Using emotions the right way

Using emotions the right way

What I have learnt in life and business is that success is all about how to achieve what you want with what you have. You might get a job, buy a ring, collect dividends if you have a good CV, some money and certain stocks. The things you have and how you use them enable you to get what you want.

What we all have are emotions and we have them at any moment in time. I do not merely refer to those expressed through our body language and which form part of our communication, but rather to the energy flow per se. Energy can be manifested in all kinds of shapes and forms. In a previous article, I wrote about the energy of leading managers. In this post I am going to talk about emotions.

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”  ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray


Emotions are beautiful

The broad range of emotions available define our ups and downs in life and make life tasty and exciting. It is not the hardcore reality that defines our experiences, but rather how we feel about it.

Emotions keep us going. They are like a lubricant for time and space, helping us navigate in the complex reality.

Our memories are enhanced by emotions and our moments defined by them.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou


Getting emotional

The self-help literature has been telling us that only a certain selection of emotions are good, i.e. positive emotions, yet as much as we would like to experience only positive emotions, other types of emotion come to us every once in a while.

The variety of emotions exist for a reason and they should probably also be useful. An infinite scale of emotions exist, as do classifications. Here I list, unranked, the 10 most common emotions I have observed or felt in my life.

1. Confidence (for beauty)

A long time ago, I heard of a story which I can reconstruct as follows:

There was a girl that was always uncertain of herself, walked with her head down and not dared look at other people. She thought she was ugly and worthless. One day, her dad gave her a butterfly-shaped decoration piece, which he put on her and told her that she looked beautiful. The girl liked this decoration piece so much that she believed her dad’s words. Thus confident, she goes to school.

On this day, every pair of eyes on her way look at her, from the street stranger to the classmates she has always been hiding from. Never in her life has she sensed so much attention. She thought the decoration was attracting all the attention, yet what she did not know was that the butterfly was gone. Nothing, absolutely nothing changed with respect to the past. It was just the confidence that made her lift her head, look at people, and be herself that irradiated so much. Confidence is beautiful.

Fortunately, we can increase this emotion in our lives. Confidence is the emotion that keeps me writing this blog, even if as a child, I was afraid of not being able to write. Feel confident about yourself, especially when you fear uncertainty because confidence is the certainty you have about yourself.

2. Sense of urgency (for progress)

I feel this emotion very often. Some people need deadlines to feel pressure and start doing things. I usually do not need these deadlines, because I continuously feel a sense of urgency. I enjoy seeing things done and looking back at the progress.

This emotion is required in a start-up and would most likely benefit big companies as well.

3. Passion (for change)

“People with passion can change the world” – Steve Jobs

If you feel passion, you have a burning interest in something.

This emotion can also be contagious and change the opinion of those who are indifferent towards something.

4. Inspiration (for excitement)

This emotion is related to the above passion, but it goes beyond because it can take your breath away.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

When I feel inspired, I feel excited, breathless, and I admire someone or some special feat.

5. Anger (for intensity)

In what common form have you seen anger manifest itself? Has it been someone shouting? That is the probably one of the worst manifestation ways, but anger means intensity. Imaging that shouting voice one more time: do you think you could reach those heights if you were not angry?

See the section below for more discussion on how to best use such emotions, which on first sight appear to be dangerous, yet could turn out to be beneficial.

6. Happiness (for pleasure)

People feel it! I like to add emoticons like 🙂 in my chats and e-mail exchanges because it makes the conversation more pleasurable.

Sometimes happiness can also be released in the form of a laugh. I have often been told that my laughs are extremely contagious. Your happiness is also contagious! This is a great news because spreading happiness can be as cheap as a smile.

An interesting idea I have heard is that we should put smiling signs in public transportation, libraries, etc. to spread happiness to the world.

7. Sadness (for reflection)

Sadness can be something we come to enjoy. Sadness is a kind of energy that sometimes comes unexplained.

I have learnt to enjoy it. Sadness doesn’t really need to help me clean away the dust in my eyes, but it allows me to reflect about what I really want.

If everything were perfect in your life, you would probably not stop to think about the different circumstances. Sadness can help you brake and let you think.

Without going to extremes, which would then turn into depression, this emotion can help us calm ourselves from other emotions.

8. Calmness (for clarity)

Whatever other people say or do in a negative way, remain calm.

Our head of sales at Clueda AG is the perfect example of calmness. Whatever the emotion of the other person is carrying, he can remain calm.

By remaining calm, we can gain clarity of all the things that are taking place.

9. Gratitude (for acknowledgement)

While gratitude is something we should feel by nature, education has also told us to be grateful for all we have and experience. There is a recommended exercise of listing all the things you are grateful for at the end of each day. The most surprising discovery you will make after such an exercise is how many things you have and how many wonderful things actually happen to you.

This emotion helps us become aware of all we were given. At best, do not only just insert this emotion as a simple routine, as those people who pray out of habit before each meal, bur rather feel truly grateful.

10. Greed (for motivation)

This is another of the “negative” emotions in the 10 most common emotions I have seen. It is typically associated with Wall Street, as one can see in the film The Wolf of Wall Street, but it can be very motivating for people to work hard and move forward.

If there is a very high goal you want to achieve, you are willing to do more or be more creative about the approach. Greed can indeed be a powerful motivator.

These 10 emotions are so common, you have most likely observed or experienced them as much as or more than I have. We have these and all kinds of other emotions, which in turn affect us and our interactions. If we do not use them with care, they can harm us.


