productive and positive interactions, both in personal and professional settings. Emotional intelligence is a muscle that you have to flex and get more comfortable using.
Those icolleagues who tend to show very little emotional intelligence often focus more on their own needs and the job at hand rather than the stakeholders involved and how they will be impacted by behaviour that is challenging.
Ultimately if you do not really understand and manage your own emotions, as well as those of others, you’ll distance yourself from more and more people. Your colleagues will tend to keep a distance and keep a low profile, it puts people on their guard if they feel that they cannot be themselves around you and ultimately you will not have an opportunity to experience their brilliance, creativity and self expression.
Do you sometimes find it difficult to expressing yourself clearly, do you notice that your emotions are a little out of your control in stressful situations, and do you feel that you respond appropriately to the emotions of others. This can lead to misunderstandings, minor or even major conflict, and communication breakdowns or misunderstandings.
So you might well be asking yourself already, can you learn emotional intelligence or is it something you’re born with? Well awareness is the first step, we all know of someone that goes through life assuming that it’s their way or the high way or assuming that people are too insensitive, too stupid, too slow. This kind of person is unlikely to learn how to be emotionally intelligent – simply because to my mind, emotional intelligence is as much about your perception and observation than anything else. If you do not see that you are lacking in emotional intelligence and you know the kind of people I am talking about – the bull in a china shop types whose arrogance might secure them a career – frustratingly – but might well leave a wake of emotionally injured individuals in their wake. Of course that kind of behaviour should not be rewarded with career success but in reality for as long as the decision makers are also lacking in emotional intelligence this is a different tide to turn, the tide can be turned but it will take more time and might require some drastic results and decisions to accelerate the process from leaders being emotionally illiterate to emotionally intelligent.
It often starts with simply being insensitive to other colleague’s feelings: It’s often not deliberate as such but there is just not enough intention around communication. People with low emotional intelligence may genuinely not know or understand how their words or actions are affecting other people. For example, there is a fine line in the office between some banter and lighthearted humour and making jokes that could upset someone, either because you have pointed out someone’s weaknesses or dismissings someone’s feelings and values and this in an isolated incident might not be too tragic, but if this is something that a colleague experiences negatively on a repetitive basis then this can create tension and lead to conflict. We need to be conscious of the fact that in today’s employment market, employees do not need to, neither should they tolerate such behaviour, not even from their boss because it is easier now than ever before to talk with your feet. 8
The Inability to regulate emotions is often a close second, because communication is a two way street, so it is not just about what you say but how you react to what is being said: Colleagues and bosses who struggle to manage their own emotions are more prone to lash out or become defensive in response to stress or criticism. This outburst is more of a reaction than a proactive or intentional response to what is being said and done. Now life at work can be frustrating and especially when we are under pressure, our ability to control our relationships becomes more difficult but we are not children, we are adults, most of us are experts in our own right yet we all have triggers don’t we? If you think about your relationship with your nearest and dearest, this is likely where you are likely to react faster and often hurtfully or ineffectively – why – well our kids for examples know exactly what our triggers are and if you are pushed into a tight spot it can be a defence mechanism to strike out. This can escalate conflicts and make it difficult to resolve issues constructively, especially if they have been allowed to persist over a longer period of time.
Difficulty empathizing with others is something that some people find easier and more natural than others: People with low emotional intelligence may not want to think about feelings or emotions, they are probably more focused on getting the job done as if we are all robots so they are likely to struggle to understand or relate to the emotions of others. As you can imagine, it is incredibly difficult to communicate effectively with someone like that because they simply don’t care about that side of things, little do they know that our emotions affect our motivation, accuracy, creativity and loyalty. In a situation like Iast week when I talked about grief where empathy and understanding are important, people in this situation should be locked in a cupboard or something. On a serious note, there are times when certain individuals should be encouraged to either empathize or leave the communication to someone who is a better fit for this type of conversation.
