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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Attuning to and Adjusting for Human Uniqueness in Emotions

Authored By:

Carolee Hayes


April 10, 2023

Over the most recent decades a whole new science of emotions has emerged, the affective neurosciences. Thanks to authors like Lisa Feldman Barrett, we have learned how unique each human’s emotional system is constructed and much of what we thought we knew has been brought into question. Even as this is happening, the demands on educators to attend to mental health issues increases daily. As coaches and collaborators, we must learn to observe for unique patterns of emotional expression, using our observations to make decisions about how to best respond.

Recently, Paul Ekman (email, 2023) wrote of his shift from trying to understand universal elements of emotion to studying individual differences. He delineates the differences as:

• the speed of emotional onset

• the intensity of emotional response

• the duration of the emotional response

• the decline of the emotional response

You may notice these in a group setting when comparing individual patterns of response to a shared issue.

Currently, there are no definitive answers in how these facets are related and there appears to be no pattern which is predictable. As coaches, we can begin to notice these in our coachees in order to more effectively pace and lead. As collaborators, we can notice these in ourselves and others. As parents and teachers, these facets may be useful in understanding our children.

For April, select one or two people you are working closely with, and notice these four facets of their emotional responses. Also, reflect on what you might be noticing in your own unique patterns.

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