When your emotions talk, are you listening?

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Get to know your emotions

Your emotions are a set of powerful tools. Abraham-Hicks, best selling author of The Law of Attraction, calls this your emotional GPS. Experiencing emotions warns you of dangers, draws you into pleasant experiences and triggers an increasingly wide variety of responses that continues to grow as you understand your emotions and what they are trying to tell you.

According to Joshua Freedman, the CEO and founder of Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Network, there are approximately 3,000 words for describing emotions in the English language. If you do not have an adequate emotion lexicon, you will naturally lump the description of your feelings into categories too small to effectively express what you are experiencing. One way to build your vocabulary of emotions is to use the Plutchik Wheel of Emotions.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

How to use Plutchick's Wheel of Emotions

Using the emotions wheel to identify emotions starts with understanding the eight base emotions: anger, anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness and disgust. Each of these has an opposite. Anticipation is the opposite of surprise. Joy is opposite sadness. Trust and disgust are opposites, and fear opposes anger. As you look at the wheel, emotions are identified across a scale. There are names for the different intensities of these feelings. For example, on the scale moving from sadness to joy we would experience pensiveness, sadness, grief, serenity, joy and ecstasy. You may have feelings of optimism and love in happier moments, while emotions like remorse and disapproval could be linked to those times you are feeling down. The wheel identifies 32 emotional states, using synonyms and antonyms that will bring your emotion vocabulary to well over 100 expressions, which is more than enough to start taking an emotional inventory.

Emotions are neither good nor bad. They are a method of communication between your nervous system, your body and your conscious mind.

Using the emotions wheel to identify emotions starts with understanding the eight base emotions: anger, anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness and disgust. Each of these has an opposite. Anticipation is the opposite of surprise. Joy is opposite sadness. Trust and disgust are opposites, and fear opposes anger. As you look at the wheel, emotions are identified across a scale. There are names for the different intensities of these feelings. For example, on the scale moving from sadness to joy we would experience pensiveness, sadness, grief, serenity, joy and ecstasy. You may have feelings of optimism and love in happier moments, while emotions like remorse and disapproval could be linked to those times you are feeling down. The wheel identifies 32 emotional states, using synonyms and antonyms that will bring your emotion vocabulary to well over 100 expressions, which is more than enough to start taking an emotional inventory.

Now that you have internalized definitions of emotions and a scale for their level of intensity, you can identify what you are feeling in a nuanced way, not just in the extreme moments, but also in a wider variety of situations. Using the levels of intensity from above, you can now take an emotional inventory with the help of a journal or note taking app. This is an ideal way to document what’s going on inside of you. According to Harvard neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, unfueled emotions only last only 90 seconds, so you’ll need to increase your ability to identify them quickly.

Listen to your emotions

The value in identifying emotions is not just in those 90 seconds when they are the most intense. It’s what you do after that really counts. Emotions are the trigger point. Considering what caused the emotion is almost as important as what you do once you have experienced that feeling. Intensifying or diluting is up to you.

Emotions used to give us two options: fight or flight. Today, however, there are many more options for responding to emotional signals. For example, we might need to consider a response, ask a question, or quickly invent a solution. By capturing the emotion, then pausing to consider how you will respond, you are becoming emotionally intelligent.

There are however, real dangers to just sweeping those feelings under the rug. A failure to recognize and effectively work through your emotions leads to high levels of stress, depression and a wide range of physical and mental health problems. You can’t fix a problem until you recognize it. Understanding emotions is vital to your ability to diagnose problems and reproduce pleasant experiences as well.

Respond to your emotions

It is important to realize that the discomfort that comes from emotions is not a bad thing. It helps move you to another action. Emotions that you consider to be negative could be alerting you to a high level of risk or that you need to have more information about a situation before responding.

As scientists and emotional intelligence practitioners learn more about these sensations, it is becoming increasingly apparent that these feelings are a means of our nervous system communicating with our conscious minds. As a result, it makes more sense to read emotions as non-verbal messages and respond to them. Instead of reacting immediately to the stimuli. Once you experience an emotion, stop and think about what to do with that information before acting.

There are approximately 3,000 words for describing emotions in the English language.

