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Identifying Emotional Cues

Updated: Nov 17, 2021


first and most important aspect of emotional intelligence is being able to recognise our own and others’ emotional cues.

Do you know when you are experiencing an emotion? You are probably experiencing multiple emotions all the time, even now. Everyone is different and will have their own emotional cues. As mentioned in my previous article we all share similar responses in the head, heart and lungs due to the fight or flight response. However, detecting these early before they become overwhelming is key to being able to manage these.

People may experience stress headaches or recurring thoughts about a particular aspect of our lives. It may be that we are deliberately or unintentionally avoiding thinking about some aspect of our lives. They may experience increased heart rate or slower heart rate depending on the emotion. There will likely be changes to your breathing patterns, be it faster, deeper or more shallow.

However, we will also all have our own individual emotional cues. It may be that some people fidget with their hands or feet. Some people may tense up in the shoulders or forehead. Others may feel sweaty. It is all dependant upon the individual and I believe it is one of the most important aspects for us all to identify in ourselves.

So, ask yourself what is happening in my physical being at this moment. What does it signify? What emotion am I feeling? Labelling the emotion that you’re feeling can be powerful as you are beginning to take control of the emotion before the emotion takes control of you. A good method can be to keep a journal. Asking yourself, what am I thinking or not thinking? What am I feeling or not feeling? What am I doing or not doing? How are people reacting to me? If everyone is telling you that you look tired or upset, it is a good indicator to pause and reflect on why this.

How do you know how others are feeling? A good way is to ask. However, they may or may not be intentionally lying to you or themselves. Some good indicators can be what they do not say. For example, if someone is minimising what they have done or how it has affected others that can indicate that they are uncomfortable with the outcome and are now trying to defend themselves against a negative emotion. It could be that they are blaming others for their own actions. Or it could be that they just avoid talking about the topic completely. We all do it. It’s how our mind protects us from those uncomfortable emotions. A reasonable dose of self-reflection is key to being honest with ourselves.

Body language accounts for the majority of communication. Are their arms open or folded? Is their body language closed or open? What are their facial expressions? How does their tone of voice sound? Is it loud, quiet or monotonous? What pace are they talking at? If you know the person, you can detect when these change. Even if you don’t know the person, you can generally pick up on those emotional cues such as tensing, frowning or sweating. It may also be what they are not doing. For example, they may be yawning a lot because they are not sleeping properly. It may be that they are avoiding you completely. It may be that their time keeping is sporadic.

There are many ways we can identify emotions in ourselves and others. Once we have identified these then we can begin to manage these. Self awareness is so important in order for us to manage ourselves. We can’t control others only ourselves. However, we can use tools such as empathy, perspective taking and listening to constructive criticism to improve our interactions.

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