We often think that if we coldly put our emotions aside, we can perform better at work, in sports, or even in relationships. In reality, emotions are not a distraction, nor are they useless. They are information and energy trying to tell you something important. Emotions also regulate our energy level and both the quantity and quality of our activities, so it is a real resource that should be directed correctly.
Emotions affect our energy level and goals
Emotions affect, e.g., how much energy you have at your disposal at any given moment. Many emotions, both positive and negative, increase energy: for example, excitement, fear, and anger all increase energy. Other emotions reduce energy, such as sadness, shame, and satisfaction. Anger raises the energy level, increases the desire to take risks, and makes thinking superficial and fast. When angry, it’s hard to think about things in a versatile and wide-ranging way. An angry mind looks for the culprits and wants to solve things right now, permanently and definitively, without thinking too much.
Emotions also affect what kind and how challenging goals you set for yourself. In general, people who experience positive emotions set themselves higher and more challenging goals. With a good heart, the belief in one’s own abilities is strong and the bar is set high. When anxious, even a small goal feels big and the bar is set as low as possible.
The effect of emotions on consumer behavior
Different emotions affect us in different ways. A good example of the many effects of positive emotions is a study by the University of Chicago, which investigated the effect of emotions on people’s purchasing behavior. In the past, it has been thought that when experiencing positive emotions, people have a more positive attitude towards all kinds of goods and therefore buy more. However, this is an overgeneralization. Research actually shows that different positive emotions affect purchasing behavior in different ways.
For example, when people feel proud, they tend to buy flashy products such as watches, shoes, and clothes. When people feel satisfied, on the other hand, they are more likely to buy home-related products, such as interior accessories, household appliances, furniture, and living clothes. Different positive emotions lead to different kinds of consumer behavior. And as is typical – because the influence of emotions is often unconscious – the study participants were unaware of the influence of their emotions on their purchasing decisions.
Emotions in the workplace
The emotions experienced by employees and the emotional climate of the workplace have a decisive effect on the learning, motivation and performance of work tasks. Emotions also enhance memory. A workplace where a lot of emotions are experienced creates long lasting memories. Different emotions affect memory in different ways. The brain of a stressed and fearful employee focuses on survival and ensuring safety: the ability to think in a complex and multifaceted way weakens, attention narrows as it focuses on details that arouse fear, and the things that are memorized are key details related to fear.
Positive emotions, on the other hand, opens one’s mindset and make it more flexible, help to visualize the big picture and think in complex and multifaceted ways, increase readiness to act and promote recovery from adversities. When one has an open mindset and thinking is flexible and versatile, learning and succeeding at work is much easier. The emotions of employees’ therefore affect their performance in many ways.
The influence of emotions on decision making
Emotions influence decision-making as well. In general, positive emotions lead to more efficient, systematic, versatile and careful decision-making. When making decisions, people who experience positive emotions ask more often for additional information, are able to look at the issue from different perspectives, and are better at noticing the specific circumstances that affect the situation.
In one study, job seekers that were experiencing more positive emotions were found to be more clear about their job search, they acquired and combined information from different areas more systematically and efficiently, invested more in their job search, and got more interviews and received more job offers.
Negative emotions leads to narrower but more detailed and analytical information processing at the moment of decision-making. People also use their own emotional state as a basis for evaluating their current circumstances and environment – negative emotions often include the idea that something is wrong. That is why they are motivated to examine the situation particularly closely and critically.
Emotions and social functioning
Emotions also play a central role in social activities. Some emotions increase your desire for social contact, for example enthusiasm and gratitude, whilst others would rather make you withdraw into your own circumstances, such as shame. Sociability is affected by whether the emotion is such that you like to share it with others, or such that you prefer to cover and hide it, keep it to yourself.
For example, do you dare admit to your colleagues that you are jealous of them? Or do you dare to tell them you are ashamed? The fact that emotions increase or decrease sociability is very important concerning the performance of the work community. If shame and fear are characteristic for the organization’s culture, effective cooperation and team work can hardly occur.