The Power of Language to Shape the Workplace

Conversational Intelligence + The Neuroscience of Conversations

For the past 20 years, new discoveries at neuroscience research centers have been revealing new and healthy ways to handle negative emotions. Since conventional wisdom suggests that it’s better to not to discuss these emotions, we turn to alternative strategies—such as suppressing negative emotions, controlling them, managing them or sharing inappropriately (gossip/triangulation) just to get them out. Anger Management programs abound, as do Emotional Intelligence exercises to take control of those negative unsocial emotions.Power of Language to Reshape Workplace

However, our new insights and wisdom from the world of Conversational Intelligence, takes us down another path. Rather than suppressing emotions (damaging internal healthy functioning), we need to express them in healthy ways. Learning how to label emotions constructively has a big impact emotionally—both for the speaker and the listener.

Careful labeling of emotions enables us to regulate them. If the emotion is “rage” or “frustration,” labeling it causes the rage and frustration to dissipate. Constructive Labeling enables speaker and listener to clarify the emotional distress. The speaker, instead of bringing higher emotional distress to the situation, offers a more logical frame of reference. This provides healthy regulation.

Labeling emotions and expressing our discomfort enables us to quell the fear and pain centers of the brain (Amygdala) and activate our neural reasoning and forward-thinking (prefrontal cortex), where our strategic and social skills reside. Our pleasure centers are more closely linked to the pre-frontal cortex, so we feel better when we come up with new and better strategies for the future.

Language can trigger states of being as powerful as drugs. That is why we are seeing a movement toward Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology. This trust towards communicating in positive and appreciative ways, rather than judgmental, is being constantly validated in psychiatric literature.

We feel happy when someone appreciates us, sad when they think little of us. As we communicate, we read the content and emotions being sent. Conversations are more than the information we share or words we speak. They are a way to package our feelings about ourselves, our world, and others.

As leaders, we communicate sad or happy with almost every conversation. As we understand the power of language in regulating how people feel every day, and the role language plays in evolving the brain’s capacity to expand perspectives and create a “feel good” experience, we can shape the workplace in profound ways.

Judith GlaserJudith E. Glaser is CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is an Organizational Anthropologist, and consults to Fortune 500 Companies. Judith is the author of 4 best-selling business books, including her newest, Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results (Bibliomotion, 2013) Also, visit or contact Judith at or call 212-307-4386.

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