Understanding Emotions

Last week we explored the second branch of the Salovey, Mayer and Caruso model of emotional intelligence. This week we are moving on to the third branch.

This branch is concerned largely with:

  •  Labelling emotions.
  • Understanding emotional relationships of different intensity.
  • Understanding the nature of complex emotions e.g. anxiety and excitement together.
  • Understanding how emotion  evolve or escalate.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this branch is the ability to predict how emotions can evolve or escalate. This is particularly important when considering out own impact on
others and requires a level of self awareness.

A number of years ago I was asked to coach a manager in the art of anger management. The company had some very definite ideas of what they thought was going on. The
interpretation of the HR officer revolved around their belief that this manager was unaware of their impact on others and had no control over their expression of anger.

I began coaching with this manager who turned out to be a very engaging and intelligent woman. The first few sessions were spent reviewing some of the incidents the manager
had been involved in. She was very interested in all the psychological models we used and asked many intelligent and insighful questions. However, our progress was slow as this manager did not seem to be able to identify what was causing the various situations to break down into conflict.

Listening to the descriptions I could hear some possible clues however without observing them myself there seemed to be some vital information missing. I began to wonder if this manager had low emotional intelligence.

With her agreement, I administered the MSCEIT (Mayer, Salovey & Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test). On scoring her  test I was rather surprised to discover that not only was her EI high, it was exceptionally high!

In the debrief of the psychometric the manager confessed that she had known exactly what was going on with the people she was regularly in conflict with.  Using the MSCEIT  provided a way for her to feel secure enough to share with me how she felt. This was a major break through in the coaching.

She was very unhappy in her job, frustrated by the systems, felt her expertise was ignored and didn’t particularly like her colleagues as a result. She was also bored as her work was not stretching her. She realised that she had started a series of destructive behaviours as a knee jerk reaction to how she felt.

This was a big lesson to me, sometimes people create less than positive relationships
knowingly and it can just be a symptom of something else. The conclusion to this manager’s story is quite enlightening.  She actively sought out a new job where she was a better fit and is now happy. Perhaps just as importantly so are her colleagues!

The flip side of this example is something I see very regularly. In these examples people
describe repeating patterns where the same outcome emerges with a variety of different people. Often the person I am coaching is at a loss to understand how this has happened.

In these examples the job of the coach is first of all to help the client recognise that there is
a repeating pattern and that there is a common denominator! Once the client recognises that they are that common denominator it is much easier to help them own their  ehaviour and begin to understand how one behaviour leads to another. This in turn allows them to
learn some more effective strategies.

One of the things that gets in the way of such self awareness is the human tendency to want to be right! Sometimes people are so caught up in the need to prove that the other
person was wrong that they reframe their own behaviour.

A sure sign of this occurs when the client describes a list of unreasonable behaviours committed by the other party but when describing their own behaviour there is a list of reasonable, polite responses. From an NLP perspective we would call this “distortion”.
This distortion results in an unbalanced recall of the event.

This could be one reason why some people find it hard to predict the impact of their own
behaviour, they are in a kind of denial. This denial is sometimes only at a conscious level. Let me explain what I mean.

Take the example of a person, let’s call them John, who often ends up in conflict with others over trivial things. Imagine what would happen if we asked this person to role play
a typical scenario with an actor.  Often we see a text book balanced and assertive response from John! I have used this technique many times on training courses. This demonstrates that on some level at least John does know how one behaviour leads to another,  one emotion to another.

Imagine instead a team event with John involved. In this example I am facilitating a discussion about some of the tensions in the team. Under these circumstances the
interactions John normally uses come to the surface.

What is the difference? The main difference is level of investment and intensity. John has
less emotionally  invested in a role play than a real relationship. The emotions are more likely to be present in a team event than a role play.

I regularly run team events to help “troubled” teams transform their working relationships. Often we need to work through some challenging emotions to allow the team to move to a different level. Awareness of emotional intelligence is essential if such an event is to be a success.

The facilitator needs to be able to track what is going on emotionally with the group and help them explore the dynamics in a safe and positive way.  Before any of this can be attempted however a psychological environment needs to be created that fosters trust and openness.

A third example is perhaps more straight forward. In this example the individual describes what they did and said accurately. What they do not understand is how what they did or said ended up  where it did. For such people the solution may sometimes be about supplying missing information to their social knowledge.

NLP has a very useful model that can be used to help develop a greater understanding of
emotions and our own impact on others. This in turn helps us predict the consequences of our behaviour.

The technique is known as perceptual positions and involves teaching people how to genuinely see things from others perspectives.

If you would like to know more about this technique and many other personal development tools do join us for NLP Practitioner next month. For more information click on the link below.


Next week we will be moving onto the final branch of emotional intelligence, “managing

About Melody @ GWizlearning

Melody spent fourteen years gathering experience of the business world working in banking, telecommunications and the public sector before co-founding The GWiz Learning Partnership in 1993. Melody has a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, a degree in Psychology and a diploma in Psychotherapy. She is an NLP Master Trainer which allows her to run NLP Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Trainer Training courses certified by the Positive School of Intrinsic Neuro-Linguistc Psychology. She is also a qualified Myers Briggs practitioner and EI practitioner and added to all this is five years Transactional Analysis training, meaning she is able to help organisations access the hidden potential in their staff. She is also in demand for her work in transforming average or even troubled teams into high performers. Melody is a visiting lecturer at University of East London, teaching "Wellbeing and Positive Psychology" to undergraduates. Additionally, she is a member of the CIPD and is ILM accredited. Melody's interests are many and varied. She has a keen interest in personal development, canine and wolf psychology, conservation, movies and running. She also enjoys western horse riding, walking the GWiz dogs, nature watching and stage combat (particularly sword fighting).
This entry was posted in Emotional Awareness, Emotional Intelligence, NLP, NLP Practitioner, Perception, Personal Development and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Understanding Emotions

  1. Pingback: How Aware are You of Awareness? | NLP THIRTEEN

  2. M. Bowen says:

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  3. Pingback: Finding Balance in Unbalanced Relationships: A Discussion about Conflicting Emotions. | Social Behavioral Patterns–How to Understand Culture and Behaviors

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