Managing our emotional expressions is critical to effective communication. Emotions researcher Tatiana Astray helps us optimize our relationships and negotiation outcomes by taking responsibility for our emotional expressions. Learn about the difference between feelings and emotions, why we should express enthusiasm, how to manage negative emotions, and all about the positivity ratio.
• References & Links
• Dr. Andrea’s Introduction
• Interview Transcript
• Dr. Andrea’s Conclusion
EMOTIONS ARE PHYSIOLOGICAL REACTIONS. That’s why we talk about “emotional expressions.”
- Emotions are different from feelings or moods. The correlation between feelings, or what you think you’re expressing and what you’re actually expressing, is not significant. It’s the emotional expressions, not the feelings that matter. As Tatiana said, “Your intentions mean diddly squat in your interactions with people. It’s what you’re actually expressing that matters.”
- Emotions evoke action. Think of emotional expressions as a body dance that helps people coordinate behavior and maintain relationships.
EMOTIONS CAN BE INTRAPERSONAL (internal) or INTERPERSONAL (social, as in E.Q. or Emotional Intelligence).
- The 3 social functions of emotional expressions at the interpersonal level are:
1. to know intentions.
2. to evoke complimentary behaviors and
3. to reinforce behaviors
WE ALL FEEL THE SAME EMOTIONS, across gender and across culture.
- Our culture and upbringing may teach us to suppress the expression of certain emotions. That explains why some say, “women are allowed to express sadness, but not anger. And men are allowed to express anger, but not sadness.”
- The core emotions include fear, disgust, contempt, surprise, sadness, and anger. Things like guilt and compassion are considered secondary emotions.
POSITIVE EMOTIONAL EMOTIONS such as Enthusiasm, Interest and Validation can lead to more positive relationship and negotiation outcomes.
- Enthusiasm is relatively easy to express. Try starting every interaction with an expression of enthusiasm (“I am so excited to be here and to work with you!”)
- Interest – as in demonstrating interest not just with your words but also with your body language. Leaning in. Making eye contact. Focusing on what the other person is saying.
- Validation – as in “I understand what you’re saying.”
NEGATIVE EMOTIONAL EXPRESSIONS such as threats, defensiveness and fear impede relationships and negotiation outcomes.
- But suppressing emotions is unhealthy. Instead, take a break.
- Negative emotional expressions also include whining and complaining. Not surprisingly, Tatianna said that whining is particularly detrimental in negotiations.
TIPS FOR EFFECTIVELY MANAGING EMOTIONS:
- Take a break if you’re feeling negative emotions that can negatively impact a relationship or a negotiation. Take a time out!
- Try other relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing– like box breathing or deep belly breathing (see breathing techniques in episode 43 with Dr. Nadine Kelly).
- Consider the Positivity Ratio. Add some more personal emotional expressions, especially at the beginning of your interaction. Keep it at least 3:1 positive to negative.
- In romantic relationships, the “Magic Relationship Ratio” based on Gottman’s research is 5:1.
- The praise to criticism ratio is higher for higher performing teams. So don’t hesitate to compliment your colleague!
- For negotiations, Tatiana’s research shows that a ratio of about 3 positive emotional expressions to 1 negative resulted in the best negation outcomes.
THE META-ADVICE FROM THIS EPISODE: WE NEED TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR EMOTIONS.
- Two great quotes from Tatiana:
- “A lot of the times you might sit there and say, oh, that person’s kind of making me feel bad. I promise you, it’s not them. It’s you.”
- ”Just because you learn how to read body language doesn’t mean you’re a mind reader.”
- If someone says something and you take it more personally than you should, there’s a chance that you have some unresolved trauma that you need to address.
- We have a responsibility to educate ourselves with the tools and scripts to articulate our needs. “…with all those tools, all your relationships are going to improve. Once you learn to express yourself differently, people are just automatically going to respond to you differently. That’s a worthy endeavor.”
That’s why we TALK ABOUT TALK!
REFERENCES & LINKS
- LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/tatiana-astray-ba357827/
- Paper on emotions in negotiations – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334649193_Introducing_the_Positivity_Ratio_The_Role_of_Collective_Emotional_Expressions_in_Negotiator’s_Willingness_to_Negotiate_AgainRG
- Recommendations –
Books & Resources
- “Emotions Revealed: Recognizing faces and feelings to improve communication and emotional life” Paul Ekman – https://amzn.to/3fhtchV
- “What Makes Love Last?: How to build trust and avoid betrayal” Gottman, J., & Silver, N. – https://amzn.to/3b44ZZ8
- “Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than I.Q.” Daniel Goleman – https://amzn.to/2SzrG0Z
- Berkeley Emotional Intelligence quiz – https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/quizzes/ei_quiz
- “Atlas of Emotions” interactive tool – http://atlasofemotions.org/
- Posture & Breathing podcast episode – https://talkabouttalk.com/43-posture-breathing-with-dr-nadine-kelly-yogimd/
Talk About Talk & Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
- Email – Andrea@TalkAboutTalk.com
- Free Communication Coaching via the weekly Email Blog – https://talkabouttalk.com/blog/#newsletter-signup
- Website – https://talkabouttalk.com
- Podcasts – https://talkabouttalk.com/podcasts/
- Shownotes & Transcripts – https://talkabouttalk.com/podcasts/#shownotes
- Facebook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/2512948625658629/
Dr. ANDREA’S INTRODUCTION
Well, hello there. I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki. Please call me Andrea. Thanks for listening. Talk About Talk is where you can learn to communicate more effectively, so you can advance your career and improve your relationships – with everyone around you
We’re releasing podcasts bi-weekly, every second week, and email blogs every week. If you go to TalkAboutTalk.com, you can see the full archive of all the communication skills topics that we’ve covered in the podcasts and the email blogs..
Today’s episode’s focused on EMOTIONS, as in positive emotions, negative emotions, their effects on us intrapersonally, and interpersonally, how emotions effect our relationships, and in different contexts, like at work, at home, in formal negotiations, & in everyday interactions. We’re going to up our Emotional Intelligence. We’re very fortunate to have Tatiana Astray with us for this episode, who conducts research and teaches all about emotions, and whom I’ll introduce to you in just a moment.
