What is involved in recognizing emotions?
Recognizing emotions is also about recognizing the emotions of others. The ability to recognize others’ emotions rests largely on your awareness and understanding of nonverbal cues. You’d probably agree that it’s not ideal to continuously ask, “What’s your basic underlying emotional state right now?”, nor is it reliable: “Words can lie or hide the truth, [but] physical gestures rarely do”.
It’s important to note that recognizing emotions is a skill that improves only with practice. A helpful tool to help you practice recognizing your own and others’ emotions is the Mood Meter.
The Mood Meter
The Mood Meter is a chart that identifies every human feeling on the basis of two core dimensions: pleasantness and energy. The Mood Meter is evenly divided into four quadrants by the horizontal axis, which represents pleasantness, and the vertical axis, which represents energy. Each axis runs from -5 to +5; extremely unpleasant to extremely pleasant (horizontal axis) and extremely low energy to extremely high energy (vertical axis). Each feeling is evaluated on the basis of these two emotional dimensions and mapped to the corresponding location on the mood meter. For now, don’t worry about specifically naming the emotion. Instead, focus on understanding the main idea behind each quadrant:
- The top left quadrant indicates unpleasant, high energy feelings and is represented by the colour red. Unpleasant, high energy feelings may include being angry, frustrated, annoyed, or frightened.
- The bottom left quadrant indicates unpleasant, low energy feelings and is represented by the colour blue. Unpleasant, low energy feelings may include being sad, lonely, hopeless, or drained.
- The bottom right quadrant indicates pleasant, low energy feelings and is represented by the colour green. Pleasant, low energy feelings may include being calm, relaxed, grateful, or content.
- The top right quadrant indicates pleasant, high energy feelings and is represented by the colour yellow. Pleasant, high energy feelings may include being excited, hyper, inspired, or happy.
Each quadrant of the Mood Meter has a specific function and the emotions experienced in each quadrant are most conducive to different types of activities. Watch the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence’s “Mood Meter Overview” to gain a better appreciation for how you can use the Mood Meter to differentiate instruction and capitalize on all quadrants.
However, you cannot solely rely on your visceral sense to recognize emotions because it’s possible to misunderstand or misinterpret these intuitive cues, especially when you don’t understand the story behind them.
What is involved in understanding emotions?
- What just happened? What was I doing before this happened?
- What might have caused my feelings or reaction?
- What happened this morning, or last night, that might be involved in this?
- What has happened before with this person that might be connected?
- What memories do I have about this situation or place?
When you are trying to understand other people’s feelings, he suggests asking these questions:
- What might have happened to cause this feeling?
- What usually makes you feel this way?
- What’s going on that you’re feeling this way?
- What were you doing just before you started feeling this way? Who were you with?
- What do you need right now? What can I do to support you?
Why is it necessary to move beyond recognizing emotions, to understanding them?
Where can I learn more?
What will students learn?
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to…
- Use the two dimensions of emotions – pleasantness and energy – to navigate the Mood Meter
- Recognize the visceral component of emotions and use this information to map their emotions on the mood meter
- Mindfully monitor the fluctuations of their own and other’s emotions over the course of a day and consider the causes behind those fluctuations
- Ask inquisitive questions to understand the story behind their own and other’s emotions
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