Three Ways Our Communication Triggers Emotions, Good or Bad

by Judith E. Glaser

Conversations are the source of energy that transcends doldrums, the power that launches transformational products, and the golden threads that create trust.workplace communication skills

Conversations are the way we connect, engage, navigate, and transform the world with others. Awareness of the behaviors that open us up and those that close us down, and their influence in our relationships, allows us to better harness the chemistry of conversations.

The quality of our culture depends on the quality of our relationships, which depends on the quality of our conversations. The most powerful “leadershift” anyone can make is to realize that each person has the power to “create the conversational space that creates deeper understanding and engagement rather than fear and avoidance.”

When managers and leaders understand the chemical impacts of their behavior, they tend to make changes—for example, they learn to deliver difficult feedback inclusively and supportively, thereby limiting cortisol production (resulting in fear and avoidance) and stimulating oxytocin (trust, engagement, creativity) instead.

Remember these three chemistry lessons for better workplace communication:

1. Be mindful of your conversations and the emotional content you bring—pain, which closes the brain, or pleasure which opens it. Are you sending friend or foe messages? Are you sending the message “You can trust me to have your best interest at heart” or “I want to persuade you to think about things my way?” When you’re aware of these meta-messages, you can create a safe culture that allows everyone to interact collaboratively, sharing perspectives, feelings, and aspirations and elevating insights and wisdom.

2. Conversations trigger emotional reactions. Conversations carry meaning—and meaning is embedded in the listener even more than in the speaker. Words cause us either to bond and trust more fully, thinking of others as friends and colleagues, or to break rapport and see others as enemies. Your mind will open as you see the connection between language and health, and you’ll learn how to create healthy organizations through your conversational rituals.

3. Note that the words we use in our conversations are rarely neutral. Words have histories informed by years of use. Each time a new experience overlays another meaning on a word, the information collects in our brains to be activated during conversations. Knowing how you project meaning into your conversations will enable you to connect with others and, in so doing, let go of much of the self-talk that diverts from effective co-working.

Image courtesy of Ambro /

Judith E. GlaserJudith E. Glaser is CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc., Chairman of The Creating WE Institute, an Organizational Anthropologist, consultant to Fortune 500 Companies, and author of four best selling business books, including Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results (Bibliomotion). Call 212-307-4386, visit;

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