Emotions and Performance: A relationship

How many times have you felt mad at a colleague? How often the negotiation terms were not at your side only because you revealed your stress about that deal?

Having difficult discussions is a common thing. Most people expect that rational should be enough to rule a communication. However, a conversation requires both logic and emotions in order to be meaningful. The challenge arises when emotions lead our behaviour during a conversation, leaving the cognition out of the equation.

Balancing cognition with your emotions is what makes communication successful.

Emotions occur in every situation in our life and at our work. They occur in every relationship and determine eventually the quality of these relationships. Emotions happen so fast that our conscious mind does not participate in this process. On the contrary, we become aware of our emotions much later, when we have expressed them.

Fortunately, we can’t stop from being emotional. Emotions keep us alive, as they are our primitive survival mechanism. So, how can we control our emotional responses during a crucial conversation? Both options, to suppress our emotions or overexpress them during a meeting will not lead to the desired outcome. Emotions can’t be ignored and no matter how hard we try they will always get in our way. The solution is to understand what are the emotions involved and what causes them in order to control them.

How emotions are triggered

The latest advances of neuroscience have helped us to turn speculations, of how emotions cloud our thinking and damage our relationship, into proven theories. As our brain evolved and our neocortex overtook our cognitive activities, our emotional brain didn’t change much. So now, although we don’t face the same threats, the emotional brain reacts at all threats in the exact same way. Our emotional brain doesn’t differentiate a dangerous animal from an angry person or from words that trigger a “fight” reaction.

Emotions have no context. Words can equally activate our emotional brain and generate the same reaction of fighting or flying. What is more important than survival? When we sense threat, there is no need for the rational brain to be active. We need all that energy to protect ourselves, thus our emotions will fire first and strong.

How brain science is linked to our ability to control our emotions

Why improving our self-awareness can help us take control of our emotions?

Studies conducted by Stanford University and MIT showed how incorporating cognitive scientific principles into training programmes increased the levels of self-awareness and consequently the levels of self-control and development of personalized coping strategies to the majority of the participants. In fact, 84% of them were able to control their emotions at the end of a four weeks programme.

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