Emotions: the wrong way

Emotions can be powerful and have a positive impact in our lives, but when used inappropriately, they unearth unexpected consequences.

A comment I left on HBR 9 habits that lead to terrible decisions has received a high number of up votes:

“I would add a 10th habit: Emotion driven decision making. When one’s emotion is very high, e.g. too angry or too happy, decisions tend to slip away from real facts. The same also applies after excessive alcohol. It’s better to avoid taking decisions in all these circumstances.”

In the comment, I referred to one of the ways emotions are used in the wrong way.

Extreme emotions

Even if the emotion taken to the extreme is positive, it could have negative repercussions. For instance, if you are too happy, you might too easily agree to something you would later regret.

If after a success you are too confident and extreme positive, it might lead you to be too proud and belittle the opponent: one of the recipes for failure highlighted in the Art of War by Sun Tzu.

Emotion restriction
  • It feels unnatural: Restricting ourselves to one emotion or a single set of emotions might feel unnatural because we would be blocking the normal energy flow in our bodies.
  • It deters empathy: If we do not know how it feels otherwise, how can we understand other people who feel different than us? The more emotions we experiment, the more we understand ourselves and others. If you know, e.g., how sadness feels like, you will not want to feel happy when someone else is sad.
  • It feels boring: Life is interesting because of a variety of emotions. If you restrict your emotions to a certain type, it might soon feel boring.
Unawareness of emotion

Feeling but not being aware of what is being felt is as dangerous as not feeling. It is like going somewhere blind, you have a hard time detecting problems and cannot direct yourself easily otherwise.

For example, you might deny a good opportunity just because of fear. If you know it is fear, you can talk yourself out of it or realize that it is not a big problem. If you do not know that what you feel is fear, you will be blinded into the fact that you cannot accept that great opportunity.


Channeling emotions

Brian Tracy states that positive energy is the key to health and success, and anger, e.g. is a killer. But this emotion, as many other “negative” emotions, is part of life; does it mean that we have to avoid it at all costs? Is it something we need to quarantine?

Besides the previous mentioned effects of restricting our own emotions (unnatural, anti-empathetic and boring), we know that psychologically it does not work to tell ourselves not to do or think about something. For instance, if I say “do not think of an elephant”, you most probably just thought about an elephant right now. On the contrary, if you let something be there without restricting it, it can also go away easily.

An emotion is a resource we have. We can channel it to accomplish our objectives. In a previous post, I stated that anything has a value when it is in the right place, and any person has an immense value when in the right position. Likewise, any kind of emotion can be useful when applied correctly. Learning how to channel it is the best method.

Two steps can allow us channel emotions (negative) into productive use

  1. Be aware of the emotion
  2. Put the emotion to the most productive use (most likely an indirect activity)

Let’s take the example of anger. The most immediate reaction of someone angry is to shout or hit someone, which is a sub-optimal choice not only because of negative consequences but also because of ethics. When you, however, pay attention to this emotion, it is very interesting how you can manage it.

  1. First, be aware that what you are feeling is anger. Notice how you feel and how the emotion is affecting your body: Is your breath accelerated? Do you feel confused? What do you feel like doing?
  2. The first likely reaction to our emotion is not necessarily the ideal one. Anger for e.g. might have contributed to our survival as a hunting society 2 million years ago: when our ancestors were angry, they could fight and scream towards a prey until they surrender. Nowadays, however, we do not need to channel anger in this aggressive way, even if it still is our predominant reaction.
    Anger stands for intensity and for me, the best way to channel anger is to go running. It provides me more fuel and my performance can increase substantially.

If after an analysis, you realise that the emotion has temporarily no productive use, let it go.

An essential life lesson is when to depend on ourselves and when to depend on other things and people. Emotion management is one of the things that are best dealt by ourselves. No one can feel for us, just as no one can eat for us. Even external helpers such as alcohol are suboptimal.

There are three easy methods that can be used to let emotions go:

1. Breathe good energy in and breathe bad energy out: Emotion is a form of energy, by breathing in and out, you can purify your emotions. Some people refer to this as meditation, but this process can actually be completed wherever and whenever you are, in whatever time amount you have.

2. Concentrate the emotion and let go: Let all the temporarily useless emotion energy concentrate in one place and release. After this process, you feel completely relieved. For example, I concentrate everything into my mouth and release it in a soft and sweet “ah”. As another example, I concentrate all sadness from life and release it in the form of some tears when I watch a sad movie. The emotion goes fast, silently and in the next second, I am ready to start anew. When all the emotion energy is gone, you cannot immediately have the same emotion again.

3. Imagine: Imagination can put you wherever you want to be. It is the best consolation one can have. We can always get what we want as long as we can imagine. When you see the ideal situation, the useless emotion goes away; it is exiled from your mind.


Applying emotions

Life:  Emotions are essential in our life and affect the quality of it. While it is well known by now that positive emotions can transform our lives, the awareness and management of other types of emotions can also improve our lives.

Marketing: People react best to emotions. Even if facts and statistics call our attention, often our emotions are the ones making the final call. Marketers have learnt to connect with people through emotions. An article on HBR explains why marketers want to make you cry.

Leadership: Emotions are very contagious. Spreading the wrong emotions can be as devastating as the expansion of virus. However, the right emotions can keep the team united and motivated to work towards the common goal.

At a time when everything is moving towards personalisation, e.g. in education, medicine, etc., I believe there is no fit-all solution, but very personalised ways to deal and cope with emotion. I hope this article has given you some food for thought and will help you deal with your emotions in a better way. I will be pleased to hear your experiences.

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