What one or two words would you use to describe how you’re feeling right now?
We start most of our training sessions and our POINT3 meetings with this question.
It acts as an ice-breaker and sets the scene in terms of the safe space that we aim to create amongst the people we train but also amongst our team here at POINT3.
The exercise also conveys a simple but powerful message about emotions. That they are data (as described by Susan David in Emotional Agility). Emotions are internal messages to ourselves that we would be wise to listen to.
This “data” supports us and each other better, both in and out of the workplace. But it does require us to be aware of our emotions and how to articulate them. Then we need to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability to share them with others openly, and this requires a culture that encourages this.
So why is this so difficult?
Emotions can get a bad reputation in the workplace with phrases such as “Don’t be so sensitive” or “You can be so emotional” implying that to be emotional is to be weak somehow, as opposed to being recognised as a characteristic of being human. This stigma leads to a culture which is not psychologically safe, which doesn’t give people permission to be themselves, to be human. And we collectively (individuals and organisations) risk missing out on so much potential.
We may be an employee but we are also human beings, and to be human is to be emotional. And the more we can view this as our competitive advantage the better, particularly when we look at the power of communicating our emotions with others to forge stronger relationships. And let’s not forget, as AI gets more and more clever (this blog was not written by ChatGPT or was it?!), we’d do well to remember the competitive advantage humans have over robots.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into why emotions are important.
Emotions are an integral part of the human experience, shaping our thoughts and our behaviours, and in turn, how we show up in life, in our relationships and in the workplace.
Emotions are complex psychological and physiological responses that respond to a particular situation or other stimulus.
Emotions can be both positive and negative, and they can range on a spectrum in intensity from mild to intense. That said, at POINT3 we prefer to say that there is no such thing as a negative or positive emotion, as that label and language in itself adds further stigma to the topic of emotions and can prevent us from fully acknowledging how we’re feeling and from then sharing this with others, for fear of being judged.
But how many different emotions are there?
Brené Brown recently published a book, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, where she explores 87 emotions that define what it is to be human.
Her research highlighted that most of us can only identify three emotions – “happy, sad and pissed off” Her words, not ours!
Susan David classifies the main human umbrella emotions as: happy, embarrassed, anxious, sad, angry and hurt. But she challenges us to explore the secondary and more complex emotions beneath these umbrella terms. You can explore the deeper emotions via her quiz here.
Understanding and becoming more emotionally aware is crucial for our overall wellbeing and our success at work and in life.
It may seem obvious, but here’s why:
Becoming more emotionally aware allows us to understand and identify our own emotions. When we can recognise our emotional states, we can better understand our thoughts and behaviours, helping us to make more informed choices or decisions about how to best support ourselves. Self-awareness is an important aspect of personal and professional growth and helps us to take positive action.
Emotions are a form of communication, and becoming more emotionally aware can help us to communicate our needs and desires more effectively. When we can articulate our emotions, we are better equipped to express ourselves and connect with others on a more meaningful basis. This is foundational to the best relationships in and out of work.
More meaningful relationships
Being emotionally aware helps us to build more meaningful relationships with others. When we can empathise and understand the emotions of others, this leads to stronger connections and deeper levels of trust, which are the basis of the highest performing teams and organisations.
Better stress management
To be human is also to experience stress day to day. By becoming more emotionally aware, we can help ourselves (and each other) by being more stress aware and accountable through good coping strategies which in turn build our resilience to stress.
Increased emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence in its simplest form is the ability to recognise and manage our own emotions and the emotions of others. By becoming more emotionally aware, we can develop our emotional intelligence and improve our ability to navigate complex situations in and out of work, build relationships, and make more informed decisions and choices.
All this said, it isn’t easy work for most…
So, we know it’s beneficial to be more emotionally aware, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy work. But as is often said, those things that are worthwhile doing, often take the most amount of work…
So, how can we work at becoming more emotionally aware?
Practice tuning into your body
We feel most emotions in our body – it is a very physiological experience. So, close your eyes and tune into your body… what can you feel and where? Can you describe it? It’s worth recognising that we can likely feel conflicting emotions simultaneously. And that can be confusing in itself.
We describe mindfulness as both a practice and a lifestyle. It’s about being present and fully engaged in the present moment. By practising mindfulness, we can become more aware of our thoughts and emotions, and learn to recognise patterns in our behaviour. We have some resources around mindfulness here.
Journalling is a great way to engage in self-reflection on our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. By writing down our emotions and experiences, we can gain a better understanding of our emotional states and can then better work through challenging emotions and situations.
Seek professional support
Talking to a therapist or counsellor can be an effective way to become more emotionally aware. A trained professional can help us to identify and understand our emotions, and provide us with strategies for better managing them.
All of our training at POINT3 helps to build self-awareness and understanding of others. This is integral to supporting our mental health and overall wellbeing which is impacted by our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. So the more emotionally aware we are of ourselves and each other and the more accountable and supportive we can be of ourselves and each other, the more we can fulfil our potential at work and in life.
So to conclude, to be human is to be emotional. If we deny ourselves this, we deny ourselves the fundamental truth that emotions are messages. We need to listen to these messages to help us to make more informed decisions and choices.
Becoming more emotionally aware, can lead to improved self-awareness, communication, relationships, stress management, and emotional intelligence. By becoming more emotionally aware, we can lead happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives, in and out of the workplace.
Find out more about how we can help build the emotional intelligence of your people here.
And head to our resources page for more ways to support you and your people.