In this episode, you’re going to learn a lot, I promise, including what emotions are and how they differ from feelings, specific positive and negative emotions, and five specific tactics that can help you improve your communication effectiveness through emotional expression. Are you ready?
A few of you mentioned that you really appreciate the summaries I’ve been providing at the end. So here’s how this episode will unfold. I’m going to introduce Tatiana and then get right into the interview. After the interview, I’ll pull out the key learnings and summarize everything for you. So good news for you – you don’t have to take notes. Not at all. Just sit back and listen. As always, this summary’s easily available to you on the talkabouttalk.com website. Just go to the podcast tab and then click on the printable shownotes.
Tatiana Astray has a B.Sc. in psychology, an M.Sc. in marketing & consumer studies and she’s currently a Doctoral Candidate in Organization Studies at York U at the Schulich School of Business. She’s lectured at the University of Guelph, Ryerson, Ivy, and Schulich. Her current research focuses on generating insights and strategies that professionals can use to improve their working relationships and enhance their negotiation outcomes. So she focuses on things like Professional Relationships, Trust, Interpersonal Emotions, and Body Language.
As you’ll hear, Tatiana’s passionate about translating and applying this academic research for businesspeople. She creates negotiation workshops and she consults to firms. In her spare time, Tatiana sits on the board of Jumpstart Refugee Talent and volunteers with NGOs that specialize in the economic empowerment of underserved communities.
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki: Thank you so much, Tatiana, for joining us here today to talk about emotions.
Tatiana Astray: Well, it’s a pleasure to be here. I’m really excited.
AW: I thought the best place to start would be with definitions. Can you share with me and the listeners – What is the definition of an emotion?
TA: I actually love to start a class asking people to reflect on what they think emotions mean. Most of the time, people conflate feelings with emotions, but they’re actually very specific things. So emotions are a physiological reaction. It is an action tendency, and it has a subjective experience. It’s usually high intensity, short in duration. And it’s always directed towards an object or person or an event. Now, this is important because what this means is it’s prepping the body for something and there is no such thing as you’re just having emotions out of nowhere. They’re always related to something. So anytime you’re feeling something, but you don’t know what ,that’s usually a good sign to pause and figure out like, what is triggering them? That’s a sign for you.
AW: Yeah, the word that came to mind when you were describing that was trigger, right?
TA: Yes. triggered this emotion or you get triggered. Absolutely. That is an emotion. Versus some people have – oh, they’re just a feeling. They’re subjective experiences. But this definition is important because it shows us that it’s a body component, it’s trying to prepare your body for a specific action. So for example, anger is about boundaries. And so if you allow yourself to express anger, that’s you learning to put up a wall where you need to.
TA: If you suppress the anger in that moment, you basically violate your boundary and you allow people to continue doing the things that you don’t want. And I will say, two other important distinctions with emotions is that there’s intrapersonal effects (so how the way I feel impacts what I’m doing, the way I’m acting) and interpersonal effects, which is the way that my emotions are expressed, the way it impacts us specifically. And at that level, emotions become this like body dance where they help people to coordinate behavior, and they help to maintain and deepen relationships, and that that’s really my area of expertise.
AW: So would you say that the intrapersonal feeling is still part of the emotion just before it gets expressed?
TA: Absolutely. So if you think about it in stages, when you’re feeling an emotion that’s giving you a little bit of information of what’s happening inside of you, it’s telling you a piece of information about the person in front of you. And then the way you express it, you know, you can either express it in a way that kind of helps the relationship or hinders the relationship. And that’s really where like, when people say emotional intelligence, that’s really what they’re talking about your ability to effectively express what you’re feeling in a way that benefits the relationship in the situation.
TA: AW: I love that. I think you’re going to get quoted on that one. Because I’m a visual learner. I’m imagining, as you’re describing this and defining this, that there’s almost like a decision tree or at least a flowchart where there is, as you said, some sort of trigger. It could be a person or a thing or an event, whatever it is, right? And then an interpretation by the person, is there something like that, that you can share that has stages?
TA: First of all, our attention picks things up. So depending on how we’re feeling, what we’re focused on, it’s to pick up specific cues. Then you know, someone will say something. And if you’re in a good mood, you actually interpreted it in a slightly more positive way, then you give it a cognitive meaning. The meaning is, oh, you care about me, you’re having a good time… great. And then there’s your response, which might be the smile, right? Now, let’s say you’re in a bad mood, then I see your smile. I’m not sure what that means. My cognitive meaning might be like, Oh, she’s faking it. She’s not really being genuine. And then my response might be that suppression in that like suspicion. So it’s a multi-stage process. It’s super complex, because it’s related to what you’re feeling, what you’re expressing, which we never actually know. In my research, I have found that the correlation between what you think you’re expressing what you’re actually expressing, not significant, zero correlation.
AW: That’s scary.
TA: But the way I code you expressing back to me is really what’s going to define how I respond to you. When you break these things down. And when you understand what you should be expressing. It allows you to actually signal the things, that you need to make sure that you understand the other person and to give the actual body cues that deepen relationships and bring them together.
AW: And some of that could be implicit, probably more likely implicit, but it could also be explicit, right?
TA: Yeah, it’s a very complicated dance of both. It’s a very complicated dance of both, is what I’m going to say.
AW: Yeah, you were talking about how the part that is statistically valid is when you’re interpreting what the other person is…
TA: Absolutely, absolutely. So for example, in the data, but it’s basically the way I code your behavior is what predicts what I’m taking out of the situation and whether or not I’m enjoying it, whether or not I’m going to give you something in a negotiation. Do I want to continue working with you? So if you think about the implication of that, it’s people are responding to the way you’re acting (the way you are physically acting) not the way you think you’re acting,
AW: right. So certainly not what you’re thinking,
TA: Never what you’re thinking! It’s what you’re expressing. Absolutely. And so like when that light bulb goes off, then you realize like you have to become very aware of what you’re doing because your intentions mean diddly squat in your interactions with people. It’s what you’re actually expressing that matters.
