Have you noticed that some executives and leaders seem to know when to say something? They also know when not speaking is smarter. In contrast, others tend to babble on and on, unconcerned about or simply unaware of the consequences of their words.

The question is why? Why do we encounter certain leaders who inspire our respect and confidence, almost instantly? And why do other folks cause us to hang onto our wallets, raise our eyebrows in disbelief, and fear for our psychological safety as well when they speak to us?

Psychologists tell us that we each have different levels of what is called Emotional Quotient, known as EQ. That’s our capacity for self-regulation of our emotions, and also our level of social skills, when interacting with others. It contrasts with Intelligence Quota, or IQ, which is usually genetic and associated with a measured level of intellectual performance.

Think of the new popular show, Scorpion, with its odd collection of geniuses who solve life-threatening cases every week. The star, Walter, while unquestionably a genius, seems to lack even a basic level of Emotional Quotient. With each episode, from exposure to a non-genius but “normal†member of the crew, Walter appears to be slowly acquiring social skills and an awareness of their value.

In a professional environment, we all lose when one colleague screams at or puts down another, storms out of a meeting, walks around with a sad face, or cries during a sensitive conversation. These unpleasant and often self-destructive happenings occur every day not only in business offices but in nonprofit settings as well. They exemplify Emotional Quotient at its slowest, causing a lack of positive leadership communication, indeed any type of valid communication.

If you feel yourself getting ready to explode, whether because you’ve been wronged or a situation is getting out of hand, it’s vital to de-stress yourself before you say anything you’ll regret. Once spoken, as you’re well aware, words can never really be erased from anyone else’s mind. In public speaking as in any other form of in leadership communication, words convey much more than their literal meaning, especially in highly-charged emotional situations.

How can you regain control, so you enter the admirable ranks of those who know when to open their mouths, and when to keep them shut?

  • Ask yourself, is this a life-threatening situation? Usually, the answer is no, so a “fight or flight†solution is not required. You can control your own Emotional Quotient and leadership communication behavior, once you become aware of your current level.
  • Is what’s going on worth raising your voice to anger level? Even if it is, you lose the perception of power when you’re screaming! State your position while purposely maintaining control over your volume, pace, and the intensity of your delivery. In public speaking, this capacity is known as vocal variety and it’s usually planned and rehearsed. In leadership communication, particularly in unscheduled confrontations, breathing quietly and deliberately can help you regain control of your volume and pace.
  • If you can, leave the area for a few minutes to calm yourself down.
  • IF the situation requires social skills, remember that asking questions of others about themselves in a genuinely interested way breaks down all kinds of barriers. It also takes the focus off you and your current feelings for a while.


When in doubt, don’t shout or pout in a professional setting. You’ll be glad you didn’t! What have you found that works to cool things down in your workplace? Please let us know!