Emotional Intelligence: Emotional Expression

If life were a card game, instinctively, many of us would keep those cards very close to our vests. After all, the less people know about the “cards” we have been dealt the better, right? Conversely, there are others who like to show everybody every card they are dealt the minute they receive them and get some sort of a random opinion on how they should play their hand.

To stick with the card game analogy for a minute: Good card players typically invest significant effort in reading the expressions of their opponents so they can translate those observations into calculated probabilities. Further, since they are aware their opponents are probably pursuing the same strategy, good card players are also frequently adept at “bluffing” (i.e., nonverbally masking how they truly feel to gain a potential advantage).

But, despite its potential and periodic resemblance, life is not a card game. It most certainly is not a card game when you focus on the art and science of leadership. We have studied leadership the last 50 years like little else. We have come to know who good leaders are and what those leaders do to influence others successfully and effectively.

In a word, those leaders are genuine. You know where they are “coming from.” You do not have to invest a whole lot of time trying to figure out the cards they have been dealt or how they intend to play them. When they are concerned, you know it! When they are proud, you know it! When they are offended or angry, you know it! And they do not just randomly share all that with anybody that happens to be in the vicinity. They reserve that communication for you and the set of circumstances they are attempting to impact.

Good leaders develop the ability to accurately convey or express those emotions on a case-by-case basis and in a manner that is not harmful, hurtful, offensive or intimidating. It’s sort of like the opposite of bluffing. It’s also the kind of thing that sounds pretty straightforward and easy—and is anything but! Read almost anything ever written by Brené Brown. At its core, it will speak to the concept of “rumbling” and how profoundly difficult it can be for most of us to “quit playing cards” and “start living life.”