How Affective Is Your Communication?

"When we are no longer able to change a situation,we are challenged to change ourselves.”

                                                        ~ Victor Frankl

WE ARE ALL FAMILIAR with the Charlie Brown cartoons where, when the adults speak, the only sound the children hear is “wah wah wah wah wah.” I always thought that was clever, until I experienced this first hand when I was scolding my 4 year old daughter. I was reprimanding her and explaining to her why her behavior was unacceptable. Somewhere in my diatribe, I noticed that she had a glazed look in her eye, so I stopped. There was a moment of silence as we stared at one anther and then she said, “Momma, when you talk to me like that, all I hear is wah wah wah wah wah.”

What a shock! I thought I was doing a really good job of talking to my daughter in hopes that she would understand why she should not repeat such and such behavior. I wondered when she quit hearing me so that I could back up and start from where I lost her. The longer I thought of where to begin again, I realized that maybe she never heard a word I said. I even wondered where she had heard wah wah wah wah wah, is this universal?

What I am describing is one aspect of emotional intelligence (EI). It is the interpersonal relationships component of how we communicate to others and interpret their non-verbal cues. Being high in this area enhances communication and interpersonal connection; and it creates quality relationships. I like to refer to this aspect as social intelligence. This is the area where we are able to read people, understand their expressions, noticing if their eyes are glazing over like my daughters did that day so long ago.

Missing the non-verbal cues happens all too often in the work place. Have you ever found your-self wondering why something did not get done the way you expected, even after explaining it thoroughly?

How many times have you finished talking with someone or with your team and left the conversation feeling satisfied that “they understand, now they get it,” only to discover later that they missed the point, the criteria you laid out, or what was really important? As George Bernard Shaw wrote:
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Instead of getting frustrated, you have an opportunity to reconsider an aspect of your communication that can be difficult – the aspect of reading other people, their emotions, whether they are tracking your conversation or not. Questions to ponder are:

~ How do you know if you are communicating affectively?

~ How and what are you communicating?

~ What are some signals that let you know the person or team is with you?

~ What action can you take to find out if everyone is on board with
where you are in your presentation and registering the key points?

~ From past experience, who in team seems to lag in performance? Is it a performance issue or something else? Are they losing track somewhere along the conversation?

Exploring questions like these can open you up to become curious about your interpersonal communication style and the cues you might be missing.
Making things better can often be as simple as being aware of your body language, your words, your emotions behind the words, and by being aware of the other persons’ body language and the nuances of their non-verbal cues. What is required is authentic listening.

If this is an area that needs development, the first step is to gain insight into what you might not be picking up on during the conversation. The next step is to ask yourself, how motivated are you in delving into and strengthening your interpersonal skills? It often requires a seasoned professional to help point out the areas that need strengthening and exploring how to make the shift. Taking the EQi 2.0 is a valuable assessment to learn about your interpersonal skills. The result of looking into this aspect of emotional intelligence can be improved communication that improves the quality of relationships and that can have an impact on success.

If you are interested in taking the EQi - 2.0 assessment, please email me at: 

Note: The author intended the work "Affective" and not "Effective" in this article.