Robert Plutchik, a scientist who has studied emotions, theorises that basic emotions began to emerge in the course of evolution, when each emotion contributed to the knowledge of one’s own nature and was essential for survival. And it could be ability to react to certain situations that animals passed on to humans through evolution. Since animals cannot use their brains like humans do, they react to environmental stimuli with their emotions: when they feel fear, they run, when they feel anger, they attack, and when they feel pleasure, they seek it. And while it’s a rather primitive mechanism for adapting to our surroundings, learning about emotions helps us learn more about others and the environment around us.
How do emotions affect our behaviour?
The purpose of emotions is to inform a person about his or her state of mind in relation to his or her values, needs or goals, and to encourage him or her to act accordingly. Anger, for example, is a very common human emotion, occurring on average about 15 times a day. Anger can be recognised by body sensations such as increased heart rate, furrowed eyebrows, a clenched jaw and deeper breathing. This can be followed by actions that express anger, such as uncontrolled speech, shouting or other impulsive behaviour. But what signal does this emotion send to a person? Anger usually arises in situations where people are treated disrespectfully or unfairly, or where there is a desire to humiliate or disrespect their values. The body then sends out a signal that calls for action and change, and anger as an emotion gives you extra energy to act.
So anger as an emotion cannot just “come out of nowhere”. This emotion is evoked by an event or circumstance that triggers our particular beliefs or experiences, resulting in a corresponding behaviour. Using the image of an iceberg helps us to understand that the top of the iceberg reflects our actions, which are visible, while the bottom of the iceberg reflects our emotional foundation, our views, attitudes and feelings, which are often not even visible to us. So, when we think about our own actions as well as those of others, let’s also try to recognise the invisible side of the iceberg, where the answers to the behaviour that we see are often “hidden”.
How to manage your emotions?
In every situation in life, we can think, feel and behave very differently. Thoughts, emotions and behaviour are interconnected, so when one of them changes, so does the other:
• Our thoughts are influenced by our feelings and behaviour.
• Our feelings are influenced by our thoughts and behaviour.
• Our behaviour is influenced by our thoughts and feelings.
Being able to control your thoughts and emotions can therefore make all the difference to the outcome of a situation.
Anger is one of the emotions that is most often accompanied by highly impulsive behaviour, which can have an impact on decisions in certain situations. So, there are three principles of emotion management that can be used to deal with anger. The first thing to do is to notice and recognise the emotion that is rising, which is usually expressed through various body sensations or changing facial expression. Second, the accurate naming of the emotion acts as a gateway to managing the negative emotion: when we feel angry, we don’t say we feel bad, we name that we are angry. This helps us choose the actions we will use to express the emotion. And third, every time you feel an emotion, try to analyse it: how you felt, what you did and how you could have done things differently. Once you have analysed the scenarios in terms of your reactions, it is likely that you will behave differently next time.
It is normal and human to be emotional, to experience positive and negative feelings. All emotions are necessary, but sometimes we express them in the wrong ways, especially when we get angry. In such cases, self-control which is trained by the ability to manage negative emotions such as anger, frustration and panic is very useful. This skill is important because it teaches you how to resolve conflicts and make win-win decisions.
People who are more able to cope with their emotions are more successful in building relationships with others, concentrate more easily, cope with everyday stressful situations and are more likely to engage in teamwork. They are also more attentive to other people’s feelings, so they are more caring.
Managing emotions in customer serviceCustomer service professionals need not only good communication skills, but also ongoing emotional resilience. Every day, people working in this field are confronted with clients who bring a wide range of emotions, and who are not always able to control their emotions, which are often communicated to the staff, whether they are complaints, demands, or just a bad mood, usually related to their personal experiences.
The main difference between normal communication and communication between the customer and the service professional is the unequal position of both parties. The common perception is that the customer is always right, which puts a lot of emotional strain on the customer service worker, who has to react differently than usual.
Empathy is a key skill for a customer service professional. The ability to understand another person’s emotions and to get to the bottom of their emotional state, their experiences, and to show that you care, is the key to successful conflict resolution when negative emotions arise. It’s true that it’s not always easy to sympathise with or listen to angry customers, but empathy can help when you see that there is no other way to resolve a situation. Customers tend to appreciate being listened to, so sometimes simply listening to them is enough to manage their negative emotions.
We can start developing empathy by getting to know our emotions and the actions that come from them. Only when we get to know our emotions well, we can recognise them in others. However, it is important to remember that the other person’s emotions are not your emotions, and you need to be able to distance yourself from them. All these skills take time and practice, which is why employers are paying more attention to developing employees’ emotional intelligence.
Maxima invests in the emotional well-being of employeesNot only abroad, but also in Lithuania, a growing number of organisations are investing in the development of employees’ emotional intelligence. Employees often find themselves in a variety of situations where various factors at work cause them to feel stressed, anxious or under constant strain, and managing these emotions becomes directly linked to the success of the organisation. Recognising and understanding emotions is important for building interpersonal relationships with colleagues, for decision-making or for creating an emotional environment – anything that affects performance.
In companies with a high proportion of service professionals, more investment should be made in emotional intelligence training. Here, workers are often placed in social situations where they need to remain business-like and control their emotions while still doing their job properly. Things get even more complicated when you have to deal with huge volumes of customers while moods and level of business-like approach fluctuate. These and many more challenges are faced daily by Maxima employees. This prompted Maxima’s Human Resources Department to take a look at a hot topic at the moment – the emotional environment at work. That’s why, in 2021, we developed a training course based on Maxima’s materials, covering the complex topics of emotions and conflicts.
The project consisted of two training parts. The first part discusses what emotions are and what they mean: it reveals the relationship between thinking, emotions and behaviour, and how to recognise emotions in yourself and others. It explores the nuances of managing emotions to avoid negative consequences, both in decision-making and in interactions with clients and colleagues. The second part of the training focuses on conflict awareness and resolution, encouraging employees to see conflict not as a destructive phenomenon, but as a situation that, if resolved correctly, can create a new quality of communication between the conflicting parties and resolve existing problems.
The training is packed with easy-to-understand theoretical knowledge, illustrated with real-life situations from the daily life of Maxima employees. This helped staff to get into the material more easily and to see the possible conflict resolution actions that are likely to become routine in their daily work.
This training looks at emotions and conflict from a variety of perspectives, presenting both theoretical and practice-based material, which illustrates situations with clients and between employees, talks about preparing for conflict and situations where you need to react here and now. It was important to find solutions that engage the user and encourage active learning. Therefore, the training included interactive self-reflection questions, which helped to gain a deeper insight into the issues presented in the training through their own experiences.
ConclusionsWe need to understand that the range of emotions we experience is very diverse. They can be both pleasant and unpleasant. By knowing, accepting and managing our own emotions, by recognising and accepting other people’s emotions, we build better relationships, increase our empathy, self-confidence and positivity, become more creative, learn from our mistakes, control our behaviour and our decisions, and resolve conflict more effectively.
Emotions directly affect our behaviour and state of mind, but by controlling and transforming them we can help ourselves choose how we want to feel. Sometimes it’s enough to see the silver lining in the negative and surround yourself with happy things as often as possible, which can help you avoid unpleasant emotions every day. And remember that although emotions are a natural reaction of the human body, they can always be controlled using the three-part principle: notice, name and analyse.