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Emotions - What Are They Good For?


Recently, while on a walk I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, No Stupid Questions. This episode was “What Is The Purpose of Embarrassment?” Angela Duckworth’s quote stopped me in my tracks: “All emotions, every single one, envy, jealousy, joy, all of our feelings have a purpose. We have evolved over many generations to have signals of how things are going to motivate us to do certain things. Some are to preserve a kind of social order. Adhering to norms that are good for other people.” So, Angela, our feelings are triggering something about someone else? Not just us? Hmmm…


Maybe we’ve been looking at emotions all wrong. We feel the emotion, but it's about a reaction we have, or about, someone else. Daniel Goleman defines Emotional Intelligence as our ability to manage and use our emotions, as well as the emotions of others, purposefully. Angela Duckworth describes Emotional Intelligence in four words all relating to emotions: Perceive, Use, Understand & Manage. Holding to the context that emotions are triggers about the norms we have that are good for other people, I contend that we must take ownership and responsibility for our emotions, and then stop to understand what those emotions are telling us.


We spend so much time either downplaying or trying to eliminate emotions, yet all the current thought leaders on leadership development encourage us to pay attention to those emotions and feelings. Be more vulnerable. Acknowledge that feelings are present and important in every aspect of work and personal life. Most importantly, be present to our emotions and those of others. Why, because they say something about the relationship, or lack thereof, we have with others. As we become more self-aware, we are able to be better with others and be more purposeful in how we work with others and how we grow within ourselves.


So, the next time you are aware of an emotion, stop to define it (use Marc Brackett’s Mood Meter) and determine how that emotion can move you forward and/or something to learn from. Understanding how you respond to certain people and in certain situations will make you a better person and, as a result, a better leader.


I use neuro-EQ to help organizations and individuals improve themselves and reach their goals. See more about me here.

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