I can hear you saying “Why on earth would I want to do that?”
Before answering this question, let me quickly do a bit of important framing…
Most leaders are quite nervous about “airing their emotions”. About 75% of the leaders I’ve coached have indicated that they’re apprehensive about disclosing how they feel.
So, if you’re in the apprehensive-about-disclosing-your-feelings-bucket, you’re certainly not alone—however that doesn’t mean that not disclosing your relevant feelings is good for you, for your relationships or for your career.
It only means that you’re in the majority, that is, the majority who haven’t yet discovered that there are so, so many benefits to putting your relevant feeling on the table when:
1. The other person is someone you want to influence
2. It’s more than a small, incidental emotion, and
3. The feeling is relevant to the situation being confronted.
By the way, these important-to-disclose feelings could be “positive” emotions or “negative” emotions and, of course. it’s the negative ones that leaders tend to feel most apprehensive about putting on the table. Let’s look at an example…
Think About One Of Your Recent, More-Difficult Interactions With A Team Member, Peer Or Boss…
Think of an example in which you were somewhat frustrated, annoyed, concerned, anxious or similar. Got one in mind? Now let me ask you some critical questions about that interaction:
- Was it important that the person with whom you were interacting properly understood your perspective and your position?
- Was it essential that the trust they had for you wasn’t diminished because of the interaction?
- Did you have the intention of influencing them, either to take some action or to shift their thinking about something?
Even if, in your example, you answered yes to only one of these three questions, there are real costs to not talking about your emotions and huge benefits when you’ve habituated this critical leadership behaviour…
Are There Enough Benefits For You To Bite-The-Bullet And Disclose Your Relevant Feelings?
When you appropriately disclose your important, relevant feelings, time and time again, you’ll notice that:
- You’ll have increased trust in your relationships—because the other person won’t have to try and guess where-you’re-at.
- More issues will get resolved before they’ve escalated. And feelings usually escalate when we attempt to ignore them.
- Your mental and physical health will improve. Your stress levels will reduce. You’ll be freer to deal with what needs to be dealt with. You’ll be happier.
- Your messages will be more clearly understood. You’ll prevent misunderstandings when you’re clearly expressing all of the message—that is, your thoughts and your feelings.
- The other person will be better positioned to respond appropriately when they receive a fuller message from you.
- You’ll be far more influential with others when they receive a more complete communication from you—and when they experience the above benefits.
- You’ll be a more inspirational leader—one with more impact. People are not just task-focused machines. Everyone has emotions, not just you and me . And expressing these feelings is part of being an authentic human being—one that is understood and trusted by others.
- You’ll experience fewer cold or aggressive situations that so often result from unexpressed negative feelings.
- Your emotions won’t leak out. We don’t actually conceal our emotions for very long. Have you heard the saying “Sooner or later you act out what you really think”?
- Your interpersonal effectiveness will increase as your relevant feelings are expressed and discussed.
- Your relationships will be closer and more fulfilling. Unexpressed feelings get in the way of closeness and intimacy.
Your Leadership Call to Action
How do you habituate being an authentic leader who easily discloses your relevant feelings?
My recommendation is that you firstly notice how you feel…
- Develop the habit of noticing what’s going on emotionally for you. Regularly ask yourself how you feel.
- Get some clues from your body. Take notice of what your body is telling you about how you feel (e.g. knot in stomach, stressed shoulders, headache).
- When an unsettling, less positive feeling arises, ask yourself what triggered it. Learn to be really aware of what triggers what.
Once you’ve developed your awareness of your emotional state, it’s time to appropriately express how your feel:
- Keep your finger pointing inwards, attitudinally as well as physically. No blaming the other person, even in your head.
- Express your feelings directly. Say “I’m feeling…” or “I’m …”.
- Attempt to understand how the other person is feeling too. Ask them—then listen and care about what they tell you.
- If the feeling you expressed was a negative emotion, go on to discuss what a mutually satisfying solution might look like.
I know that you’ll enjoy the benefits of being more disclosing. I promise, it’ll be worth it!
Please continue to give me a yell when you’d like support with this or another leadership practice or behaviour.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Carolyn Stevens has worked with leaders for more than 25-years—hundreds of them.
She’s supported leader after leader (including those who previously struggled to confront the difficult, let alone persuasively deal with the it) flourish—and become confident, courageous and impressively influential.
Carolyn is authentic and results-oriented. She draws on an eclectic array of approaches, tools and techniques to suit the situation.