The Need for Expression


The Need for Expression

People need to express emotions if they are to function properly.

If you, as a leader are high in this social need, you’ll be guided on strategies that rapidly foster group energy, creativity, innovation and effective conflict management resulting in happier, more productive team members

Leadership styles high in this social need:

  • Analyzer
  • Energiser
  • Diplomat
  • Innovator

Why we have to express ourselves:

When we become emotional, whether it is a positive or negative emotion; our bodies become flooded with neurochemicals that change our breathing, heart-rate and muscle responses.

In the brain, these neurochemicals affect what we can remember, how we perceive the outside world, and how we process information.

In times like these it is all too easy to it's easy to find yourself carried away by instinctive emotional responses because our emotions prepare our bodies to run when we are afraid, fight when we are angry, and rest and heal when we are relaxed.
Although strong emotional reactions were critical to the survival of our ancestors, they create a lot of conflict and can often be disruptive.

NeuroPower RELISH Pyramid

Workplaces often expect employees to try to eliminate, suppress or ignore their emotional responses. This is exactly the wrong approach to achieving high performance teamwork.

Studies, again conducted by Mathew Lieberman at UCLA, show that being asked to control our emotional responses (called ‘masking’) can dramatically reduce performance on even simple cognitive and physical tasks.

When we ask our teams to ‘control their emotions’ at work, we force them to use parts of their frontal lobes (the ‘higher thinking’ part of the brain) to keep the brain’s emotional system quiet, but this reduces the person’s brain capacity available for any complex thinking.

So what’s the alternative? Mathew’s studies have shown that the best way to manage emotional reactivity is, in fact, to become aware of them and to find the right word to describe an emotion.

This approach (called ‘labelling’) leads to big decreases in activity in the amygdala (the brain’s ‘danger detector’), meaning we get over it much more quickly.


To build effective teams, leaders need to understand that emotional responses are an inevitable part of working in teams.
If team members are emotionally triggered by each other or by external inputs but are unable to express this within the group in a constructive way, their agility, creativity and overall mental capacity for completing complex tasks will diminish.

As a leader, creating a culture that enables your team to identify and label their emotions appropriately can liberate a surprising amount of enthusiasm and creativity that will then fuel your team’s performance.

Labelling is the solution to ‘masking’.

What Need Does Expression Meet?:

We NEED to have the freedom to express emotion constructively when it arises.

The primary social function of Expression is to draw us towards rewarding, pleasant outcomes and away from negative or painful outcomes.

It promotes survival through a diverse range of internal states that drive rapid behaviour in response to changing external circumstances.

Once our emotional insights are shared with the group through expression, the brain can get on with more valuable tasks at hand.

The Key Benefits to Expression:


Team members are able to express themselves constructively and quickly generate innovative and thoughtful responses to immediate problems.