This week, continuing on from last week it is my intention to explore the value of
expressing our emotions and the purpose this serves.
According to Salovey and Caruso, in their book “The Emotionally Intelligent Manager”, emotions serve as a sophisticated but efficient signalling system. Emotions are our most primal version of communication and in order to be effective we need to
know not only how to read the signals but also how to transmit them.
The function of emotion is to prepare us for appropriate action. The emotion is triggered by an event to which we automatically attend. This creates a change in physiology
providing a distinctive experience and thoughts to prepare us for action. An emotion starts quickly and has a brief duration. In this we are similar other animals in our response.
What makes us different to animals is our sensitivity to linguistic cues. An emotion can be
triggered by words as well as specific events. We can also “think” ourselves into an emotion by recalling a past event or even creating a fantasy about what could happen.
Our emotions are expressed by a combination of body language, facial expressions, gestures and vocal variation. Although words are important they are less important than
these other factors. Where there is incongruence between words and the other display channels we are more likely to believe the latter.
When we consider our societies there is a wide range of emotional expression even within same cultures. Some people are easy to read, others are a closed book. Some people that are hard to read are that way purposefully, they have developed strategies to conceal their emotions. Many of these strategies will be unconscious perhaps fostered by cultural display rules.
When we accurately transmit or express our emotions others are given the opportunity to respond. When we are inaccurate there is a risk that our needs will not be met. For example, if a person is “sad” about the loss of an object and shares this emotion with others they may trigger support or even help searching for the lost item. The expression of sadness increases the chances of support being offered.
Alternatively, if a person calmly discusses an emotive issue with a partner it could be perceived as lack of caring or even as threatening.
How often are your emotions misunderstood? If the answer is often then it is time to look at how well you are transmitting your signals! This starts by auditing your ability to
recognise your own emotions accurately. Are you connected to your own feelings.
Begin by checking in with your own feelings by using techniques such as a mood scale. This idea is described in detail in Malovey and Caruso’s book (page 85). Put in simple terms consider a whole range of emotions ranging from lively to drowsy, excited to
nervous and happy to gloomy. Ask yourself on a rating scale how much of each are you feeling or not feeling.
NB: a rating scale usually starts with, in this example “Definitely do not feel” through
to” Definitely do feel.”
Such a scale can help you gauge how in touch with your feelings you are and is likely to
increase your sensitivity. Add to this monitoring if others are “getting” how you feel. Notice the impact you are having on other people. One tip is to say the actual feeling that you are experiencing when you express yourself.
Are you also setting up unrealistic expectations about others. Sometimes people develop display rules about being indirect in their emotional display. This is very common in the UK culturally. We often avoid directly expressing ourselves but expect our nearest and dearest to “mind read” what we are feeling even though we may be actively concealing our emotions!
For example, imagine the scenario; person “A” is unhappy that person “B” has not
done their share of a domestic task. Person “A” sighs loudly and makes a lot of noise doing the task. Person “B” asks, “are you okay?” How does person “A” answer?
Sadly in many cases with an indirect or sarcastic comment. Unfortunately while “B” may
have an idea that something is wrong they are now in a dilemma. A direct question has not helped, what do they do now? Often in couples this becomes a well rehearsed dance where both parties know their scripts and unhappiness is guaranteed!
(For more about relationships see our series of articles in Rapport magazine.)
Why do so many people resist expressing their emotions clearly in relationships? There are perhaps a number of possibilities. Some may hold the belief that true love means never having to explain yourself! This belief is common and yet doomed and unrealistic. Others avoid saying how they feel out of fear of the consequences.
This fear is often misplaced because the damage of not being clear is often greater. It may be necessary to learn how to express ourselves effectively. This may involve assertiveness training for some or a look at self-esteem and confidence issues. For people with a history of concealing their emotions or who feel confused about their feelings this can be very challenging.
The first step may be to accept the need to be vulnerable with trusted others and to explore what needs are not being met. By recognising our needs we can begin to learn what emotions we need to express and how. We can become more connected to our intrinsic
From a linguistic perspective this may include learning how to verbally express how we feel while allowing our emotion to be present. For example, simple assertive patterns such
“I feel angry about that”
“You made me feel angry about that!”
Although assertive language is not essential in being understood by others it means we are more likely to be effective in our communication.
If you would like to experience a unique way to assess your own emotional communication, join me for a workshop on 18th August. This workshop involves learning
from horses more about ourselves. Below is a link to a you tube so you can get an idea of what it is all about.
Also in September we will be running our next NLP Practitioner. I recommend this training to anyone wanting to improve their ability to read other people’s emotions and also as a way of managing your own. This course will also help identify unhelpful beliefs
that have been blocking you and give you the tools to experience significant personal transformation.
The link below gives more information of this course.
Next week we will be moving onto the second branch of emotional intelligence, “using emotions to facilitate thinking.”