Have you heard the common sentence “We don’t do business based on emotions?”
I have news for you: Emotions are the silent drivers of our most pivotal life decisions. They possess a quiet dominion over the choices we make, often without our conscious realization. Every time a decision is made, it is based on emotion. Even a business decision.
In Jonathan Haidt’s “The Happiness Hypothesis” we learn of patients with brain damage leading to an absence of emotion and absence to be able to name the feelings associated with those emotions. Antonio Damasio by studying those patients underscored the profound impact of emotions on our decision-making. The patients found themselves in a paradox of choice, where every option held the same weight and every decision felt equally right.
In short, a patient would accord the same importance to attending a family’s event such as their first child’s recital as buying a new kettle. Frightening, right?
This highlights an essential truth: our emotions are not just decorations to our human experience; they are the very fabric that gives it shape and color.
The Critical Role of Emotions and Feelings
Why are emotions so pivotal? They are the essence of our values and desires, transforming the abstract into the tangible. When we identify and name the feelings associated with emotions, we do more than articulate them; we unlock the power to understand and direct our motivations and to communicate with others.
This act of naming is a compass that guides us through the mental fog, allowing us to navigate complex psychological landscapes. The benefits of this practice are manifold: it leads to improved emotional regulation, more effective communication, enhanced empathy, and sharper decision-making skills.
It can also bolster our mental health: unacknowledged feelings can amass like storm clouds, leading to increased stress and anxiety levels. When we fail to identify and name our feelings, we become susceptible to being overrun by them. I imagine we all have been in situations when unacknowledged feelings lead us to explosion.
I have, and the result was not pretty.
The brain, overwhelmed by unnamed feelings, can enter a state of amygdala hijack, where the rational mind is dethroned, and primal responses such as fight, flight, or freeze reign. This can result in impulsive actions, strained relationships, and a pervasive sense of loss of control. Mark Goulston in his book Just Listen describes this process.
If you have made it so far, it should be clear now that even business decisions are made based on our emotions.
In the workplace, this can manifest as conflict, disengagement, and the installation of a toxic culture that stifles innovation and collaboration.
The ability to recognize and understand emotions—first one’s own—plays a critical role in decision-making. Then we can invite others to understand theirs. Emotional intelligence, a key component of which is feeling recognition, is a fundamental element of effective leadership and management. When leaders can accurately identify and articulate their emotional states through their feelings, they make more informed and empathetic decisions.
This skill enhances their ability to navigate complex negotiations, manage team dynamics, and foster a workplace culture that values emotional well-being. It also helps in anticipating and understanding the emotional reactions of customers, clients, and stakeholders, leading to more successful business strategies and outcomes.
A leader who recognizes the frustration in their team can address issues before they escalate, maintaining team morale and productivity.
Similarly, understanding customer emotions can drive more empathic marketing strategies and product development.
The Wheel of Emotions and Feelings
I got acquainted with the Wheel of Emotions and Feelings by Melanie Ruest, a powerful tool designed to help us articulate these abstract internal experiences with more precise vocabulary.
Originally conceptualized by psychologist Robert Plutchik, the wheel helps individuals identify the complexity of their feelings by providing a range of words that describe the nuances of our emotional spectrum.
It enables a person to move from a vague feeling to a precise articulation of their emotional state.
For non-native English speakers, such as myself, it expanded my vocabulary regarding emotions that may have been initially limited and where nuances may have been lost in translation.
By utilizing the Wheel, one gains a lexicon for feelings that might otherwise be difficult to express. This can be transformative in settings that require high emotional intelligence, such as team management, therapy, or personal relationships 🙂
I like to use the following one for its richness
Wheel Activity Idea – Vocabulary Deep Dive
Back in September 2023, I participated in the Play14 event in Portugal. During this occasion, I got the idea of using the Wheel of Emotions and Feelings as an exercise to deep dive into the vocabulary, and build self-awareness on one’s feelings and listening skills.
Objective: To expand and refine participants’ emotional vocabulary using the Wheel of Feelings, apply it to personal experiences, and enhance listening skills.
Duration: 30-45 minutes.
- Copies of the Wheel of Feeling for each participant (either printed or digital).
- A timer.
- Pen/pencil and notepads for each participant.
- A space where participants can move around and discuss in pairs.
- Introduction (5 minutes)
- Introduce the Wheel of Feelings, explaining its purpose and layers. Highlight how it can help in naming our feelings more precisely.
- Reflection Time (5 minutes)
- Ask participants to think about a recent situation or event where they experienced strong emotions.
- Where their feelings might fall on the Wheel of Feelings.
- Pair Sharing (5 minutes)
- Pair up participants.
- Each person takes 5 minutes to share their situation, the feeling they initially identified, and the more nuanced feeling they’ve pinpointed using the Wheel.
- The listener should actively listen, without interrupting or offering solutions.
- Group Reflection (5 minutes)
- As a larger group, ask participants to share how using the Wheel of Feelings helped them gain clarity or a deeper understanding of their feelings.
- Deep Dive Exploration (10 minutes)
- Challenge participants to consider a second recent experience, but this time focusing on a more nuanced or complex feeling from the wheel they may not be familiar with or haven’t acknowledged in themselves before.
- Allow them a few minutes to reflect and then share with their partner.
- Integration and Application (5 minutes)
- Discuss as a group how this expanded vocabulary might be beneficial in their roles and/or their life. For instance, having a richer emotional vocabulary can aid in empathizing with team members, understanding personal triggers, and facilitating emotionally charged discussions.
- Closing & Commitment (5 minutes)
- Invite participants to make a personal commitment to use the Wheel of Emotions in their daily lives for the next week. This can be as simple as taking 5 minutes at the end of the day to reflect on their emotions.
- Ensure that the environment is safe and non-judgmental. Remind participants to respect each other’s stories and emotions.
- Consider having a few examples of your own to share, especially if participants are hesitant.
- Be prepared to guide or redirect discussions if they veer off track or if participants struggle to identify nuanced emotions.
Remember, the goal is for participants to recognize the depth and breadth of their emotional experiences, and to equip them with the tools to better navigate and understand those emotions in the future.
The ability to distinguish and name our feelings accurately is not just an academic exercise; it’s a crucial skill for navigating the complexities of life and business.
The Wheel of Emotions offers us a map to more thoroughly explore our inner worlds and effectively communicate our state of being to others.
Whether used in personal reflection or as part of team development, this tool encourages an insightful dialogue with ourselves and fosters a deeper connection with those around us.
In learning to identify and articulate our feelings with better precision, we harness the power to understand and shape our emotional responses, leading to richer, more mindful interactions with others.
By using this tool to identify and articulate our emotions, we not only enhance our decision-making and well-being but also contribute to creating a culture of openness and trust within our teams. As agile coaches, leaders, or simply as individuals on a journey of self-discovery, embracing the full spectrum of our emotions with awareness is not just beneficial; it is essential for a harmonious and purposeful life.
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