Emotion; within and between

In 2012 I attended the EQ summit hosted by Roche Martin (highlights here) and I got to hear from one of the pioneers in the world of emotion, Dr Paul Ekman.  Not only did I get to hear from him in the conference, I got to spend nearly an hour talking with him on a one to one about his research, the science and even our families and the emotional journey that entails.  It was brilliant.

It also had an awesome introductory video that you can see here.

The overall summit itself….. it was a bit dissapointing.  The session by Paul Ekman aside, it was full of Roche Martin case studies and ended up feeling like a real sales pitch for their products.

At that point in time I thought I knew a lot about emotion… yeah…. I didn’t.  

3 years on, I have learned so much more about emotion, its link with credibility and deception.  How emotion is about what goes on within and between people.  How that is insanely complex analyse and account for.

You see, the thing is, emotion happens within and between people.  

Let’s think about ‘within’ people and as an example; Paul Ekman’s research tells us that the expression of (7) emotions is universal

– Happiness
– Sadness
– Anger
– Disgust
– Fear
– Surprise
– Contempt

We also know from research by others (let me know in the comments below if you want the citations) that the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is coordinated in terms of releasing chemicals and making changes to how the body operates in response to certain emotional triggers. Broadly speaking, this fits into the world of neuroscience.

Again, it is also true to say that there are a load of individual differences too.  What scares/frustrates/surprises me may well be different to you.  Or, we may both get happy when we see a loved one or sad when we lose someone or thing important to us.  However, the amount of happiness/sadness we experience and for how long we are happy/sad will vary between us.

What goes on within also involves awareness (of what is happening), self management or control (to increase choice) some call this resilience which is a whole massive thing in itself.

So, even when we look at this from a ‘what happens within us when emotion triggers’ it is a complex old thing.

What, if we look at what takes place between people?  Firstly, we need to recognise that there is a relationship between these two aspects.  What happens between people affects what happens within and what happens within affects what happens between.

To bring that to life:

Person A shouts at person B (happens between), person B is sad by loss (of possible relationship/respect) and cries (happens within), person A stops and apologises (happens between)

I have probably grossly over simplified that and hopefully you get what I am on about.

Secondly then, what goes on between is a complex old beast too. It involves noticing (or even caring about) what is going on for others, you may then choose or need to explore that with them, for your or their benefit. For example, is the time/context/occasion right to explore that right now?  Does that person even want to explore it? Is it any of your business? Are you actually the best person and/or are you equipped to be able to explore it?

(Oh and yes you are right, there is some ‘within’ stuff going on there too.)

Then you also have the complextities of what happens in the subsequent interaction.  I’ve already written about the impact of ‘words‘ and ‘questions‘ and that’s just a small part.

I started this post about the EQ Summit in 2012 and how 3 years on, I know more. Now, in 2015 the EQ Summit is coming back to London and it seems to have learned too. I am filled with hope and excitement about the event. 


Because we have sessions and speakers that are covering aspects of what goes on within and between.  That means that the complex world that is emotion is being better represented and there is scope for exploration and personal development in both aspects.

If you want to know more about the speakers, Simon Heath as written an awesome post here.
Also, Sukh Pabial has done a brilliant piece on the present state of Emotional Intelligence here.
If you are interested in attending the EQ Summit, here’s a link to the site.

One response to “Emotion; within and between

  1. Wow! A chat with Paul Ekman.
    Hearing appreciation of traditional, dispositional and social theories of emotion and the importance of blending all to aid understanding in relationships, and appreciation of others. It’s a step that business/org models of EQ assessments should ethically consider….at the least.

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