Feelings can be key in closing that deal. But that’s just the start, says Dr Lynda Shaw

Understanding emotional expression, using emotional intelligence and having an appropriate emotional response could mean the difference between closing or losing a sale, and creating or diffusing conflict.
Whilst Charles Darwin theorized that emotions were biologically determined and universal to human culture, the more popularized belief during the 1950s was that facial expressions and their meanings were culturally determined through behavioural learning processes.

American psychologist and pioneer in the study of emotions Paul Ekman created an “atlas of emotions” and found we are capable of making over 10,000 facial expressions, with 3,000 relevant to emotion. Ekman initially found the most important universal expressions to be anger, disgust, fear, happiness and surprise. In the 1990s, Ekman proposed an expanded list including amusement, contempt, contentment, embarrassment, excitement, guilt, pride in achievement, relief, satisfaction, sensory pleasure and shame.

Reading Facial Expressions

Facial expressions can be key to building business relationships and reading a work situation effectively but there is a caveat: just because you recognise an emotion on someone’s face doesn’t mean you know what the person is thinking. After all, they could have had a sudden thought about their partner or child with the corresponding fleeting expression, so a sudden look of sadness or surprise may have nothing to do with the conversation you are both having.

That said, reading expressions on people’s faces is a highly useful tool in understanding what to say and often, more importantly, what not to say. For instance, if someone is about to close a sale and there is a tiny expression of fear on the customer’s face, this could mean that they are unsure and not quite convinced this is right for them. If the salesperson doesn’t read this, they will probably continue to close the sale and chase the customer away. If however, the expression was noticed the salesperson could then ask more questions and alleviate any fears they may have.

Emotional Intelligence

In tandem with emotional expression, emotional intelligence requires business leaders to focus on the person in front of them and to communicate effectively with them whether it be with an employee, client or colleague. Let’s look at employer/ employee relationships. Leaders must recognise why individuals are working for them and what most motivates them, be it training, flexibility, professional or personal development, money, core values, space for creativity etc. Used effectively, the motivation and reward systems of the brain will galvanise the workforce into action with enthusiasm. We must use our emotional intelligence to really understand what our employees are driven by. It is not always about money.

Being emotionally intelligent means you can ascertain what your employees or clients want to feel – whether it be confident, nurtured, trusted, efficient, pampered, strong, patriotic, happy etc – and then we can change our business script accordingly. Emotional intelligence also enables us to work out how we want to be perceived as well. For successful leadership or a successful branding, marketing or sales campaign you need to stay in the driving seat. Having good emotional intelligence enables this.

Millennium men (18-33 year olds) have better emotional intelligence than any other male generation, but a poor leader can squash this. If an emotionally unintelligent leader tries to squash our emotional intelligence then we may feel uncomfortable or threatened which affects our happiness and creativity.

Our emotional response in business is not only the correct reading of the response of an employee or client but reacting in the correct way for an effective outcome. Use and understand emotion to get what you want in business. As a generalisation it is no surprise that women understand this naturally because anatomically there are minute differences in the male and female brain that correlate with emotional differences. For instance stereotypically, the emotion centre of the brain, the limbic system, is larger in women. We have to be careful of this however, because quite clearly men can improve emotional intelligence very well.

Tips on How to Succeed at Work Psychologically

  • Trust is the cornerstone of a good working relationship. Never do anything to break that trust. Because once it’s gone, it can rarely be found again.
  • Get a mentor and be a mentor. People who are either older or more experienced than you often have a lot of valuable advice. Similarly try and mentor someone in your team to see if you can help them with any work issues. What goes around, comes around.
  • If you work better at a certain time of day then tackle problems or hard assignments at that time of day. Alternatively, try to focus on harder projects in the morning so it’s not playing on your mind or being put off all day.
Dr Lynda Shaw is a change specialist, regular professional speaker, chartered psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist and author. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and Fellow and ... (Read More)

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