Inflexibility in communication style: Those of you that have done DISC profiling will know that we all communicate differently and yes we do have personal preferences. Having said that, different situations and conversations require a different approach. I am as a rule an upbeat and bubbly kind of person but there are situations where that just isn’t appropriate. If you are interested in learning more about your communication styles, go and get yourself profiled, it is an eye opening experience. So for example some people see me as being overpowering and loud whereas others experience me as being optmisic and full of ideas, all a matter of perspective, right, so profiling with DISC or one of the other options really is a valuable and inspiring use of your time. Individuals with low emotional intelligence often have a rigid communication style that doesn’t adapt well to different situations or personalities. This can create get people’s back up, lead to awkward misunderstandings and a breakdown in communication which over time can lead to conflict.
Lack of self-awareness: People not exactly known for being the hero of emotional intelligence are equally not aware of their own emotions or the impact that they have on others. They do not pick up people’s gestures or body language, they do not observe or notice the little signs that would scream to someone else – Stop, you have gone too far.This of course only serves to magnify the problem making it almost impossible to communicate effectively.
Whilst as an advocate of communication kudos I am not in the habit of making excuses for people who appear to be too self centred to communicate intentionally, I do have an explanation. All of these behavious can often come back to being to busy, too stressed, too tired. Which is why in the past I have had episodes on these self care issues that make us more balanced and better communicators.
If we are to connect with others in a deeper more meaningful and authentic way so that we can build a stronger team, build stronger relationships, and resolve conflicts more effectively we all need to work on our emotional intelligence because even those of us that think we are fairly good at this have our triggers, our days when we too are tired, stressed, under pressure or a favourite of mine – hungry – keep this girl fed because I am like the woman in the Mars Bar advertisement – my hubby and son know the score, don’t make her wait for food.
Practice active listening: Yeah yeah, you have heard it all before but if you have ever heard the phrases
“I don’t think you understood me correctly”,
“let me put that another way”
“that’s not actually what I meant”
then perhaps, just maybe you weren’t paying attention.
And look I get it life is full of distractions, we are torn between family, work and our relationship, we are checking our emails, messages and Slack. But paying attention to what the other person is saying, each and every word, as well as the non verbal clues and making an effort to understand their perspective can feel overwhelming, possibly boring with a to do list as long as your arm but the thing is this, you need to stop multitasking and start listening to just one person at a time. Cut yourself some slack and you’ll find you’ll spend less time saying, “pardon?” “what was that last bit?”, “sorry, I didn’t quite catch that”.
Listen honey, listen.
To do that – shut up, if you are dying to say something take a drink of water and keep listening. Let them finish. It’s respectful and makes sense, especially if they are the expert.
Be aware of your own emotions: Recognize your emotions – good and bad and understand how they may affect your communication with others. Take a moment to pause and reflect before reacting emotionally to a situation. For example I mentioned triggers and one of mine is when my hubby will say that I am being over sensitive or over-reacting. Identify your own triggers and try to find a meditative affirmation to keep you calm and focused without letting those emotions escape the bag labelled decent human being and expert.
Develop empathy: Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This is especially difficult incidentally for people on the autism spectrum, so be a little generous and patient in that situation, but really force yourself to see the situation from their perspective by asking yourself, “How would I feel if someone said that to me in their situation?”. This takes practice and the longer you have waited in life to embrace empathy the harder it will be – but all the more important to get it right too, as you probably have the expertise and responsibility that expects more emotional intelligence after all, you’re not that toddler reacting, you are intentional about your communication and behaviour and a role model for your team. Coaching clients of mine that have struggled with this have found it useful to clarify out loud whether their interpretation of the situation is accurate, that verbal confirmation helps them to internalise and empathise. That might sound like “So if I understand you correctly, you prefer to be at work rather than being at home because keeping busy is good but going into a group of people and having to speak up at short notice about your project is something that we could put on hold until you feel that you are ready and you might well slip into the meeting to listen on good days. You are happy to help us clear the backlog and get up to speed on documentation and testing and will be writing the scripts for the onboarding videos and we will work out when to actually record those at a later stage?” This can help you respond more effectively to their emotions and gives them a chance to put you right. The important thing here is to avoid using a condescending tone of voice and the words will be the same but the message will be differently. If you are sincere, you will sound sincere, our voices are incredibly honest instruments.