AW: Can you tell us a little bit about your dissertation research and maybe some other research papers that you’re working on?
TA: Sure. So my entire research agenda, I would summarize in one sentence, which is: “ It pays to be pro social.”
AW: to be pro social?
TA: Yes. So I want to create the research that shows that being a nice, kind, cooperative, trustworthy person gets you more in your work interaction. So that the core of everything I want to do.
AW: is that based on a hypothesis, or based on research that you’ve done?
TA: So it’s actually based on a few things. I’ve read things, I’ve seen my basic ideas to combat this idea that we have to be selfish to win in the corporate ladder. I don’t think that’s very helpful, because selfish people end up being taken down by others. People don’t trust them. They don’t want to work with them. And so there’s this discrepancy between what we’re told works in society and what actually does. We’re social creatures. And so if you know how to play with others, you’re going to succeed in the workplace. My dissertation specifically looks at what is an effective, productive working relationship, and how that impacts negotiation behaviors and negotiation outcomes to really correlate that at the individual and interpersonal level. And then some other research, I have looked at the role of collective emotional expressions and how that impacts negotiation behaviors, negotiation outcomes, and again, that desire to work together again.
AW: So let’s get into that with negotiations. Is your research showing that negative emotions are bad or have a bad outcome in negotiations?
TA: So in any interaction, you’re going to have a multitude of emotional expressions. You’re going to have anger, happiness, a little bit of validation enthusiasm. You might have a bit of sadness, and it’s not about expressing any one specific quote unquote, negative emotion. It’s about the overall emotional tone of the interaction,.
TA: How it’s going back and forth, and can you limit particularly negative emotional expressions. So in a negotiation context, my research shows that maybe you’re engaging in threats? Are you whining? Are you actually showing fear?
AW: Have you mapped some of these behaviors to –it wouldn’t be to what people think they’re expressing is– to what people are interpreting?
TA: Absolutely. So I get people to do negotiation simulations with people they don’t know. I asked them to tell me the cues of what is happening in the interaction, I don’t tell them the emotional label, because a lot of the times people don’t really know what anger or contempt looks like, I just give them the cues. And then I also capture a bunch of outcome variables, like were you satisfied with the interaction? Do you want to have a relationship with the person? What were your deal outcomes? And then I basically map the emotional expressions at the dyadic level to what actually happened in that dyad, and does that dyad want to continue working together? And I can tell you some preliminary findings, emotional expressions are highly predictive of people’s desire to work together.
AW: Well, that’s a good thing, right?
TA: Yeah, it is. And it’s very exciting because I got to show from a research perspective, that one: You don’t need to hide your emotional expressions. That actually hinder people’s desire to work with you. And I show people the actual specific cues to make people want to work with you again.
TA: So what do you think the number one emotional expression is to make people want to work with you again?
AW: Number one? Smile?
AW: Oh, right. Oh, sorry. I thought you meant the behavior.
TA: Yeah, but actually, so a smile is part of that. But enthusiasm is a little bit more than just a smile. It’s literally saying, I am so excited to be here and work with you. And to really let yourself express that emotion can make such a huge difference for people.
AW: I have to say, I’m so happy to hear that because people have described me as very enthusiastic.
TA: You know what’s funny, since learning this, I’ve learned to be more enthusiastic, especially when I meet people and use that word in my email. So one of the first things I’ll do is I’m so excited to hear from you.
AW: That’s a great hack for the listeners.
AW: So if you want someone to interpret it, write it.
TA: Exactly. Exactly. So one of the things through email that I found is that because it’s so devoid of emotional information, people don’t really know where they stand with you. But the problem is in the absence of information, because we have a negativity bias, people aren’t going to interpret that as you’re not being interested. So it’s exceptionally important to put those really few emotional positive cues. Just to make a person feel safe in the interaction to know that like, yeah, you are engaged, and you do you want to interact with this person.
AW: Okay, so there’s so many things there to unpack. And I just wrote like four things down.
AW: So we have a negativity bias.
AW: And would you say, or is there research that shows that maybe that’s why enthusiasm is so important, because it’s conquering that negativity bias?
TA: So part of it comes from an evolutionary standpoint. So when you meet someone new, you have no idea if they’re a friend or foe.
AW: So you’re, I get it, so you have your defenses up.
TA: Exactly. Exactly right. Because it’s much better to be safe than sorry, because it’s better to survive than die. It’s evolutionarily built in all of us. Now, there are some people that are naturally just predisposed to be a little bit more trusting, a little bit more expressive. And there are a lot of people that are kind of resistant, I’m going to call them matchers. So they kind of wait to see the first emotional key from someone. Now, depending on what kind of person you are, if you don’t realize that people are being a little hesitant, people are going to read that hesitation as you’re not a trustworthy person. So that first cue just to be enthusiastic basically shows like, Hi, I’m here, I’m a friend, and I’m excited to be with you. I promise you, once you start kind of using this key, you’re going to realize that people open up a lot quicker.
AW: So it’s almost like there’s nothing to lose by communicating enthusiasm. And furthermore, it accelerates the relationship or at least your understanding of the other person.
AW: Okay. So then the other thing I wanted to ask you, what do you think about emojis?
TA: I think they’re great in the sense that they can add a little bit of a friendly tone. I don’t necessarily think they’re professional. So with your work colleagues, if you have a more personal relationship, sure. If you do not know the person, I don’t advise that. I’ve read research to suggest it. It feels unprofessional.
AW: Yeah, I think it depends on the age to it. I’ve read a little bit of research on that too. And there’s different cohorts or generations of people that will interpret different punctuation. Never mind, emojis. Yeah, my rule is I wouldn’t be putting emojis in emails where, you know, I’m, for example, giving a proposal to do a training program at a company. But if it’s a little bit of a closer relationship, especially if I’m concerned that something might be misinterpreted. Yeah, I would put the emoji in.
TA: Yeah, I agree. And another good place to put it is when someone sends it to you. You need to match to let them know that it’s safe in this relationship to express that so anytime someone sends me a smiley face all send them a nice message back with that smiley face as well, just to say we are on the same page and like you don’t have to worry to be misinterpreted.
