At Market Force, we teach leaders to distinguish between moods and emotions.
Moods tend to last longer in duration because they reflect the persistent background conversations you are having with yourself about the future. Whereas, emotions are more fleeting and tend to be caused by whatever is occurring for you in the moment.
Said differently, moods are like climate, and emotions are like weather.
Often the daily weather is a reflection of the context of the climate, i.e., dry and tropical climates tend to have warmer weather year round. However, there are days in both types of warmer clients when the weather is cold and rainy, which is more common in a temperate climate like Seattle.
Just like how the climate resumes when antithetical weather passes, your prevailing mood takes over when your differing emotions subside.
Understanding this distinction between moods and emotions, helps leaders to actively manage theirs and others’ moods by being able to zoom out from the infinite amount and wide ranging types of emotions we all feel.
To this end, I recommend that we stop habitually asking people HOW they are feeling, and, instead, ask them WHAT they are feeling. This one word change inside of the question does the following:
- It helps us to all become more literate in recognizing, understanding, and labeling our emotions. When you ask someone WHAT they are feeling, it acts as a pattern interrupter, and thus makes it more likely that the one being asked the question takes a moment to actually FEEL before they answer.
- It emphasizes that emotions are fleeting. Answering HOW is very difficult because it lacks temporal and situational specificity. For example, how am I feeling about what?
- It takes the pressure off of the question. Most of us are conditioned to answer based on how we believe we are expected to answer that question. Therefore, we rattle off template answers: “good,” “fine,” and “alright.” In effect, we are answering the question “how are you” in a very co-dependent way, i.e., our answer is a byproduct of our unconscious obligation to meet someone else’s needs, instead of revealing ourselves more truthfully.
- It makes us all more conscious of the distinction between moods and emotions. After someone answers the question “what are you feeling?” you can follow up and ask “how do those feelings relate to your mood about ______?” and you can fill in the blank for them, e.g., work, your kids, your significant other, your health, the holidays, the state of the world, etc.
The better we get at recognizing, understanding, labeling, and expressing our feelings, the more intentional we can be about how we manage and regulate our moods in service of our desired outcomes.