Focus on your nonverbal communication: Pay attention to your own nonverbal cues, really zone in on, not just your tone of voice, but also your facial expressions. Are your eyes creased up as if to say “Is that really an issue?” or “Is that so difficult”. Our gestures give us away and your body language too ofcourse. Be careful of not crossing your arms for instance or leaning back, instead try to lean in (with a respectful distance of course) towards them to make them feel heard and understood, it’s all about being validated as I touched on last week when we talked about helping grieving colleagues. All of these small little indicators discretely but powerfully influence the sincerity and warmth of the conversation. It’s about presence.
Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can help you become more aware of your own emotions and help you stay focused in the present moment during conversations. I will be doing a separate podcast about mindfulness very soon.
Seek feedback: Ask others for genuine feedback on your communication skills. The more detailed their feedback and the more examples they can give you, the easier it will be for you to improve. The prerequisite for receiving valuable, relevant, actionable feedback is to be open to that constructive criticism. Receive that feedback without validation, explanations or excuses, just take it on board and see what you want to implement first. If that person is open to ongoing feedback, tell them at the beginning of the conversation what you would specifically welcome feedback on. It is a good idea to focus on just one thing at a time in that case so that you can both focus on that one element of communication excellence.
Express Gratitude, through a commitment to improvement
In Toastmaster competitions there is are three types of contests as a rule, speaking, evaluation and table topics. For the evaluation contest the contestants need to give evaluation to a speaker, so they need a target speaker who provides a speech to evaluate. You have to be a bit of a sucker for punishment to do this because you get feedback from each contestant but I love being a target speaker and have done it in three countries so far – I love it because you get so much feedback at once. The trick is though afterwards to highlight what to focus on first, second and third, otherwise overwhelm sets in and you cannot focus on the speech or in your case then the conversation. Honest, constructive, supportive feedback is the most valuable thing that you can receive so honour their time by implementing the changes to have an impact and let them be a part of your learning journey – which will be as rewarding for them as it is for you.
Practice assertiveness: Now this might seem to go against everything that I have said so far but if you think about it, by being more assertive, you don’t let things get out of control. If people know that you are not a walk over, if they learn to respect you, then their behaviour and communication will be more intentional, respectful and controlled. Establish what you expect from someone. Start telling people what you expect or need from them and what you need to feel for things to go well, do you want to feel reassured, valued, do you expect them to be punctual, accurate or consistent, tell them what you need, be transparent about that and your needs as a boss, colleague or even love partner, in a clear and respectful manner, while also being considerate of their feelings. Don’t ask or expect people to do the impossible but tell them what you need and find out what they need from you too. This open and honest conversation might feel like the last thing you want to have but it is the more sincere way to protect your emotions and make sure that you are being emotionally intelligent yourself.
Online we tend to rely on more asynchronous communication for example in emails, messages, channels like Slack etc and here where the format is chat or typing, we need to be careful not to upset someone by being too brief which can come across as being cold and distant. Likewise emojis and gifs are great but make sure that they cannot be misinterpreted. Someone for example who is very conscious about her weight might interpret a gif with an overweight character as inappropriate or an attack. That was probably not the intention at all but by putting yourself in the shoes of the person struggling with their weight, you might be in a better position to chose gifs for instance. That might sound a little over the top but for that person, that is their struggle so be considerate of that and for example if they feel uncomfortable about he camera being on, you might have to be flexible, even though you have looking at the black screen and feeling like you are talking to yourself. It’s all about compromise.