AW: So mirroring the style of communication.
TA: Yes, that’s very important. There’s lots of research to suggest that mirroring is one way that we feel safe in relationships.
AW: So you started to answer this question previously, but I just want to ask you specifically: can expressing emotions, even the negative ones, signal that we feel open and close with someone?
TA: Yes. Okay. Three other social functions of emotional expressions at the interpersonal level is to know intentions. It’s to evoke complimentary behaviors and to reinforce behaviors, okay?
TA: In a relationship, these things are very important. Now, when we think about anger, anger is basically saying, look, I have a boundary, it’s quote unquote, a negative emotion. But it actually serves a very important relationship role because you’re teaching someone your limits, and you’re teaching them to treat you nicely. If you express that in a direct, assertive way, and the person responds, you actually strengthen the relationship because now they know you better now you’ve reinforced that behavior, even sadness, for example, we have sadness to elicit someone to take care of us. Expressing sadness is great, especially if it’s met by caretaking. So these negative emotions are great in relationships, they strengthen our bonds. But there’s a whole class of other emotional expressions such as threats or engaging in criticism or defensiveness or stonewalling and all of those are very detrimental.
AW: So thinking of a Negotiations context, what are the emotions that are critical, either positive or negative in terms of their effect on negotiation outcomes?
TA: So actually, let me go back to this idea of sadness. One-way sadness is bad. Two Way sadness is great. Basically saying, I’m so sorry, I can’t make this deal. But I want to work with you preserves that negotiation. If it’s matched back. So it’s both people saying, I’m sorry, this time doesn’t work. Again, it’s that dance. It’s not a one way expression. It is the dance at the interpersonal level. Threats are very bad in negotiation. So anytime you say something like, if you do this, I’m walking away.
AW: If- then statements, right?
TA: Exactly. If-then is very bad, anytime you are defensive in a negotiation. So if someone tells you what their needs are, and you basically say, Yeah, well, I have these other needs, and you don’t speak to their concern… Very bad. And again, whining and fear.
AW: So what is the emotion that whining is communicating?
TA: Think it’s almost like trying to elicit manipulation from someone.
AW: Ah, right.
TA: Because it’s like, why don’t you give me something?
AW: Manipulation. You’re right. It is it’s almost like inducing guilt in someone.
TA: Like why don’t you give me more? This is so unfair. It’s not a way to have an assertive conversation – a proper one with clear channels.
AW: Yeah. So to all the listeners out there who tell their kids not to whine, you can tell them that there’s research that demonstrate is not effective in negotiations.
TA: Yeah, right. Yeah, absolutely. But let me also speak to the positive emotions, because negative emotions will decrease someone’s desire to work with you and give you concessions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to make people want to work with you again. For that we need positive emotions. So what does that look like? Again, number one enthusiasm, which is like why I’m preaching it now. Enthusiasm is very important. Another one that’s very important is validation. So basically showing that you understand someone’s perspective, even if you don’t agree with it.
TA: And I think that makes people feel better because it doesn’t mean you have to completely give in to a person’s demand, but it has to be something like, Hey I understand why you want that position. I would want that to. Unfortunately these are my limits.
AW: Yeah, I feel like I’ve heard and read that consistently with a lot of the EQ stuff, right? It’s demonstrating you’ve heard something, you understand it, and you’re validating it, but you’re not saying you agree with it.
TA: Absolutely. Another very important one is expressing interest. So what that means is allowing your body to lean in nod, go where I am right now. And also asking more questions and paraphrasing what the person said. So all of that basically says that you are listening to the person and you’re interested in finding out more.
AW: Makes sense,
TA: Yeah, it sounds so obvious, but for some reason, in our culture, we don’t talk about that. And the last tip, I want to kind of give I’m going to leave you with this idea of the positivity ratio. So whenever you’re interacting with someone, you want to always check for the overall tone. It’s fine to express a bit of sadness and anger, that that can’t be the only emotion you’re expressing, you know. So in my research, what it looks like is that it’s best to express about three positive emotions to one negative in a negotiation context or minimize the negative as much as you can. That’s a great tool just to like sit there and say, Okay, what is the general tone? Did I acknowledge that? You know, did this person feel validated? Did I show them I’m interested? And if so then yeah, then express a bit of sadness and express a bit of anger. Like, that’s completely fine.
AW: So keep it real, but keep it positive.
TA: Yes, that’s a really great quote, keep it real and keep it positive. I’m going to be using that.
AW: We’re going to be quoting each other. I love it. So can you share an example maybe that you’ve used to illustrate this when you’re doing corporate training? Or maybe even in one of your academic papers where this might be relevant to a personal context?
TA: Okay, wonderful. One of the ways I actually start this is, did you know we could predict divorce with a 94% accuracy?
TA: Basically, there’s this great researcher called John Gottman. And back in the 70s. He used to put couples in this hotel room and videotape them having everyday discussions and conflict discussions. And what he found is by coding the emotional effects of these interactions, he could predict short term and long term divorce with 94% accuracy. So let me tell you the tip to know whether or not you should be scared. Now there’s a curvilinear relationship and it’s meant in a specific point. So the relationships that stay together have five positive to one negative emotional expression.
AW: Okay, where you were talking about three to one, he said, He’s saying five.
TA: Five to one in personal relationships with the absence of criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. So those are very particular negative ones that will result in a divorce. Now too much positive and no negative predicts long term divorce because you’re not discussing the things that matter.
TA: And too much negative emotions actually predicts early divorce because, of course, who wants to be in an interaction that’s unpleasant? What’s actually very interesting is this concept of the positivity ratio has also been used to look at exec teams and how they perform during strategic planning. So what they did was they got execs to talk about a strategic annual plan and they divided the teams based on their performance. So how profitable they were, customer satisfaction, and 360 degree performance. And they coded what was said based on praise to criticism. And so what’s cool again, we find the highest performing teams had a 5.6 positive to one negative verbal expression. And the lowest performing teams had almost like a one to one ratio. So again, consistently, what the research is starting to say is that you have to express positive emotions. And it has to be in this context where the negative ones have to be present, but the positive ones have to outweigh it.
