Communicating with Emotional Intelligence

I normally never use this Blog or write any articles with reference to any issue or matter in the current local news. However I will draw exception to this, with regards the recent controversy that has hit St. Albert the Great College. Let me be clear, this article will in no way express any opinion as to who is in the right and who is the wrong between the ex-Headmaster and the Rector. This article will instead delve into the perils that can easily develop when we do not communicate with Emotional Intelligence, which seems to be an overlooked matter in this whole controversy.

I have written extensively on Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence in previous articles. Emotional Intelligence allows us to learn more about our emotions and how to effectively recognise what one is feeling. This is important because your emotions are directly linked to how you communicate. By improving your Emotional Intelligence, it allows you to manage your emotions better. This will help you to communicate effectively. This is especially important in the workplace, as effective communication is the key to presenting yourself, your knowledge and your expertise to your colleagues, and it is the key to being able to apply yourself well in the workplace. Good communication skills are also the key to creating beneficial working relationships with your colleagues.

Emotional Intelligence also allows you to perceive and understand the emotions of your colleagues better. This allows you to communicate with them and to respond to them appropriately. A lot of communication signals are nonverbal, and if someone lacks Emotional Intelligence, then they struggle more than others in communicating effectively. By having heightened Emotional Intelligence, you can read the emotions of your colleagues better, and this will allow you to adjust how you communicate with them, so that you can communicate with them appropriately to suit their emotions.

Emotional Intelligence Improves Self-Control
Emotional Intelligence can improve your communication by allowing you to stay calm under pressure and ensuring that you stay in control of your emotions and how they effect your communication. By staying calm under pressure, you can communicate to your colleagues in a calm, professional and clear manner. Emotional Intelligence improves your self-control, and this allows you to stay calm and to react to situations in a calm and reflective manner. Instead of letting nerves negatively affect your communication, and instead of mumbling and talking very fast, you can stay relaxed and communicate clearly and effectively. This is helpful when under pressure at work. Even if you are stressed or under pressure, you will be able to handle these situations better, and you will be able to communicate effectively with your colleagues to create solutions. In doing so, you will build stronger working relationships with your colleagues through more effective communication.By improving your self-control, you will also prevent conflict. When your colleagues are under pressure, they may not be as Emotionally Intelligent as yourself, and this may become apparent in how they choose to communicate. They may lack the same level of self-control, and they may appear to be frustrated and tense in their communications to you. It is in these situations where having good self-control will be useful. If a colleague is frustrated when they are talking to you, your first response is probably to become frustrated as well when you reply to them, and you may be inclined to say something that could spark a conflict. This is where it is important to have good self-control in order to minimise conflict. By assessing their emotions, controlling your own, and by responding in a calm, clear and professional manner, you will continue to build strong working relationships in times of pressure.

Emotional Intelligence Helps you to Communicate with Empathy

Research clearly shows that the emotional intelligence skill of Empathy is a critical leadership skill. During challenging times, the most effective leadership communications are ones that deliver attention, acknowledge distress, demonstrate care, and — not necessarily at first, but eventually — take appropriate action to mitigate the situation or at least provide comfort. So using empathy in your communication can be used effectively as follows:

  • Listening: As a communication tool, listening is as essential as speaking, especially when it comes to empathy. Sometimes just exhibiting an attentive presence can signal deep understanding and empathy. Listening indicates that “I want to hear about the situation.”
  • Acknowledgment: Even if leaders are not in the mode of solving a challenge directly, they express empathy when they simply acknowledge the challenge and its impact. Expressions of acknowledgment indicate “I am now aware of the situation.”
  • Care: Leaders express empathy when they go beyond mere acknowledgment to express authentic feelings of care about how a challenge affects the people around them. A leader certainly wants their teams to pay attention and care when they communicate — that expectation goes both ways. Expressions of care indicate that “I am moved by the situation.”
  • Action: Action is typically not considered part of a classic empathic response, but leaders can convey empathy in their proposals for a solution. Going beyond acknowledgment and care, expressions of action indicate that “I want to address the situation.”

Empathy doesn’t come easily to all leaders, but that shouldn’t stop such leaders from learning how to communicate with empathy. To this effect below are some specific dos and don’ts to elevate your empathy in the way you communicate.

  • Do focus on how a crisis or challenge might be affecting people, more than anything else
  • Do acknowledge actual feelings of sadness, frustration, and anxiety.
  • Do use phrases like “Rest assured” and “We will get through this” to encourage resilience and demonstrate your commitment to responsible corporate stewardship.
  • Do be forthcoming, transparent, and truthful about bad news, making clear the difference between what is known and unknown.
  • Do show ample appreciation for your team, including details that describe their admirable and impactful qualities.
  • Don’t focus on how a crisis might be affecting your organisation’s finances. Focus on people.
  • Don’t presume to know your team’s reactions to a challenge or jump in too quickly to “solve the problem.”
  • Don’t fake it by using scripts. Your remarks should sound completely authentic, and the act of reading — regardless of the words — makes a message sound more staged.
  • Don’t be the predominant speaker during communication exchanges.
  • Don’t try to put a happy spin on crises or oversell “silver linings” to tragic events. They will ring false and damage credibility and trust.
  • Don’t talk at length about difficult decisions you had to make. Referencing yourself this way may feel soothing to you, but it transforms a moment of empathy for the staff into sympathy for the leader. Your job is to support your team, not to have your team support you.

I feel that it is very likely that had the communication at St. Albert the Great College been based on Emotional Intelligence through the use of Self-Control and Empathy by everyone involved, things would have never got out of hand as they did. This goes to show that while we take communication for granted, communicating effectively when leading any organisation is a difficult thing to do and requires being skilled and trained to be able to do it properly…unless you want to have chaos in your organisation with a fallout that occupies the media headlines for weeks.

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