There’s no “should” or “should not” when it comes to having feelings. They’re part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.

~ Mister Rogers

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you knew they were lying, but couldn’t tell why you knew that?

There was a TV show I loved named Lie to Me that focused on the micro-expressions of people – those facial movements and involuntary body language – to determine what they were really thinking and feeling, to reveal the truth instead of the lie.

We do this every day. We judge what people are saying based on their body language, their tone, and their words. We judge people so fast in our subconscious, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We just “know” that we agree or disagree with their words on a deeper, many times unexplainable, level.

Emotional Expression

Emotional Expression is authentically expressing your emotions both verbally and non-verbally. People who effectively express their emotions are seen as open and honest because their words, body language, and tone are all congruent. People believe you when your face, your words, and the way you say something “seem” to be in alignment.

Let’s look at a couple of stories to explain.

First, remember (for those of you who are old enough!) President Richard Nixon when he uttered those famous words “I am not a crook” at a press conference in 1973 (a little thing called the Watergate scandal)? Patti Wood, a body language expert, said upon reviewing this tape that “He says ‘I am not a crook’ and immediately goes into retreat. His body backs away. Really clear tell. When somebody makes a statement, a definitive statement, and immediately retreats, we know they don’t think they’ve told the truth. They’re escaping that lie. He goes immediately from that to suddenly crossing his arms to protect himself.”

Second story. In 1982 James Burke, then chairman of Johnson & Johnson, went on TV to condemn the poison someone slipped into several bottles of Tylenol, resulting in seven deaths in Chicago. He explained they were recalling all Tylenol bottles across the nation. His remorse, the tears in his eyes, and obvious sadness and pain, all showed the authenticity of his emotions. “Marketers predicted that the Tylenol brand, which accounted for 17% of the company’s net income in 1981, would never recover from the sabotage. But only two months later, Tylenol was headed back to the market, this time in tamper-proof packaging and bolstered by an extensive media campaign. A year later, its share of the $1.2 billion analgesic market, which had plunged to 7% from 37% following the poisoning, had climbed back to 30%.” Why? Because people believed Burke. And Johnson & Johnson took steps to ensure safety – they walked their talk.

Your Communication

How are you showing up in your communication with others – both verbally and non-verbally? Are you congruent in your words, tone, and body language? Do your people believe you?

Think about those companies who say “today we are unveiling our values of integrity, honesty, and our people first.” They put the values up on the walls, on the elevators, and little laminated business cards for you to put in your wallet. But, it sounds like something a PR firm came up with, not what you think your leaders really believe. And then three months later there is a huge layoff. There must be congruency between your words, tone, and body language before your people will believe you.

Going Deeper into Emotional Expression

So, what can you do? Here are 6 questions for you to reflect on to increase your usage of this emotional intelligence skill of emotional expression.

  • Which emotions are easier for me to express? (you can look at charts such as this to go beyond the basic mad, sad, glad emotions)
  • Why do I think it is easier for me to express those emotions than others?
  • What other emotions would I like to express more easily?
  • Our emotions come out in physical ways as well. Where do my emotions show up in my body?
  • What do I typically do with my emotions? Do I stuff them, explode with them, reflect on them, or … what else do I do with them?
  • What can I do today to make a constructive choice about how to express my feelings?

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.   ~ Brian Tracy

This week notice how in alignment you feel with your words, tone of voice, and body language when you’re having specific conversations. You’ll probably recognize it more easily by seeing how it is affecting the people around you. By being authentic and congruent in your verbal and non-verbal emotional expression, you are building trust and loyalty. These are vital for your being able to inspire and influence your team.

This week, begin to notice how your expression of your emotions is reflected back to you from the faces and reactions of the people with who you are talking. Are you having the impact you intended, or is the reaction very different than you expected? If different, what might that say about your congruency?

As we continue our exploration of the 15 emotional intelligence skills, the next 2 blogs will also be skills under the Self-Expression umbrella – Assertiveness and Independence. And the first three blogs in the series can be found here – Self-Regard, Self-Actualization, and Self-Awareness.

If you are interested in a journal/adult coloring book to help you implement emotional intelligence skills into your life and leadership, get my book: Coloring Outside the Lines: A Grown-Up’s Creative Guide to Increasing Emotional Intelligence (on Amazon). For information on leadership, Emotional Intelligence & Negotiations,  or any of our programs, call us at 682.200.1412 or go to

For the next skill in the Emotional Intelligence series – Self-Awareness, click here