AW: Yeah, that’s that’s a great tip. I guess it’s a great goal.
TA: It is a great goal. And what’s wonderful is if you know this number, honestly, anytime you’re on the phone with someone, have a little tally card and just literally count up how many positive emotions have you expressed.
AW: Do you do that?
TA: I train my students to do it. I haven’t personally done it only because I’ve gotten used to being very positive.
AW: You’re telling the brain anyway…
TA: I am. I always start off every interaction – I have to throw in those positive emotions just so it can buffer everything else.
AW: Well, that’s another tip, start out with the enthusiasm, but then add a few more to buffer the positive interpretation.
TA: Because the thing is, you know, in relationships, people are willing to have those difficult discussions. They’re willing to hear you out. They’re willing to hold a container for you being frustrated and positive, if they know you care about them.
AW: Mm hmm.
TA: Those enthusiastic cues upfront basically say, Hey, I’m here and I want to interact with you and let’s engage. Let’s problem solve. Let’s get creative.
AW: Right. So I want to ask you this question, which is: when I’m feeling a negative emotion, so interpersonally I am feeling Yes, angry or I’m feeling rage, or I’m feeling jealousy or in a negotiation context. Maybe I’m feeling threatened, right? And I want to not communicate that emotion. Do you have any tips for how to regulate that emotion?
TA: Okay, one of the things I want to say is you should never suppress your emotions, which means if you feel bad, you’re going to try ignoring that you feel bad and push it down, try to tell yourself I don’t feel bad, I don’t feel bad. That’s not going to help, actually what’s going to happen is your blood pressure’s going to go up, your heart rates going to go up. It’s exceptionally unhealthy from a physiological perspective, eventually it’s bad for subjective well-being. There are huge studies to say that suppressing emotions is very bad. From a physiological perspective…
AW: what we hear, in our culture is: don’t keep it all bottled up. Yes, but I’m talking about tactically in a specific situation where, you know, it’s an intense negotiation, let’s just say for the sake of illustration, and I can’t let the person know that I feel so threatened.
TA: And I would say there are certain situations where you wouldn’t want that to happen, especially when someone has more power over you.
TA: Research shows, if you express anger, even if you justly should feel angry, that person will hold it against you and punish you in some way later. So you don’t want to do that. You feel bad. This is a reality. This is a strong physiological reaction. It’s calling your body to do something, but you can’t express it in that moment. What do you do? You go to the bathroom. This is actually what I suggest or ask to take a formal break or say you need a bit of a break and you’ll come back to it in the morning. You have to give your body time to wash that out. Okay? So generally the hormones related to anger have a half-life that rounds out to about 13 minutes.
AW: I thought you were going to say a lot longer than that.
TA: No, no, it’s a lot shorter. So for example, if you’re ever in a business situation or personal situation, and it’s way too intense, take a 20 minute break and come back to the conversation. If you’re managing someone, let’s say a performance review and they’re getting excessively frazzled. Say you have to take a call and give them 20 minutes and come back to it. Some of the other things you can do is engage in breathing techniques, because that activates your parasympathetic nerve that calms your body down and it tells you that you’re in a safe space. So there’s a few breathing techniques that I always recommend. The first is box breathing, which is so four seconds in, you hold for four seconds, you exhale for four seconds, and you hold it for four seconds and you repeat that for about a few minutes. That’s something that the Navy SEALs do in their own training. You can also engage in deep belly breathing, which is basically putting your arm on your stomach and your chest and making sure you’re breathing from your abdomen and not your chest.
AW: Right. So it’s shallow breathing through your chest, right and deep breathing through your belly.
TA: Exactly. So as you’re giving your body those cues, that’s what allows you to kind of bring yourself down. Another quick thing I will say, which is really fun, from an evolutionary perspective. When you are angry, you do not think rationally. There’s polyvagal theory, when a person stressed and angry, there’s something in the ears that modulate to low tone frequencies, because what they’re looking for is predators. Literally, when you’re very upset, you can’t hear what the person in front of you is saying because your body is in a state of stress, which I think is phenomenal.
AW: It also phenomenal to know.
TA: It’s phenomenal to know. But it’s amazing because it basically means the moment you’re in that space, you’re not having a rational conversation, so you have to take yourself out. Another thing I will say is if you are triggered, and it doesn’t seem to equate to the external stimulus effect example if someone says something and you take it way more personally than you should, which happens even in a negotiation, because you might think like, oh, that person is trying to take advantage of me or you get really angry about something, there is a good chance that you have some unresolved trauma that you need to work through.
AW: The reason do you mean something unrelated, completely unrelated, right?
TA: Actually, in my teaching, I see that a lot, interestingly enough, right? So people come in, and they’re very upset about a situation or they feel like they can’t trust, or someone took advantage of them. But if you break down what’s happening, it’s unresolved trauma, and that moment is going to keep triggering them until they sit down, they process it and they figure out what’s happening.
AW: Okay, I keep thinking of in psychology, just attribution theory into what are we attributing people’s behavior? And it could we can now just kind of take that idea and say to what am I attributing my feelings? And if it’s out of proportion, there’s got to be something else going on?
TA: Yeah, and a lot of the time we take for granted what we’re observing. So we’re making a lot of attributions. And I know one attribution bias is that we understand the context and complexity of our lives. So of course, we would never do anything bad, but to other people, we see them have one bad day and we go, that’s a bad person, right? They’re short tempered. They’re impatient. But no, maybe they missed lunch. Maybe they just had a fight with their spouse. Right? So understanding that difference means giving people a break, not taking things so personally. And if you cannot do that, if you get so triggered when someone says something.
AW: it means it’s you. It’s not them, right?
TA: It’s you. So you have to learn to navigate your internal world so you can show up in relationships in an assertive and direct manner. And one last tip in this area, I will say is, you’re getting overwhelmed, most likely because you don’t have tools and scripts to deal with difficult situations. So the moment anything comes up or you’re being challenged, you freak out you freeze and again, that threatening response is what shuts you down because you’re feeling helpless.