If for example you are an agile coach and you have back to back meetings and you try to incorporate some light hearted games at the beginning to get people out of the mid afternoon slump then going back to someone who is body conscious, don’t choose anything that will get them jumping around or leaving their desk – for a blast of activity – to get something for the game (or you might want to give them a heads up beforehand – ps you will need something orange for the game). Now you might think, well that’s her problem, not ours but it’s about empathy, being able to eliminate any feelings of discomfort or self consciousness is just a kind and considerate thing to do that happens also to be known as emotional intelligence.
In my coaching and facilitation in agile teams I have observed 7 common communication mistakes that come up which point towards a lack of emotional intelligence:
Ignoring or rejecting emotions: By failing to recognize or acknowledge the emotions of others, you will be contributing to misunderstandings or people’s feelings being hurt.
Reacting impulsively: In a world, where we are encouraged to speak our mind, we need to also know when to be careful with our words. When people react impulsively without considering the impact of their words or actions on others, it can lead to a person or a group of people feeling excluded, rejected or taken for granted. This does little to boost loyalty or your popularity
Failing to communicate clearly: It is easy in a rush or under pressure to be unclear or communicated in a way that is ambiguous , this can cause confusion and frustration for other people in the conversation. Being clear does not mean being rude, it means thinking about what you say, BEFORE you say it, examples are always a great way to minimise misunderstandings.
Being insensitive to other people’s needs: Colleagues lacking emotional intelligence tend not to consider the needs or feelings of others, which can make them come across as self-centered or indifferent to the needs and emotions of others.
Failing to manage emotions: When people are unable – or unwilling – to manage their own emotions, team members may become defensive, aggressive, or uncooperative, which hardly secures a proactive working environment or even productive or innovative conversations.
Using inappropriate language or tone: People with low emotional intelligence may lack the patience to find an effective and impactful way to express themselves and might well turn to using inappropriate language, insults, or a condescending tone of voice for example that can be offensive or hurtful to others. When the volume makes people feel uncomfortable and the tone is aggressive, that is difficult to come back from and your professionalism will be questioned.
Making assumptions: People with low emotional intelligence often make sweeping assumptions about others’ thoughts or feelings without having all the facts or asking the questions to be informed, generalisations like this make people feel undermined and nobody likes to be written off or disregarded based on some kind of stereotype, gossip or second guessing.
If someone talks about there being a bad corporate culture, emotional intelligence is a good place to start. A lack of emotional intelligence will rock the foundation of any organisation. If you have a high turnover of clients, staff and suppliers, going back to communication and emotional intelligence would be a smart investment of your time. People often say to me, Corinne our corporate culture is terrible and to that I would say that getting to the root of that corporate culture often brings you to individuals with horrendous emotional intelligence. Often it is someone incredibly talented, knowledgeable and experienced but they are wreaking havoc on the whole organisation. The question is, does this come down to ignorance or arrogance? Ultimately the company culture will be poisoned by experts and leaders who need to work on their emotional intelligence. The question is are you brave enough to tell him about it and yes, I hasten to add it is mostly men that struggle with this or women that have been on the receiving end of poor emotional intelligence for so long that they have claimed it as their own.
To summarize then people who have Emotional intelligence are the ones who are interested in and able to recognize, understand, and manage their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. In terms of communication, to demonstrate and practice emotional intelligence, you’ll need to focus on and intentionally work on communicating effectively at the same time as being aware of and responsive to the emotions of those around you. In a foreign language this is even more difficult of course because you are not only thinking of the right words to say but also how to communicate in a way that does not inadvertently come across as being rude or impatient for example, particularly if you come from a direct culture like Germany, Finland or Russia.
Effective communication requires is more than just exchanging information; for it to be ‘effective’ you need to take the emotions of other people into account. Those who take the time and attention to demonstrate emotional intelligence make it easier for individuals from a broad range of backgrounds, cultures and age demongraphics to work together. With less friction or judgement, people have more emotional bandwidth to perform. This ability to accurately perceive and interpret emotions – both your own and those of people – means that you will communicate more effectively, even if, especially if you – as in all of you – are under pressure.
