A Typical day: Alarm goes off and you continue to sleep, suddenly you wake up. You are late. You are upset. First encounter with Emotion. You run, grab a cab. Reach office. It's late. You are scared. You are nervous. Emotions. You focus. Share a joke with friends. Get an appreciation mail. You are happy. Emotions - again. While crossing the road a taxi splashes water on you. You are furious. Emotions - again & again. Kids playing. You smile. Emotion-yet again. And life goes on in this roller coaster of emotions!
The word emotion has come from the Latin word 'emovere' which means 'to move'. Something which moves us is an emotion. Centuries ago when man was a caveman, all of his survival decisions were based on emotions. Neo-cortex or the thinking brain was not developed and learning was purely emotional. Simplest of decisions were driven by emotional memory like whether to stay in particular place based on what happened there yesterday, if he was attacked by predators there, fight or flight?. Learning was all based on emotions stored in 'Amygdala' (part of brain responsible for processing emotions and storing them, otherwise called 'feeling brain'). As human beings evolved, neo-cortex or new brain got developed. New-cortex is mainly responsible for thinking (logic/reasoning). In other words, it's called the 'thinking brain'. However evolution of new brain in no way discards the importance of Amygdala or the 'feeling brain'. Even after centuries the way our brain works- we still FEEL before we think!
Let's look at the simplest of decisions you make day in and day out. For instance, you have to make a decision on whether to take stairs or the elevator to go down from second floor. Most people will press the button for elevator and then take the stairs! Surprised? Well that's purely because this is the way our brain functions. It's the feeling that comes first, somewhere in your feeling brain you have the memory of comfort associated with elevators and that makes you press the button without any thought. However when you get down to waiting, you realize and reason you could very well take the stairs as its only second floor. That's how emotions govern smallest of decisions to biggest of challenges in life.
When you are making biggest decisions of your life, no matter how strong the facts, if something is not feeling right, chances are you won't go for it. How one is feeling when he/she enters the boardroom more or less decides how he/she is going to look at the figures presented, points raised, perspectives shared. If one is upbeat or happy in general, while discussing the possibilities or new business opportunities he or she will generally look at things presented in a positive manner and vice versa. There was a recent article in Harvard Business Review on how one feels while entering a business meeting dictates the course of meeting and decisions made.
Emotions are body's manifestation of information received and processed, simply ignoring them has helped no one. They are to be understood and managed, which we all know is easier said than done. Emotions have lot of energy ( positive and negative), anyone who is angry and want to thump the table knows it, anyone who feels furious and wants to scream or cry out loud knows it, anyone jumping with joy knows it. It is this energy in different emotions we want to harness and channel which can only happen once we are able to perceive, assess and manage emotions of ourselves and those of others. That's Emotional Intelligence is all about!