If we hug someone and smile at them, we don’t need to tell them that we are glad to see them. Conversely, even if we reject someone because of time reasons, but warmly and cordially, our communication will likely be perceived as genuine lack of time not as an attempt to get rid of them.Imagine that you are on to a visit of a good friend, whom you have not seen for a long time. You are looking forward to the visit, you expect your friend to be happy, because he often calls and talks about how wonderful you are and that he misses you. When you get to his place, you do not have a chance to talk in private. So you watch his expression. But you cannot read surprise or joy, his expression is bland. What do you think of first? Probably something like “a bad timing?” “Does he have any problems?” “Maybe we have not seen each other for so long that we felt apart”. Not until you talk with him, you will find what’s really going on. Another example is your colleague, let’s say Karl. His expression is predominantly rigid, sometimes he laughs at his own jokes, never communicates using personal contact or excessive gestures. Karel comes to work in a sleeveless shirt one day, which you consider to be the relic of years gone by, so you exaggerate commenting on him and say: “Hmmm, this shirt is really sexy “. The only thing that you will achieve, however, is that the fellow acquires other similar t-shirts and will wear them more often.Emotional intelligenceExpressing feelings and reading the body language of others, is something that we learn since our childhood. It is all about imitating our parents or other role models. As children in an insecure situation, we turn to them and by facial expressions and other non-verbal gestures try to identify whether the situation is safe, threatening, unpleasant, whether the parents are happy or ashamed. Many of us, however, are growing up in an emotionally impoverished environment, and therefore we are often unable to learn to express emotions or to recognize them. Great influence has also whether in the family we talk about emotions and therefore we are able to verbalize it. If we grow up in an environment where one or both parents cannot express emotions, we will later have problems express them in others or “read” them. In this context, I was surprised to read that if a person suppresses expression of certain emotions, this can reduce also the actual feeling of them. Most of us have probably heard about the James- Lange theory, which is supported by many studies. It says that not only emotions affect our facial expressions, but also our expression can influence how we feel. When you start to smile, your mood should improve. This is called the facial feedback. Similarly, but in the long term, if we suppress some emotion outwardly, we can actually feel it less. Anja von Kanitz writes in her book “How to develop your emotional intelligence”, that people who outwardly put on impassive face of a lackluster expression can feel their emotions less intensely and may even “unlearn” feeling some emotions completely. Then someone can grow nerds that others consider typical IT guys or antisocial intellectuals like Sheldon Cooper.Why to be readableAt this point, I will not discuss how to learn to express our emotions. I would like to focus on why its suppression leads to some problems in communication with others.
- If we have a lackluster face expression, others will have a problem understanding if we appreciate their company, whether or not we want to talk about a topic or if we do certain things out of politeness or pleasure.
- If we communicate with others and our non-verbal responses do not support our words, our speech will never have the same impact. Most people first perceive attitude and body language, expression or tone of voice, words are the last detail. It is the same with ambivalent bond, when words say one thing and nonverbal signals the other.
- People will not feel comfortable in our presence. They will not be sure if we are bored or have a bad day, even when we are in fact happy. Maybe they will have a problem to understand how we mean some things.
- If we hug someone and smile at him, we don’t need to tell him that we are glad to see him. Conversely, even if we reject someone because of time reasons, but being warm and cordial, our communication will likely be perceived as genuine lack of time and not as an attempt to get rid of him.
- Even if we have a bad day, there is no need to deal with it with poker face. Weeping for each abandoned kitten might be too much, but rigid expression is likely to be understood as an emotional coldness and indifference.
- In certain moments, it is of course necessary to distance ourselves from our emotions and act rationally. For example, disliking our supervisor and showing it to him, is probably not entirely reasonable. It is very important that we should be able to do it consciously, not because we cannot or we are afraid to express our feelings.