If you want less drama, tension and law suites at work and more innovation – then recruitment needs to focus on selecting emotionally intelligent leaders and then training those decision makers and creators of the corporate culture to focus on their emotional intelligence
If you work with colleagues who struggle to manage their own emotions, the chances are that they are not giving themselves the time to ask what they need to feel emotionally in control and to communicate that calmly at the outset rather than reacting. If they have difficulty expressing themselves clearly, keeping their emotions under control in stressful situations, biting their tongue or taking some time out if necessary, they are a risk to the organisation’s profitability. That might seem dramatic, but if you think about it, this consistent disregard for other people’s emotions, preferences and values will in time drive away talent and recurring buisiness. Someone who speaks their mind without thinking about the implications for their colleagues or their own career long term result in misunderstandings, conflict, and tension at work which distract from the corporate goals due to the support needed to rescue the relationships often from HR, mediation and coaching, all of which is time consuming, expensive and a drain on resources as well as a risk to the reputation of your organisation and the brand.
Ultimately … If you want a more positive, productive, and satisfying career,
focus on your communication, starting with emotional intelligence.
One last point though before we move into Coco’s Communication Challenge – People with high emotional intelligence run the risk of taking care of others more than themselves and this too can be a mental health risk, so keep an eye out for your emotional intelligence super heroes and make sure that they are getting the credit or leadership opportunities that they deserve.
So Coco’s Communication Challenge for today is to consider your own competency in terms of emotional intelligence.
Q1. What are your strengths and weaknesses around emotional intelligence?
Q3 Do you have the ability to identify how someone is feeling, how they are coping?
Q3. Could you, given the opportunity be a more effective leader, not impulsive but considerate, with social awareness not just an eye on job performance?
Have a think about those things, right them down and keep adding to that this week.
You might feel that you pay attention to your self-management in terms of behaving and communicating appropriately because EQ or emotional intelligence is what we need in an economy where people make a difference to performance, because intelligence is important but emotional intelligence could be viewed as much more important and yet what is being taught in schools? – don’t get me started.
But you can teach your children to be emotionally intelligent at the dinner table, out and about on public transport, in the car, take the lead and give the leaders of tomorrow, your children the emotional awareness and interpersonal skills to perform more than machine learning ever can, to contribute to teamwork in a way that makes sense because emotional intelligence can be learned when the growth mindset around that is in place.
Relationship management is what secures long term business growth so emotional intelligence is a fundamental skill and mindset that we need to identify and improve every single day because emotional intelligence and job performance will always go hand in hand in a world where new work, diversity and inclusion are the name of the game because these are not trends, they are progress, long overdue and very much welcome.
Thank you very much for listening. I would really appreciate it if you would go and give me a nice review or a rating that helps other people find this podcast as well.
And all that remains for me to say is:
Be the very best communicator that you can be!
You’ve been listening to Corinne Wilhelm from Experts! Speak English! brought to you by englishspeakingexperts.com
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Oh, that reminds me, I have got to tell you: Tomorrow evening in Berlin, starting at Berliner Dom, we are going to be having a “Pretend To Be A Tour Guide” tour with Toastmasters. So, if you are curious about what Toastmasters do and what we are like, then feel free to join us. There is an easy way to sign up: You just go to “meet up”, look for First Berlin Toastmasters, I will put the link in the show notes, of course, and you can sign up. We would love to meet you and if I do not see you there, I will see you on 1st May for the next episode of Experts! Speak English!
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Face to Face events like this are a great opportunity to come and meet us in person to improve your communication and leadership skills on your own terms – no bosses, colleagues or judgement, just down to earth life long learners helping each other to become more confident speakers in a wide range of contexts. https://www.toastmasters.org/