· 2 min read · Features

Emotions make the working world go round

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Emotions determine the quality of our lives. They occur in every relationship we care about – the workplace, friendships, with family members, and in our intimate relationships.

Emotions can, and often do begin very quickly. Our conscious self usually does not participate in or even witness what in our mind triggers an emotion at any particular moment. That speed can save our lives in an emergency, but it can also ruin our lives when we overreact. We don't have much control or choice over what we become emotional about, but it is possible, though not easy, to make some changes in what triggers emotions and how we behave when we are emotional.

These words are from the introduction to my book Emotions Revealed, published after nearly 50 years of research. We knew very little about the nature of emotion when I began my research career. Unfortunately, much of what we have learned is still unknown by the general public, the professions or business community. We now know, but we didn't know then, that seven emotions have a universal facial expression and vocal signal. Upbringing influences how and when and what triggers an emotion, but part of that is universal too. Ingrained habits, mostly learned early in life, operate automatically to manage emotional signals.

We have found out a lot about, not just the emotion signals but the very nature of emotion, and what we have discovered can now be learned and used by others to obtain the emotional skills that my friend Danny Goleman hoped for when he wrote Emotional Intelligence in 1995 bringing this topic to public attention. It was the many requests from people who read Danny's book and wanted to learn the skills he wrote about that stimulated me to translate my research into online training tools and workshops aimed at the business world as well as the law enforcement-national security community. More information on these workshops as well as an opportunity to 'test-drive' the online tools will be available by the Paul Ekman Group at the 2012 Leadership & Emotional Intelligence Summit (www.eqsummit.com) to be held in London on March 9th in partnership with HR Magazine.

Changing what we become emotional about and how we behave when we are emotional is harder to learn but that too is possible. Research by my colleague Martyn Newman at RocheMartin and our own work at Paul Ekman International and the Cultivation Emotional Balance program have demonstrated this convincingly.

Our emotional world is about to change; we have not only the knowledge but the tools to have more constructive emotional engagements, more appropriate to the world we live in.

Paul Ekman is a psychologist and global pioneer in understanding emotions - named by Time Magazine as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People. He along with Martyn Newman, consulting psychologist and recognised international expert in emotional intelligence and leadership, will be headline presenters at the 2012 Leadership & Emotional Intelligence Summit in London on 9 March