When we are in the grip of a strong emotion (positive or negative), we hold onto it much longer than we realise. Even though the moment may have passed, we internalise it and it stays with us. What is interesting is that that strong emotion we felt can affect the decisions we make for hours after the moment has supposedly passed and we have returned to what we believe is a steady (emotional) state.
Permission to Feel
In his recently published book Permission to Feel, Dr Marc Brackett* calls this “the incidental mood bias”. For example, if you have an argument before you leave home, you are more likely to still be angry on your commute to work. If you then drive to work, you are more likely to drive more aggressively and make risky decisions.
Brackett says that when we recall happy moments from our past, we are likely to make decisions based in optimism and confidence. This works both ways. If we’re remembering feeling pessimistic, we’ll decide things differently.
The incidental mood bias
In an experiment that Brackett and his team conducted at Yale where he runs the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, teachers were divided into two groups. One group was told to remember and write about positive classroom experiences, the other was assigned to recall a negative memory. Then all were asked to grade the same essay. The positive-mood group marked the essay a full grade higher than the negative-mood group. When they asked teachers if their mood affected how they evaluated the papers, 87% said no. Judgments that entail a greater degree of subjectivity, such as grading a creative essay, are generally at heightened risk of emotional bias compared with judgments that are more objective, such as grading a maths test.
So if we think about all the subjective things we do in our workplace and in our interactions with our colleagues, such as feedback, performance reviews, general communications – none of us are immune to mood bias. Our mood is information. It’s a source of data and our ability to be aware, understand it and know what to do with the information is critical to our wellbeing.
Finding a balance
We need to find a balance between the negative and positive emotions at play in our professional lives. It is out of balance for most of us. How do we go about changing that? What conversations do we need to be having?
The MOSAIC Mood Index has revealed the dissonance between what we know to be true – that our mood has an impact on our home and personal life – and what we need to do change our mood – which is taking care of ourselves more and investing in our personal own development. 77% of us want to make the time to do this. We know it could improve our mood. However, that knowledge does not translate into action. We simply don’t do it. Why? Because we haven’t got the time.
Welcome to the merry-go-round. Until we decide to slow down or get off the ride, very little will change.
Claire Debney and Emma Sharpe, The MOSAIC Collective
The MOSAIC Mood Index 2020 was launched to capture the mood of the legal profession. Supported by The Legal 500, the report surveyed 1,477 respondents from the legal sector around the world to gauge attitudes towards wellbeing and work. The executive summary report can be downloaded here and more information is available at themosaiccollective.co
Dr Marc Brackett is the Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intellligence. His recently published book Permission to Feel inspires a new mindset around the power of emotions to transform our lives. The book serves as a guide for understanding our own and others’ emotions so that emotions help, rather than hinder, our success and wellbeing. This blog quotes directly from his book.