The foundation of effective communication is first in understanding ourselves and, second, in knowing and empathizing with the person or people we engage. That’s emotional intelligence (EI) in action. Without both elements in play, my charismatic message falls on deaf ears.
The five characteristics of EI—self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, social skills, and empathy—directly correlate to the two facets of “me.” Self-awareness, regulation, and motivation reflect my relationship with my inner self, and social skills and empathy indicate how we engage with others.
If we have not fully embraced both self and social elements, We have rendered our communications futile. In essence, we are speaking to an audience of one: ourselves.
How low EI can impact communication:
We fail to address emotions:
Let’s say we are crafting content centered on our company’s potential relocation to a building across town, a wide-ranging decision that greatly impacts our employees.
We can talk to the team about the decision-making process, the benefits of moving, and the timeline. Those are the essential aspects we need to communicate to the group. Yet, our delivery might come across as authoritative and cold if we don’t address the team with empathy and above-par social skills. Why? Because we didn’t address the emotional aspects of the move.
We take the reaction of others personally:
Our level of emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in how we receive information from others. When delivering a message that has the potential to spark adverse reactions, we must remain calm, regulate our emotions and responses, and know that angry responses are aimed at the issue, not us personally. It’s also common for others to project their insecurities. For example, they may say, “you’re worthless,” because they struggle with self-wroth. If we allow fear and defense mechanisms to take hold, we will react to our emotions and lose credibility.
We focus more on pinning blame than on solving the problem:
When we lack EI, we tend to blame other people or circumstances to shift the focus off ourselves. It’s a coping mechanism that distances us from accountability and puts us in a victim mentality. At this point, our communication becomes defensive and ineffective. When we put all our energy toward pinning blame, we become distracted from solving the initial problem.
Adopting a victim mentality diminishes our ability to communicate effectively because we are essentially saying, "I don't have control over the situation." This mindset can lead us to miss out on important information and misinterpret the input of others. However, we can listen attentively and seek solutions when we focus on accountability and acceptance rather than blame.
We focus primarily on what we want to communicate:
If we are primarily focused on ourselves, we can become blind to the reactions of others. We will miss the body language and social cues that would otherwise allow us to use empathy to address their concerns or emotional reaction.
Being over-focused on what we want to say can also cause us to be too forceful in our communication style when delivering our message, causing us to talk over and interrupt others. We end up dismissing or not hearing the vital input we need for effective communication and decision-making.
We lack awareness of our tone and body language:
Tone and body language account for 93% of how people interpret a message.
When we develop awareness around our body and tone, we become more attuned to our posture, stance, and position to the person we are speaking to. But when we lack awareness, we can signal to others that we are disconnected if we are turned slightly away from the person we are speaking with. Slouched may signal that we lack confidence and may be viewed as defensive if we have our arms crossed and chin up.
Equally, our tone communicates the feeling behind the words. If we are not careful, we may disclose judgment, condemnation, or disbelief, even if our words say otherwise.
In all, achieving the highest caliber of emotional intelligence in the communications sphere is crucial in today’s fast-paced world. When fully realized, communicators can craft effective, neutral, and authentic messaging where arenas of open dialogue are embraced.