Since the beginning of January 2012, I was writing about quantum physics and business research to explore the correlation between the science of consciousness and patterns in the business world, to suggest innovative ways of using this wisdom to lead and succeed in a business environment that is constantly evolving at a rapid pace. Neurobiology is telling us we can read other people’s emotions, and we know that positive emotional states foster business success. When people are in a positive emotional state, their cognitive ability is significantly enhanced and their ability to be creative is elevated. As leaders, we can learn to monitor the emotions of our employees and teams, but it requires that we literally get out of our heads and into our bodies.
Especially with the Information Age, our heads are often buzzing while we try to keep up with all of the information coming at us. In business we are usually consumed with analysis and reasoning. As rewarding as a strong analytical mind can be, it can also be a detriment if we become conditioned to always keeping our awareness in that realm. Our nervous system extends through our entire body, and we need to become familiar with all of it in order to use it as a receptor to other people’s emotions. Therefore, we have some learning to do.
You can expand your sensitivity to emotion by paying attention to the sensations in your body when you experience particular emotional states. Pay attention to all parts of your body, becoming aware of how they feel. This is part of listening to your body; one of the six step process that I outlined in my earlier article on Insightful Instincts
. Our bodies love to receive the attention that they need. Does the temperature in areas of your body change as your emotions change? Is the quality of energy different, sometimes tingling and sometimes throbbing? Is there a particular heaviness or lightness in your body? It is important to realize that the way emotions feel is specific to an individual. For example, when I feel frustrated or overwhelmed, my hands throb and feel tired and heavy, as if I am carrying a heavy load. Other people will not feel frustration and angst in the same manner.
To use this ability in a business setting, there are particular emotions that are useful to know in ourselves.
It can be extremely useful to determine if people are feeling valued and appreciated. How does your body feel when you believe you are a valued member of a team? Perhaps your body feels light and you feel warmness in your upper torso. In contrast, what sensations do you get in your body when you feel ignored or disrespected by your co-workers or boss? Become aware of these feelings in your teams.
You want employees and co-workers to feel compelled and inspired to achieve the goals of the company. How does your body feel when you are working towards a mission that is meaningful to you? Perhaps you get a strong expansion of energy around your heart and head. In contrast, what sensations do you get when you are apathetic about achieving the goals of your company or feel that there is no compelling vision? Knowing how these emotions feel in your body gives you a baseline for determining how much passion your employees and coworkers feel.
Sometimes teams need an injection of optimism or help solving a problem. What sensations do you get when you feel that failure is imminent or you are facing a serious problem? Perhaps your energy drops and your feet feel leaden or there is a burning in the pit of your stomach. Determine if these emotions are present in your employees, so you know who needs help.
Your own experiences in everyday business life likely give you the opportunity to feel some of these emotions and become familiar with them in your body. In addition, you can learn to feel them by thinking about a time in the past when you were faced with conditions that caused these emotions. Recall the details of scenarios, conjuring up all the emotion. And of course, pay attention to the details of how your body feels.
Controlling Your Emotions
It is clear that no one wants to control their emotions in such a way that it would make them all disappear—including the good or positive emotions. After all, what fun would there be to live a life without joy, without enthusiasm?
The good news is this control can be selective, just like the products that kill stubborn weeds in your kitchen garden while leaving the carrots intact. As a matter of fact, not only do carrots grow best when they are not cluttered by weeds, but so it is with human emotions.
Now, you will most probably admit that it is difficult—if not impossible—to feel joyful while being anxious or depressed at the same time. The control of your negative emotions is usually sufficient in itself to allow positive emotions to blossom.
However, to control a phenomenon, it is usually essential to know the cause. For most human beings, the cause of their emotions is found in some event of their distant or recent past, present, or future. And so we can often hear them say:
- “This good news made me happy.”
- “My son’s failures depress me.”
- “The death of my mother saddens me.”
- “My daughter’s rudeness makes me angry.”
- “Heights scare me.”
Every time, the person identifies the event (good news, failure, death, rudeness, and heights) as the cause of a particular emotion (joy, depression, sadness, anger, and anxiety). Almost everyone will find that this theory is fully satisfactory and realistic. This is probably what you believe as well.
And yet not only is this theory one of the most pernicious errors we can imagine, but a moment of reflection will suffice to prove that no event—whether past, present, or future—never causes the shadow of an emotion to anyone.
The real cause of human emotions can be found in the thoughts, beliefs, ideas, personal reflections, interpretations, opinions… in short, in the way we talk to ourselves about an event—whether past, present, or future. In other words, our emotions—positive or negative, good or bad—are never caused by an event.
Your happiness and emotional wellness mainly depend on the fact that you know, understand, and accept the true cause of your emotions—whether positive or negative, good or bad.
As a matter of fact, I believe that it is the cornerstone of the entire system by which you can learn to modify your own emotions and thus raise your level of happiness and improve the quality of your life.
Let’s continue to explore how your thoughts and beliefs cause your emotions. This time, however, our discussion will be specifically focused on your beliefs.
You and I believe many things. To believe is to hold true something for which we don’t have any proof. If there is any evidence of the truth of something, we won’t say that we believe, but that we know. For example:
- You know that Planet Earth is round, but you believe that the coffee you drank this morning will not cause you any harm.
- You know that you have eaten a tuna fish sandwich for lunch, but you believe that your favorite sport team will win the game tonight.
- You know that it rained heavily today, but you believe that tomorrow will be a bright sunshiny day.
Our beliefs are thus forms of unproven ideas that may have a presence in our minds without us being really aware of it. Moreover, many of these beliefs can cause powerful emotions resulting in acts or omissions potentially harmful to us.
In other words, not only can some of our beliefs have devastating emotional effects, but they can either lead us to perform acts that are diametrically opposite to our true interests, or conversely, cause us to omit other actions in an equally harmful way.
In consequence, it is of paramount importance for us to pay attention to the beliefs we choose for ourselves and to be careful not to let ourselves be overwhelmed by a whole heap of unproven thoughts and ideas which, if they are often harmless, can unfortunately be, in other cases, considerably hurtful.
To sum up what I have stressed so far: Our thoughts, ideas, and beliefs about the various events, people, and things that life brings to us are the true cause of our emotions—positive or negative, good or bad. It also goes without saying that events, people, and things never cause us the shadow of an emotion. Therefore, we can also conclude that the change of our cognitive content—thoughts, ideas, beliefs—will cause the change of our emotions.
Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.