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Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness can be elusive for many reasons. Although we swim in a “sea of emotions”14 and are in a state of “perpetual emotion”15 many of us are not aware of what we are feeling, especially when we are intellectually engaged. It is usually only when we are experiencing a strong emotion or feeling that we become aware of it—particularly when it is a negative one.

There is, however, no evidence that we are conscious of all of our feelings, and much to suggest that we are not. For example, we often realize quite suddenly, in a given situation, that we feel anxious or comfortable, pleased or relaxed, and it is apparent that the particular state of feeling we know then has not begun on the moment of knowing but rather sometime before.16

We have another significant challenge to becoming emotionally aware: we may find it hard to identify particular emotions we are feeling. Part of the difficulty with identifying emotions is that they can masquerade as other feelings. For example, anger can mask fear, shame, hurt, or self-doubt. If we want to become emotionally aware, we must become adept at unbundling and identifying feelings so that they can be acknowledged and dealt with. Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen17 suggest that “simply becoming familiar with the spectrum of difficult-to-find emotions may trigger a flash of recognition.” Thus, understanding the spectrum of emotions and becoming fluent with the language of emotion can greatly assist in building emotional awareness.

The Language of Emotion

Although most of us struggle to put emotions into words, there are literally thousands of words in the English lexicon to describe different emotions18 and hundreds of definitions of emotion.19 Here are a few:

[A]n emotion is a felt experience … When someone says or does something that is personally significant to you, your emotions respond, usually along with associated thoughts, physiological changes, and a desire to do something.20

[M]ost agree in defining emotions as brief, rapid responses involving physiological, experiential, and behavioral activity that help humans respond to survival-related problems and opportunities. Emotions are briefer and have more specific causes than moods.21

I take emotion to refer to a feeling and its distinctive thoughts, psychological and biological states, and range of propensities to act. There are hundreds of emotions along with their blends, variations, mutations and nuances. Indeed, there are many more subtleties of emotion than we have words for.22

Most definitions of emotion refer to several components: the feeling of the emotion, thoughts arising out of or in association with the feeling, the physiological changes (for example, changes in heart rate and blood pressure), and the urge to act. These components are important because they allow us to better understand emotions and also create different tools for dealing with them. For example, understanding the thoughts associated with particular emotions allows us to cool those emotions down by applying different labels to them, changing the nature of our thoughts about them, or stopping those thoughts altogether. An understanding of the physiological changes related to emotions allows us to recognize emotions earlier through bodily awareness. There is also a behavioral component to emotion—a propensity to act or a desire to do something. Certain emotions, through physiological changes, prime us to react physically, which can have disadvantages at the negotiation table. When someone is angry, for example, blood rushes to the extremities so that there is less blood to service the higher centers of brain function. This physical reaction provides a very cogent reason for learning to recognize and deal with anger before it can affect our behavior and cloud our thinking.

The primary emotions, of which all other emotions are blends, are sadness, anger, fear, enjoyment, love, surprise, disgust, and shame.23 However, even these primary emotions may be difficult to identify.24 Figure 9.1 describes a few emotions that are hard to recognize and the feelings with which they are associated. Although figure 9.1 presents only a very short list of emotions, a recent survey of emotional descriptors from thesauri produced a list thousands of words long that, when narrowed down to “discrete emotional concepts,” resulted in 412 discrete emotions.25 These findings underline how extensive and rich the human emotional experience truly is. Figure 9.2 lists a number of positive and negative emotions that negotiators should be aware of, not only in themselves, but also in the other side.

Hard-to-Find Feelings Figure 9.1

Love

Affectionate, caring, close, proud, passionate

Anger

Frustrated, exasperated, enraged, indignant

Hurt

Let down, betrayed, disappointed, needy

Shame

Embarrassed, guilty, regretful, humiliated, self-loathing

Fear

Anxious, terrified, worried, obsessed, suspicious

Self-Doubt

Inadequate, unworthy, inept, unmotivated

Joy

Happy, enthusiastic, full, elated, content

Sadness

Bereft, wistful, joyless, depressed

Jealousy

Envious, selfish, covetous, anguished, yearning

Gratitude

Appreciative, thankful, relieved, admiring

Loneliness

Desolate, abandoned, empty, longing

Source: D. Stone, B. Patton & S. Heen, Difficult Conversations (New York: Penguin Books, 1999) at 96.

Emotion Words Figure 9.2

Positive Emotions

Excited

Glad

Amused

Enthusiastic

Cheerful

Jovial

Delighted

Ecstatic

Proud

Gratified

Happy

Jubilant

Thrilled

Overjoyed

Elated

Relieved

Comforted

Content

Relaxed

Patient

Tranquil

Calm

Hopeful

In awe

Wonder

Negative Emotions

Guilty

Ashamed

Humiliated

Embarrassed

Regretful

Envious

Jealous

Disgusted

Resentful

Contemptuous

Impatient

Irritated

Angry

Furious

Outraged

Intimidated

Worried

Surprised

Fearful

Panicked

Horrified

Sad

Hopeless

Miserable

Devastated

Source: R. Fisher & D. Shapiro, Beyond Reason (New York: Penguin Books, 2005) at 13.

Figure 9.3 presents another categorization of emotions that is helpful in dealing with strong negative emotions: hot and cool feelings.26 By being able to identify and label hot and cool feelings, we can start to use techniques to move away from hot feelings, which can derail a negotiation, toward cool feelings.

Hot and Cool Feelings Figure 9.3

Hot Feelings

Cool Feelings

Rage, fury and anger

Annoyance and irritation

Despondency, despair, depression and pessimism

Sadness

Severe guilt, intense remorse

Regret

Self-worthlessness, self-hate

Self-disappointment

Severe hurt

Mild bruising

Anxiety, fear and panic

Concern

Source: S. Stein & H. Book, The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 2000) at 45.

Physical Signs and Feelings Figure 9.4

Feelings

Physical Signs

Anger

Hands-on-hips posture, pounding heart, sweating and rapid breathing

Rage

Fury

Clenched fists

Cold-focused stare, loud and rapid speech

Depression

Despair

Despondency

Fatigue

Weighted-down posture

Slouching, staring into space, a slow, hesitant voice and frequent sighing

Anxiety

Restlessness, pounding heart, rapid breathing

Fear

Panic

Aching muscles and headaches, tension in neck and shoulders

Source: S. Stein & H. Book, The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 2000) at 48.

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November 2007