EI: Gaining emotional knowledge and understanding emotions
Why do I need to gain more emotional knowledge?
When you went to school did you ever go to classes on emotions, reading other people or emotional management? Possibly not.
Were you taught a wide and well differentiated vocabulary of feeling words in the same way that you studied other aspects of language? It is highly unlikely.
Emotions may have been mentioned in passing in an English, writing or drama class but the development of emotional skills will not have been given anywhere near the time given to other subjects.
When I went to school we spent more time on gymnastics, studying chemistry or speaking French than we did gaining the essential skills and knowledge related to emotions, emotional literacy or emotional intelligence.
Even though a knowledge of emotions is a crucial element in understanding and relating to people, and in managing and motivating ourselves and others, emotions have generally be given scant time or attention on school curricula.
This is why you may now need to learn more about emotions.
Many of us have missed out on developing skills in identifying, reasoning with and managing emotions and have significant gaps in our emotional knowledge and skills. We need to make up for lost time so we can become more skilled.
Recently there has been a rapid expansion of research into emotions. There is now a far greater understanding of emotions than 10 or 20 years ago. Now, we wouldn't expect our children to go to school and learn the technology that was twenty years old, we'd expect them to get an up-to-date education. And so it is for all of us; emotional knowledge is expanding rapidly and we need to keep up.
Emotions play such a big part in our lives that it makes perfect sense to receive some education about them.
Emotional knowledge forms an important foundation for other aspects of emotional intelligence and is highly valuable in interactions with others. The more emotional knowledge you have the more likely you are to be able to predict your own and others' reactions, and therefore to get fewer surprises.
Gaining more emotional knowledge can help you in developing higher levels of emotional intelligence.
What kind of emotional knowledge can I gain?
The research being conducted into emotions, includes a breadth of topics, such as:
The nature of emotions.
The differences between one emotion and another.
The facial expressions associated with different emotions.
How and why emotions arise.
The neurophysiology of emotions.
How emotions change from one emotion to another.
How one emotion is connected to another.
The predictibility of emotions.
Emotional drivers of behaviour.
The inter-relationship between memory and emotions.
The inter-relationship between thought and emotion.
Cultural differences and similarities in emotional expression.
The emotional concomitants of lying.
The efficacy of different techniques of emotional self-management.
The new research challenges some of our previous thinking about emotions and shows it to have been limited and in some circumstances, wrong.
Men and emotions; men and feelings. Your Q's answered by emotional intelligence coach, Rachel Green
Tell me about emotions.
Here is just a small sample of the information available.
Emotions contain information.
Emotions may be processed and understood at many different levels.
A well defined emotional vocabulary is important if you want to clearly and confidently be able to recognise, express and read emotions. For example, do you know there are over 3000 emotion words in the English language? How many emotions can you name?
Words such as "angry", "frustrated", "hate" and "happy" are overused by many people. There are many forms of anger or happiness, for instance. How many words can you name that would fit under the umbrella of anger words? Here are just a few: frustrated, irritated, pissed-off, furious, cheated, resentful, put-out, outraged, bitter, cross, exasperated and annoyed.
Contradictory emotions may occur at the same time. For example, if you want to go travelling on your own you may feel both excited about it and scared. Having contradictory emotions, such as these, may make it harder to make a decision about travelling unless you isolate and deal with them both.
Research by Paul Ekman suggests that there are some universal emotions with similar facial expressions across cultures, including anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise.
It is important to differentiate between feelings/emotions, behaviours and thoughts. They are not the same, yet people often get confused between the two when they talk about them. For example, I may laugh (behaviour), feel amused (emotion) and think someone is funny (thought).
The English language can be confusing around emotions. For example, the expression “I feel that ...” is not expressing an emotion, it is expressing an opinion or thought. There is no emotion word. In contrast “I feel dismayed” is a feeling. There is an emotion word.
There is a difference between judging someone’s behaviour and expressing your feelings. For example, if you say, “He is aggressive, a bully, arrogant, a misery-guts, rude ...” these are judgements of behaviour and are not emotions. “I am furious with Mark” is a feeling.
Emotions exist in a context and are predictable and not illogical as previously thought. For example, if someone had applied for a job she had wanted badly for a long time, had been to the initial interview and had then been short-listed for the job - how would she feel? You wouldn't be saying disappointed, resentful or ignored, would you? But if after another interview she then heard she hadn't got the job, you might be correct in predicting these exact emotions.
Your ability to predict emotions that may arise in the future can assist in people management and decision making.
"Understanding the way in which emotions change and go through transition, as well as understanding the underlying cause of emotions, gives you the ability to predict, with some degree of certainty, how someone may feel in the future. This is important data in deciding how to approach someone on an issue." (Caruso and Salovey, The emotionally intelligent manager 2004.)
Emotions differ in strength. Thus, if I gave you three emotion words: wary, anxious, and panic, can you see that wary is weaker than both anxious and panic, and panic is stronger than anxious? When you need to recognise your own and others' emotions it is important to get the strength right. It is no good saying to someone "so you feel a bit nervous" when they are full of panic.
There may be simple and complex emotions. For example, anger and disgust may combine to form contempt.
Emotions can occur on continuums, and are related to each other. For example, "annoyed", "angry" and "livid" are all related and are weaker or stronger versions of each other. The same with feeling "apprehensive", "scared" and "terrified", apprehensive, scared and terrified are all on the same continuum and differ in strength. So too with pleased, happy and ecstatic.
Emotions are not good or bad, positive or negative. They just are - emotions. It's what you do with them that matters.
Emotions do not limit you to one outcome or dictate your behaviour. Emotions can lead you to a number of options and behaviours. They can inform your choice of behaviour.
We have barely started to outline the emotional knowledge that is accumulating. However, I hope in this list you can find an area to stimulate you to learn more and to apply this knowledge in your own working and home life.