Understanding emotions is an important constituent of emotional intelligence. Managers, mentors and counsellors should possess this skill because their jobs have a lot to do with influencing people. The success of all day-to-day activities like meetings, negotiations, conflict resolutions and performance management is based on the ability of the participants to understand others' emotions. It helps in avoiding misunderstandings, frustration and to some extent stress.
Each one of us displays emotions in a unique way. Learning to read another person's emotions from the cues he throws requires patience, but is worth it. Conclusions about responses of a person in different emotional states can be drawn only after careful observation and analysis of his behaviour.
And when we commit a mistake in our analysis and act guided by those conclusions, we may end up damaging our relationship with the person and leaving a deep scar on his mind. Here are some ways to comprehend others' emotions:
Self-study: Observe yourself to understand how your different emotions are displayed in different situations. By recognising how your emotions affect you, you can understand others' emotions.
Enquire: The best way to know how a person is feeling is to ask him. When you do this, you are exhibiting your concern for him. It will make him feel good and he will be glad to share his feelings. This way you not only get what you want but also develop a better relationship with the person.
Empathise: Empathy gives the ability to understand and evaluate. So by imagining yourself in the situation the other person is in, you will be in a better position to understand his feelings.
Analyse: There might be cases when it is not appropriate or intelligent to ask. Sometimes, the person might not be willing to share with you. Or he might take advantage of the opportunity to mislead you.
At times, the other person could be unaware of his true feelings. So, whether to ask or not and how much to believe are up to your discretion. Again practise improves your judgement. And when you are unsure, take into account, non-verbal cues.
Frown, wide-open mouth, blank eyes, physical distance maintained from a person or contracted eyes have all messages about emotional state of the person. Non-verbal signs tell a lot about a person's feelings and usually more precisely.
The changes in facial expression convey how a person is feeling about the external influences and what kind of responses could be building up in his mind. Apart from this, gestures and body movements also provide insight to the mind of the person.
For example, biting lips and shaking legs is a sign of nervousness. Crossed hands and legs are sign of disagreement. Relaxed face muscles are sign of contentment.
Speech is another important source to understand emotions. Tone, speed and quality of speech, pitch and amplitude convey ulterior and unarticulated messages about the emotional state of a person. Fast speech is a sign of excitement or nervousness. Talking slowly, at audible level suggests pondering on the issue.
Understanding emotions is necessary to anticipate and control the outcomes of events. For managers who aim to inspire and motivate others, this ability helps to deal with people with different attitude and approach.
It is useful to avoid conflicts, build team spirit and mediate between disagreeing parties. It helps to cultivate a better way of thinking.