You will find that your responses are much more beneficial to your well-being when you add this cognitive step to your process. In fact, you may find that the energy created by a bad feeling can be redirected in a positive direction. Redirection creates momentum that moves you towards your target at a force greater than complaining and anger ever will. I call this the catapult effect. Basically, the catapult effect states that if you first react negatively to an emotion, you need to get back to zero before you can move in a positive direction. But by processing the emotion intellectually (at zero) and creating a viable solution, you can create positive momentum that will catapult you forward towards your desired results. You can read more about my theory here.

Emotions are neither good nor bad

Emotions are neither good nor bad. They are a method of communication between your nervous system, your body and your conscious mind. By widening your emotional lexicon you will more effectively identify your emotions, and be able to interpret with greater clarity the messages your nervous system is providing you. Then you can devise solutions that are intelligent and effective, advancing you in a direction that benefits your well being.

The best way to get a clear picture of your emotional intelligence is by taking an Emotional Quotient (EQ) test. Here is a free one from Mind Tools that will get you started. What is your EQ?

The next time you’re triggered try this…

Image by Claudia Mitu from Pixabay

How to make exponential gains with emotional intelligence

After several weeks of work on my new client’s website, I was proud and excited for the unveiling. Not only had we meet every demand they had asked for, but we had also included a few extra features that would help them to analyze traffic and attract new leads. What’s more, we finished a week early! I went in happy and full of ambition. However, as the meeting dragged on and on they asked for more and more revisions. “like the catalog,” they said, “but this email reminder about what is in the shopping cart seems to salesey… We don’t want our potential customers feeling like we are spamming them for fear that doing that will drive them away”

Walking out, I mustered a smile and said we would handle all their changes in a fortnight. But inside I was seething, “Why weren’t they clearer from the beginning? Always more changes and delays!”

I was triggered.

It took me the whole trip back to the office just to cool down and then even longer to get the ambition to start tackling their requests. I just wanted this project done and paid for!

I am sure that you have had a similar experience. Where you have felt triggered due to the actions of others and need a reset before being able to regroup and take beneficial actions. There is a better way to handle these situations and learning how will enable you to create exponential forward momentum. I call this the catapult effect.

Emotions can help you and they can hurt you, but you have no say in the matter until you understand them.

— Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves Emotional Intelligence 2.0

In their book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves explain that our emotions first are felt and then reacted (or responded) to. This got me thinking about a catapult effect we could employ by first experiencing an emotion then taking a moment to decide what to do with that energy. This could not only help us to avoid destructive behaviors, but also move us straight to actions that will launch us forward.

How can you use the catapult therory?

If I were to have taken a moment to think about what my client was really saying and asking for, instead of feeling crushed that they weren’t as pleased as I was, it would have been more constructive. I could have felt anger about them asking for yet more changes but then clarified all the issues so that we won’t need to go down this same road again. That would have led to a discussion of exactly what their expectations were and how to implement them, instead of me boiling on the inside while smiling and agreeing on the outside.
I would have driven back to my office with anticipation for making improvement not dread about working with them ever again. This is the result of not backsliding by giving in to the emotion, focusing instead on solving the problem from the beginning. All my momentum would have been pushing me forward instead of pulling me back. This would have resulted in a 4X momentum swing.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Achieve your own 4X Catapult Effect

Identify the emotion(s)

What is the emotion, or emotions, you are feeling at the moment? Identifying your range of emotions will help you to recognize them faster and more objectively when they come around again. Using Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (above) is a good way to identify your emotions and their intensity. In her article, The Emotion Wheel: What It Is and How to Use It, Hokuma Karimova, MA explains how to use the wheel to identify and manage your range of emotions.

Identify a better emotion to use

What were you feeling before the incident? When did everything go haywire? Does that always happen with this emotion and/or situation?

Understanding the answers to these questions helps you to see patterns and mitigate harmful emotions.

Identify a better emotion to use

When you understand your range of emotions, you will be able to choose some that create positivity and are easy to apply in any situation. Use this as your coping mechanism, telling your mind that you feel a certain way will fool it into action. Allowing you to filters and evaluate the situation through a different lens. As Hall of Fame, Martial Arts Grand Master Jim Buhisan says, “fake it until you make it.”

Create a solution

You have caught lightning in a bottle and now you need to unleash it. Think wide and deep about any and all solutions. Then choose the best action.

Move forward

No need to mope or seethe. Once you can see the target again, you can use your momentum to catapult you towards it.

When you can regularly identify your emotions and their triggers. Then consciously apply a more constructive solution for the situation that follows. You will have developed the ability to utilize the catapult effect.

Curious about your emotional intelligence? You can take a free assessment here.

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