We’ve learned that effective communication should come from the heart, and I wholeheartedly believe that (no pun intended). When trying to motivate, inspire or even just relay a simple message, speaking with compassion is usually the best way to go. I still remember how profound it was when I heard a conference speaker say that our EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) is just as important as our IQ (Intelligence Quotient), and some thought leaders say it’s even more important. It wasn’t a new idea, but it was new to me, and a refreshing reminder that I wasn’t alone in my quest to bring compassionate leadership into the workplace. But I’ll admit, it took some more digging to understand that it’s more than just being a “heart talker”. After years of applying this with my clients (and even at home), I have found that there are times when communicating from the heart is mission critical, and times when it should be avoided.
Here are 5 examples of when to Communicate from the Heart:
- There is already emotional noise on the line. If the person you are communicating with is noticeably emotional, consider matching (not countering) their emotion. Once the feelings in the room have subsided, you can proceed with the topic. While you may not be able to (or want to) validate their feelings, responding with empathy will allow them to collect themselves without being forced into premature acceptance. Statements like “I understand where you’re coming from” go a long way in working together.
- What you need to convey may be difficult to hear. Mary Poppins said it best (or should I say sang it best) “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. Speaking with warmth and compassion can help a team member receive some feedback that might not otherwise be heard. And the harder the message, the softer you want the heart that is delivering it. Yelling “You’re Fired” is good for TV ratings, but not so good for morale. Letting someone down easy is as much an art as it is a skill, and it takes practice. Delivery the news to yourself to prepare for the emotions the news may elicit.
- The problem is not clearly defined. Have you ever noticed that when people are trying to figure out WHAT caused a problem, they often skip to WHO caused the problem? This type of fact-finding-mission can get ugly quickly if those involved start off pointing fingers. If the analysis turns into a “witch hunt”, take a step back and interject some compassion and objectivity. Putting down the torch will not only calm the waters, it will help you and your team find a solution faster as cooler heads prevail.
- Relationship AND results matter. It is an unfortunate reality that sometimes to get results, you may have to drive, scold, or correct people on your team. But this does not have to come at the cost of the relationship. When communicating that someone has done something you are in disagreement with, speaking from your heart can help preserve the relationship; using it is a teachable moment for everyone’s sake. Remind the person of things they have done well to reinforce the message that they matter, but don’t water down the problem so you can find an amicable solution.
- Having casual conversation to set the tone. You don’t need to wait until you are engaged in “Crucial Conversations” to speak from your heart. In order to connect to those around you, find opportunities to have casual conversations that reveal and announce your humanity. Otherwise, speaking with compassion will be an indicator that something is wrong and will backfire on you. Being authentic doesn’t mean you have to bare your soul, but you should share your heart with those around you.
if your heart is full of frustration, anger, or pain, you’ll want to revert to a matter-of-fact approach. Clouding a discussion with negative emotions is even more harmful than not interjecting positive ones into a neutral conversation. Be prepared to delay a conversation so your emotions won’t hijack it.
And in every case, check your heart BEFORE you speak from it. It is the spring from which all words flow! And as with all sound leadership advice, use this at home, too!