AW: Exactly. No alternative. Really, you don’t have a plan.
TA: Yeah. If that’s happening, what that means is you should start reading books about communication and relationships and …
TA: Exactly. Learn some scripts about how to articulate your needs in a non-aggressive manner. And so it’s your job to learn to navigate these relationships and respond in a way that you’re advancing your needs, and also being respectful and caring to the person in front of you.
AW: So my next question is actually about navigating those relationships, whether it’s personal or professional. Do we all feel the same emotions? Or are there differences? Is there like a segmentation scheme? And across what factors might they vary?
TA: That’s a really great question. Interestingly enough, when I asked this question of do we all feel the same emotions to an MBA class full of lots of very smart people, I will get anywhere between 30 to 70%, saying we do not feel the same emotions, which I think is mind boggling, because we’re all humans. We all share the same physiology at the end of the day. Now to answer that question, Paul Ekman ended up going to a tribe that was not contacted by the outside world and he started videotaping their emotional expressions. And he started showing them different expressions from different cultures and ask them like what is the story of this emotional expression? Basically, what he found is that there’s no such thing as someone, let’s say showing an angry face when they’re happy, or someone smiling when they’re angry naturally, naturally, there’s no such thing. There are seven emotional expressions give or take…
AW: Oh, I want to hear what the seven are!
TA: So there’s seven emotional expressions that – basically our core emotions that we all express. So it’s enjoyment, fear, disgust, contempt, surprise, sadness, and anger. There are of course, different variations. And then there’s secondary emotions, which is something like guilt, compassion, right? But those are the core emotions. We all feel. Yeah. Now, culture gives us cues for what is okay to express and how. So there’s a great study that put Americans and Japanese to watch a movie. So Japanese are known to be a little bit more reserved. So you might assume that they’re not feeling emotions, right? Now, when both cultural groups didn’t think that they were being watched, both the Americans and the Japanese express the same emotions at the exact same time throughout the movie – in the same way or similar way. When they thought they were being watched, only the Americans expressed emotions.
AW: Oh, interesting. That’s really interesting.
TA: That’s a very powerful lesson about the role of culture in moderating how we express emotions. But also to suggest just because someone isn’t expressing something the way you would expect, it doesn’t mean they’re not feeling it. So the onus falls on you to try to be a little bit more patient and be a little bit more expressive and ask them what they’re thinking.
TA: One of the things I say is just because you learn how to read body language doesn’t mean you’re a mind reader.
AW: That’s right. And there are people out there who have studied body language that are misguiding you by faking it,…
TA: oh my god, I have to say, that’s one of my hugest pet peeves. I’m sure I hate. I hate people that call themselves experts that do not ground anything that they know in facts. And this is so upsetting because they’re perpetrating false narratives. They’re giving people the wrong tools. And in that moment where you genuinely want to learn and improve, you might think that there’s something wrong with you because you’re following this thing that “experts,” (I’m using quotes), “experts” say you should do and it’s not working. Well, it’s not working…
AW: So are you talking about body language coaches?
TA: I’m talking about lots of different types of coaches. But body language coaches. Yeah. Because so when I started looking at people in pop culture and just people like writing books about it, I started looking at…
AW: I can think of the names I know.
TA: Yeah, I started looking at the CVs and I’m like, I remember recently, I saw someone saying to be a body language expert, and he was a doctor. He was a chiropractic doctor.
TA: I think we all have valuable knowledge, but just be honest about what you are. Yeah, I got to bring that in…!
AW: Oh, how do you feel? Tatiana? Tell us what emotion are you feeling right now?
TA: Oh, my god. I’m not amused.
AW: That is funny. What about males versus females?
TA: Ah, that is an interesting one. Interestingly enough, when women have neutral faces, it gets coded as negative by males. So this this speaks to this idea of people always saying, well, you should smile – more specific to women in our culture. We do not like women having neutral faces. And there’s a study that actually even uses famous celebrity women who showed that this idea of quote unquote, “resting bitchface” is just a woman having a neutral face.
AW: Right, it was actually just going to say that!
TA: If your face needs to rest, give yourself a break like it needs to rest, but also know that males and females have to express more positive emotions in their relationships. Another interesting one, for example, is when men speak up in meetings, it’s seen as taking initiative and is rewarding, but when females do it, they’re seen as rude and they actually get pinged. So again, there’s all these cultural cues that we put on top of gender that really misconstrue what the person is feeling. And another huge difference is women are allowed to express sadness, but they can’t express anger. And men are allowed to express anger, but they can’t express sadness. So what you get is, a lot of the time you’ll find women cry when they’re angry, and they don’t even know that they’re feeling angry because they’ve been so conditioned to suppress it. And if anger is about boundaries, Right. It’s so fascinating because it’s basically women’s boundaries being violated and then not knowing that they need to act and assertively say, No, this isn’t okay.
AW: That is really interesting. Is this changing over time, do you think?
TA: I think it’s important to note that we all feel the same emotions, regardless of gender and culture. And if we start from that place, and we start learning how to express ourselves, we can cultivate relationships that are genuine. And that can be a starting point to have more honest discussions and maybe start changing corporate culture. academia is very powerful in just debunking cultural myths, right?
AW: So we can stop saying this idea of like, oh, women are so emotional, and men are so rational.
TA: I don’t even know what that means. Yeah, but I do know what’s wrong.
AW: I can imagine that that would confuse you.
TA: That would mean that that makes me very upset. But when you have this research and you let’s say laid out to business students, or execs, then they start shifting the way they see people and their employees and I do see a big difference in my students when they walk out because they email me years later, saying, you know what, what you taught me helped. And last year, I’m so thrilled I actually had someone’s wife messaged me through the students saying like, thank you because I’ve noticed a difference in my husband.
AW: That’s amazing.
TA: Yeah, it’s so exciting because I focus on negotiations in the business context. But at the end of the day, we’re all humans. We’re social. And so everything’s about managing social relationships. And once you learn that skill, it transfers over to all these different aspects of your life.
AW: Is there anything else in terms of advice that you have for listeners related to emotions and optimizing their communication?
