Never reply when angry. Never decide while sad. Never promise whilst happy. Many cliché WhatsApp GIFs features the old adages. While research shows that people who live by and share shallow cliché advice hold less complex coping and intelligence mechanisms, there actually exists mountains of truth in the three sayings.
Have you ever spoken with a colleague and sometimes they prove reasonable and understanding while other times they come out agitated and bothered by everything you say? If so, congratulations. You got trapped in one of the most ubiquitous but unpleasant loops in the workplace whereby the emotions cycle of co-workers’ moods impacts their interaction with you.
Conversely, in looking back at your career, ever sit in a stressful meeting and feel your body changing in response to the situation? Your heart rate increases, your hands sweat, and you breathe heavier.
Your subconscious emotions kick in to make you more alert and prepared to handle a perceived potential threat. As a result, you respond to inquiries faster, you become more in tune with the non-verbal cues of others in the meeting, and you strategically plot quickly the outcomes of different scenarios.
Psychologist Paul Ekman reckons that emotions evolved to prepare humans to deal swiftly with the most critical events in our ancient lives. As emotion begins, it grips us and starts directing what we think and say and how we move.
But how do we handle moods at work? Social scientists Mark Thornton and Diana Tamir state that flourishing social interactions depend on people’s aptitude to predict others’ future actions and emotions.
Amit Etkin’s new article in Nature Biotechnology shows advances in detection of current and future moods in the short-term by research teams. Now, computers connected to electrodes can predict whether someone will become angry, fearful, disgusted, happy, sad, or surprised based on electric signals in different regions of the brain. Other research by artificial intelligence developers decodes people’s moods in real time by analysing speech and patters.
Harnessing mood interpretation in the workplace, Zhaocheng Huang and Julien Epps recently published research highlights how to predict emotional moods based on speech.
As an employee, you should note the usual tone of voice and speech pattern of your important stakeholders such as your boss, key co-workers, and major customers. When their tone changes in communication, you should notice that change and not ask for anything new, complicated, or different. Become simple, kind, and brief in your interactions until they return to normal toned speech.
Mark Thornton and Diana Tamir prove that work colleagues can utilise four dimensions to predict future mood transitions of each other: valence, social impact, rationality, and human mind.
Valence refers to the goodness or badness of someone’s interactions. Social impact comprises whether an individual’s psychological state proves socially relevant or irrelevant, such as envy or anger verses sleepiness. Rationality involves whether the other person cognitively engages through thought and logic or behaves in the present as emotional through worry or frustration.
Finally, human mind reflects whether someone emphasises the sub-conscious, such as hunger, or the conscious mind, such as self-awareness.
So, if you notice a colleague start to focus on primordial emotions such as hunger, feeling cold or fear, among others, then you can predict an impending aversive or negative mood and in turn should plan to avoid them before the mood settles in a few minutes. On the flip side, if your boss becomes more social than usual, then their mood will likely become happy and positive oriented in a few minutes and that becomes an opportune time to ask for any changes at work.
Do not passively go through your work day. Act intentionally with every colleague and you will notice far more successful social interactions that lead to dramatically higher chances of promotion.