TA: You know what I’m going to leave you with this message that I share to all my students. A lot of the times you might sit there and say, oh, that person’s kind of making me feel bad. I promise you, it’s not them. It’s you.
AW: It’s you.
TA: So if you start with the assumption that it’s you, now all of a sudden you have the responsibility and the ability to go do something about it. Start investing in yourself by learning to meditate, learning to regulate your emotions, learning what anger and sadness feels like in your body and start to also pick up communication tools and practicing them. So how to sit, how to speak your boundaries, how to express your needs, how to make demands of people how to say no to people, and from that space with all those tools, all your relationships are going to improve. Once you learn to express yourself differently, people are just automatically going to respond to you differently. That’s, that’s a worthy endeavor. It’s exciting.
AW: And it’s empowering. It’s not you, it’s me, it’s my turn to step up.
TA: And the last thing I want to say is, if you do your work, and the counterpart isn’t matching you, then you’ve learned something valuable about that relationship and you want to you might want to walk away or put some, you know, contingencies in place to protect you from people. So not only does this deepen relationships, but it will show you which are the good ones in your life, and which are the bad ones. I think that’s an amazing thing to know because then you can just invest your time in the people that matter to you.
AW: Okay, now we’re going to shift to the five rapid fire questions that I asked every guest. Are you ready?
TA: I’m ready.
AW: First question, what are your pet peeves?
TA: People walking in the middle of the street, I find this very upsetting because I can’t walk around them. People who say shedule instead of schedule.
AW: That’s funny, that’s a very specific one.
TA: But when I hear it in a business meeting, I just ,part of me just like clicks off and goes oh that sounded wrong. And that squeaky noise a knife makes on plates. Like I have left restaurants when I realized like that was a thing that was going to be happening. I can’t handle it.
TA: Yeah, it like sends down a weird shiver in my spine. And I have a physical reaction to it.
AW: Interesting. Question number two, what type of learner are you? visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or some other kind of learner?
TA: You know what I actually learn through having a personal connection to the material independent of the medium. So if I know it’s important, if I see the relevance in my life, I will dive deep into it. But if someone’s just telling me some sort of theory, it really doesn’t matter. Like how they’re presenting it. I’m just going to check out.
AW: so it’s almost like an experiential learner.
TA: Yeah, I think I think that that must be what it is.
AW: Okay, question number three: introvert or extrovert?
TA: I am an introvert who has learned to be an extroverted introvert. While I enjoy mixing with lots of people and I’ll do it I feel extremely exhausted afterwards. And I literally need to go in a dark space and be myself.
AW: Okay, you are an introvert. Interesting. Okay, question number four: communication preference for personal conversations?
TA: You know what?, I love voice messages. I love voice messages.
TA: Because emotions are expressed through our body, our face, and our voice. And our voice is super rich.
AW: Okay, last question. Is there a podcast or a blog or an email newsletter that you find yourself recommending the most?
TA: I have to recommend four.
TA: So the first one that I love is Relationship Alive by Neil Sattin, and he’s a therapist, where he talks to scholars and different therapists all about communication tools, relationships, it’s a really great one. Love that resource.
AW: Okay, I’m going to put a link in the show notes to all of these just in case listeners are scrambling for a pen.
TA: Yes, don’t scramble. The next one that I love is HBR Women at Work.
TA: And that’s an editorial team that again, talks to researchers and gives you practical takeaways. And I’ve learned so much from that podcast. Like it just it’s amazing. Another one that I love is the ManTalks podcast with Connor Beaton. I think that’s really great for men, because he taught, he’s a therapist. And again, there’s a lot of really great conversations about communication and relationships. And the last one I’m going to give you is Francesca Maximé Wise Girl, which is more for minorities. And it’s really understanding how cultural structures impact your individual behavior and how to come up out of that. So again, she actually is a journalist, and she talks a lot about race, intergenerational trauma, patriarchy, and it’s a great resource for that group.
AW: Wow, what a list and I have to say it’s really interesting that you have the podcast that’s targeting women at work. But then also men at work. It’s almost like you’re exercising media hygiene in your podcasts.
TA: Yeah, I think it’s really important to be aware of the different conversations happening and to not be stuck in your own silo. So I share those four podcasts. I listened to all of them. But you know, if you need to find something that speaks to you, I believe that’s where that’s how you should start.
AW: Yeah, thank you so much. I learned a lot. I know the listeners will too. And I hope we can do it again sometime. Thank you.
TA: I would love that. And it’s been a pleasure to be here and share this information. Thank you.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Dr. ANDREA’s CONCLUSION
Isn’t Tatiana amazing? What a privilege to interview someone who’s so knowledgeable and so passionate about a topic that’s important to us in our quest to improve our communication skills! Thank you, Tatiana. And best of luck to you in completing your dissertation. In a few months we’ll be calling you Dr. Tatiana Astray!
As promised, I’m now going to summarize everything we covered in this episode. I categorized the learnings into 4 areas: General insights about emotions, Positive emotions, Negative emotions, and then 5 Specific tactics to try. As I said, you can access this printable summary in the shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website under the PODCAST tab. Are you ready?
First, GENERALLY, EMOTIONS are physiological reactions, so they’re different from feelings or moods.
They evoke action. That’s why you heard Tatiana talk about “emotional expressions.” She said that in her research, the correlation between feelings, or what you think you’re expressing and what you’re actually expressing, is not significant.
Emotions always directed towards an object, a person or an event.
- Emotions can be intrapersonal or interpersonal. In other words they can be internal, or they can be or social. The 3 social functions of emotional expressions at the interpersonal level are
- to know intentions.
- to evoke complimentary behaviors and
- to reinforce behaviors,
- If you’ve done some reading on EQ or Emotional intelligence, that’s what we’re talking about here.
- More simply, we can think of emotional expressions as a body dance that helps people coordinate behavior and maintain relationships. Personally, I found that term BODY DANCE helpful. It reminds me that it’s the emotional expressions, not the feelings that really matter. People are responding to the way I’m acting, physically. Not to what I’m thinking or feeling. As Tatiana said, your intentions mean diddly squat in your interactions with people. It’s what you’re actually expressing that matters.
- That said, Tatiana also highlighted that we all feel the same emotions, regardless of gender and culture. Of course, our culture and upbringing may teach us to suppress the expression of certain emotions. But rest assured, that crying, or -maybe- fist-pounding colleague of yours is feeling the exact same set of emotions as everyone else. And those core emotions include fear, disgust, contempt, surprise, sadness, and anger. Things like guilt and compassion are considered secondary emotions. It’s our culture that provides cues for what’s okay to express and how. Remember Tatiana said that generally women are allowed to express sadness, but not anger. And men are allowed to express anger, but not sadness. That’s sad, don’t you think?
OK – moving on to POSITIVE EMOTIONS
- Did you notice that Tatiana’s list of 6 core emotions didn’t include any positive emotions? I did. There was fear, disgust, contempt, surprise, sadness, and anger. Hmm.
- Well, Tatiana did mention a few positive emotions. Specifically Enthusiasm, Interest and Validation. These emotional expressions can lead to more positive relationship outcomes and, according to her research, more positive negotiation outcomes.
- So first, enthusiasm. This is a big one. Tatiana said that based on her research, she tries to explicitly express enthusiasm, particularly at the beginning of an interaction. So this could be literally saying something like, I am so excited to be here and to work with you.
- Then there’s Interest – As in demonstrating interest not just with your words but also with your body language. Leaning in. Making eye contact. Focusing on what the other person is saying.
- And then there’s Validation – as in “I hear what you’re saying” or I understand where you’re coming from.” These are the common EQ or emotional intelligence scripts that you might be familiar with
Moving on to NEGATIVE EMOTIONS
- We need to limit the expression of particularly negative emotions, like threats, defensiveness or fear.
- Remember when Tatiana said that we should never suppress emotions? Suppressing emotions is If you’re feeling threatened, defensive or afraid, you need to take a break. Or maybe you’re in a meeting and you notice someone else is feeling this way. According to the research it takes at least 13 minutes, so make an excuse to take a break for everyone’s sake.
- Oh – and negative emotional expressions also include whining and complaining. Not surprisingly, Tatianna said that whining is never a good idea in a negotiation. That’s not surprising, but I’m reminding you about this point so you can share that research with your kids when they’re whining..
SOME TACTICS TO TRY. There are 5:
- 1st – There’s the one I just talked about – Take a break, remove yourself from the situation if you’re feeling negative emotions that can negatively impact a relationship or a negotiation. Take a time out!
- 2nd – If you’re feeling negative emotions, try some other relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing– like box breathing or deep belly breathing. I talked about these in detail in episode https://talkabouttalk.com/43-posture-breathing-with-dr-nadine-kelly-yogimd/. You can find a link to that episode in the shownotes.
- 3rd – Consider the Positivity ratio.
- In romantic relationships, the “Magic Relationship Ratio” based on Gottman’s research is 5:1. Apparently we can predict divorce with a 94% accuracy based on the ratio of positive to negative emotional expressions.
- In professional relationships, research shows that the praise to criticism ratio’s higher for higher performing teams. So don’t hesitate to compliment your colleague!
- In professional relationships and negotiating, Tatiana’s research shows that a ratio of about 3 positive emotional expressions to 1 negative resulted in the best negation outcomes.
- So here’s your tactic to try: Add some more personal emotional expressions, especially at the beginning of your interaction. Expressing enthusiasm is a great example. So start your email with “I’m really excited about this project” or your lunch meeting with “I’m so happy we’re finally connecting.” Keep it at least 3:1 positive to negative. keep it real, but keep it positive.
- The 4th piece of tactical advice? – emojis. There are pros and cons. First and foremost, we need to consider context. Emojis are considered very informal. So don’t be sending smiley heart emojis in a formal business proposal. That said, emojis can help clarify emotional expression and they can also be used effectively when you match or mirror someone – basically signalling that you’re simpatico. That’s a great tip too –matching or mirroring people in terms of emotional expression.
- The 5th tactic is more general – taking responsibility for your emotions. Remember Tatiana had this beautiful quote? She said “A lot of the times you might sit there and say, oh, that person’s kind of making me feel bad. I promise you, it’s not them. It’s you.” There are several implications for this. For example, according to attribution theory, one attribution bias is that we understand the context and complexity of our own lives, but we dismiss the complexity of others. We need to identify emotional expressions in ourselves – and others – and talk about them. Remember Tatiana said: just because you learn how to read body language doesn’t mean you’re a mind reader. I love that.
- Another implication is that if someone says something and you take it way more personally than you should, there’s a good chance that you have some unresolved trauma that you need to work through.
- Then there’s Tatiana’s meta-advice. In case you didn’t get it? Oh I hope you got this loud and clear. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves with the tools and scripts to articulate our needs.
I’m going to leave you with Tatiana’s concluding quote:
“if you start with the assumption that it’s you, now all of a sudden you have the responsibility and the ability to go do something about it. Start investing in yourself by learning to meditate, learning to regulate your emotions, learning what anger and sadness feels like in your body and start to also pick up communication tools and practicing them. So how to sit, how to speak your boundaries, how to express your needs, how to make demands of people how to say no to people, and from that space with all those tools, all your relationships are going to improve. Once you learn to express yourself differently, people are just automatically going to respond to you differently. That’s, that’s a worthy endeavor.”
Thank you for that, Tatiana.
THAT is precisely why we talk about talk.
I hope you found that helpful. I really encourage you to check out the summary in the shownotes on the talkaboutalk.com website. I also included links to Tatianna academic research and some other books and research papers focused on emotions.
If you enjoyed this episode and you learned something, I have two asks:
- Please tell your friends! You can send them an email or post it on social media or yes, tell them IRL! I would really appreciate it.
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I’d also love to hear what you think about this episode, any ideas you have for future episodes, or anything else. Yes, I am enthusiastic, I am interested in what you have to say. You can email me anytime at Andrea@TalkAboutTalk,com.
THANKS for listening – and READING!
Stay safe. And TALK SOON!
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